How to Capture an Image that Tells a Story
Good travel photography captures an image that tells a story. From huge landscapes to detailed architecture to human portraits, travel photography encompasses many skills and subjects. Some of those subjects are once-in-a-lifetime views, which you may never get a second opportunity to photograph. But whatever you photograph on your travels, following a few composition rules can help you transport those unique sights back home through your camera.
Whatever your subject, make sure that it’s clear. Some images leave the viewer wondering why the photographer bothered with the shot as it’s unclear as to what has actually been photographed. The reason for your photograph should be obvious and need no explanation. When photographing your image, focus on what makes it special to you and eliminate anything else.
When photographing a location that’s frequently photographed, try to shoot it from an angle that will make your image unique. Famous sights are more interesting when viewed from unusual angles than they are when seen from the standard viewpoint. Walk around the subject to see if photographing it from a different height or distance would help make the image more interesting. If the size of your subject is less than half the size of your viewfinder, try placing your subject to the side and including something else of interest: a brooding looking sky can add drama to an image, as well as help bring about a sense of balance to the scene.
Don’t overlook smaller, everyday objects. They can sometimes look striking when set against the right background. Look at contrasts when taking a photograph of a very simple object. For example, horizontal lines next to vertical lines can help emphasis the subject of your shot, as can the colors in the image.
Color can determine mood in images, and should be used to enhance your subject or set the overall atmosphere of your photograph. Chunky blocks of bright colors such as red and orange can give a feeling of warmth and power, while soft, muted tones can create a peaceful and restful feeling.
Every photographer knows the importance of light. While today’s photographic technology helps the photographer avoid making mistakes where light’s concerned, there are still some pointers that should be remembered. Light is brightest when the sun is directly overhead, and at this time light colors will appear very bright while shadows will look very dark. For some cameras this contract is too much to handle and the result is dark and light patches with little detail. Wait until the sun is lower in the sky and the light less harsh.
Also remember that your subject will cast short, vertical shadows when the sun is directly overhead, which may spoil your photograph. Big structures and scenes with large expanses of color are best shot with the sun behind you. Photographing with the light coming in from the side creates shadows which can enhance textures in your shot. When photographing in the light, see how it falls on your subject. Move around until you find the best angle from which to shoot.
Photographs of people you meet on your travels can produce stirring images. In order to capture the essence of the people you meet, always try to see them as people first and photographic subjects second. Knowing a little bit about the culture of the people you’re photographing can help you photograph them in such a way that your photos do what all good travel photography aims to do -- tell a story.
When photographing people, eliminate any objects behind your subjects that may look to be protruding from their bodies. Decide if you’re going to include the entire person in your photograph or just a part of them. Photographing your subject while they are engaged in something that’s indigenous to their country or culture could make for a very special photograph. Always ask permission to photograph your subject: knowing a little of the language if traveling in a foreign country can help (although a friendly attitude, a smile, and a nod to your camera are sometimes all that’s needed).