Photography and Travel
Few things in this world complement each other like photography and travel. On your gap year you will be overcome with a desire to absorb all those new environments, people and experiences, and memory can only soak up so much. A memory card, on the other hand, will retain as much detail as you care to save, and you’ll find the quality of that detail will improve dramatically if you put the practise in.
In this section we’ll walk you through various aspects of photography, beginning with the kinds of cameras available and the kinds of software you can use to edit and share your images, moving on to some fundamental tips on taking a good shot. Also, look out for the links, which will take you to in depth articles on various aspects of travel photography.
What type of camera should I take?
You have three main choices depending on how serious you are about your travel photography, but don’t feel you need to limit yourself to one option; some people will go away with all three and use accordingly for different situations.
All smartphones have decent inbuilt cameras these days and they’re great for those spontaneous shots where you can just whip them out at a moment’s notice. The downside is that while photos may appear mint on a phone screen, when you try to enlarge them they can easily lose their quality and become grainy.
These have come a very long way in recent years, so much so that the line between a top end compact camera and an entry level DSLR is becoming increasingly blurred. Also, while compact cameras will take up more room than a phone, they are much less cumbersome to cart about than DSLRs.
These are still the kings of the camera world – the quality is simply unmatched and their lenses are detachable, meaning you can have more than one for different kinds of shots. The downside for travellers is that they take up a fair bit of room and because of their value are always at more risk of being pinched.
Which accessories do I need?
As with which camera to take, the answer to this depends entirely on how seriously you plan to take your travel photography – and of course your budget.
Some of the more basic accessories include:
- A spare memory card(s)
- A decent case (especially if beaches will feature on your travels; nothing destroys a camera lens quite so effectively as sand)
- A tripod (particularly for night shots)
- A gorilla pod (great for getting steady shots from those hard to reach places where a tripod won't suffice, such as a tree branch)
And for some more advanced accessories...
- A lens hood (only for DSLRs - they help to lessen glare from the sun or a flash)
- Lens filters (these help to change light density)
- Remote release (used to remotely trigger a snap, eliminating the risk of camera shake)
- Spirit level (will often be built into tripods but can be bought separately; esnures a straight shot - nothing more annoying than a wonky horizon!)
Editing and sharing software
Many people take as much pleasure from editing their pictures as they do taking them in the first place. If this is you – or you think it could be – have a read of our guide to photo editing for beginners. It contains all the information you could possibly want.
So, you’ve got the camera… you’ve accessorised like Lady Gaga… you’ve snapped the kind of images which would make David Bailey dab an eye… you’ve positively pimped them in Photoshop… now what?
It’s time to share! And we’re not talking about doing a slideshow for your great aunt Maud when you get home. Or indeed Facebook – that’s a given.
If you’re using your smartphone then there are loads of photo-sharing apps you can use. Instagram is the most well-known and the best place to start. Similarly to a Tweet, you can hash-tag your photos under certain key words and phrases to maximise your reach.
In terms of photo sharing websites, there are almost as many as there are makes of camera, but Flickr remains the best all-rounder. It’s free to join but you’ll need to set up a Yahoo email account, which is a small price to pay. One of the best things about Flickr is the community aspect: people won’t just leave vague comments but specific feedback and advice on how to improve even further.
Keeping your photos safe
It’s a good idea to insure your camera before you leave – despite best efforts at security, sometimes thieves win. And while a camera can be replaced, those precious photos cannot, so make sure you have two or three different memory cards and change regularly, that way you won’t lose everything.
The three pillars of photography
For budding photographers the temptation to remain on the safe territory that is auto mode is difficult to fight, but if you just explore a bit with your camera’s settings (this only applies to compacts and DSLRs) you can really begin getting some unique shots.
The key is experimentation. Try taking the exact same shot with a few different settings. You can read all the advice in the world, but nothing substitutes just getting out there and having a go.
The three key things to get to grips with are:
Your ISO number (they typically range from about 100 – 2000) determines how sensitive your lens is to light. The lower the number, the less sensitive; the higher the number the more sensitive. So for a bright, sunny day at the beach you will need a low number; for a night time shot of a city skyline you’ll need a higher number. Keep in mind that the higher the number, the more chance there is of your image becoming grainy, so it’s all about finding that balance.
Just like the pupil of an eye, the hole in your camera lens can expand and retract, either to let in more light or less light. This is called aperture, and it’s measured in f-numbers which range from about f/1 to f/20. The more expensive the camera, the wider your aperture range will be. Confusingly, the smaller the number, the larger the aperture, so f/1 would let in lots of light whereas f/20 wouldn’t let much in at all.
As well as exposure, aperture also controls focus and depth of field. A low number, like an f/3, would give a very shallow depth of field; you would use this for portrait images, where you want the person to be in clear focus but the background blurry. A high number gives a deep depth of field, so you would use this for landscape images where you want as much detail as possible throughout the whole image.
Shutter speed (Tv)
Your shutter speed determines how long your image sensor is exposed to light. The slower your shutter speed the brighter the picture will be. Similarly to aperture, shutter speed not only helps determine exposure, but can also be used for certain effects. You know those images which make water appear almost like mist, or which show a trail of headlights but no car? These have been taken using a slow shutter speed. And you know those images which are like freeze frames – perhaps a racing car with a blurry background? These have been taken using a very fast shutter speed.
We have heaps of great articles on travel photography throughout the site. For even more information on getting that perfect shot check out our article on photography for beginners, our guide to travel photography and the art of travel photography.
Photography and travelling come hand-in-hand. The photos that you take will be with you for the rest of your life, so it's important that you take some good ones!
You'll see some of the most amazing sites on your gap year and travellers often say that their most important travelling item is their camera. Photography is more than just a hobby; it's an art...
If you're just starting out then you should read Lucy Cartwright's guide to travel photography. It's a bit special, packed full of helpful hints on how to take that perfect photo...
If you're interested in photography then you had better speak to Cormac. He's our resident photographer and he's a whizz with a chunky photographic lens in hand...
He's taken some amazing photos, won a few awards along the way and knows what he's talking about. If you've got any questions then 'shoot' them to Cormac...
Budding photo editors should also check out the Guide to Photo Editing he has written for those starting their journey into the digital darkroom...