Travel Photography Tips From the Pros
We asked three Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts photographers for their advice on capturing perfect images.
Bringing the camera with you is just the first step to creating captivating travel photography. We asked three Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts photographers for their advice on capturing perfect images.
Before removing the lens cap, consider a strategy for documenting your travels. “Develop an idea for a theme that gives some coherence to your pictures so they are not just random shots,” suggests Richard Waite, a U.K.-based location photographer who has shot for Four Seasons since 2004. “The Doorways of Italy” or “The Cinemas of India,” for example, “will give a new purpose to your travel and encourage you to find new subjects.”
Composition and Content
When you’re peering through the lens or glancing at your digital display, be selective about your view. Go for a tight composition instead of a distant panorama, suggests Waite. Elements in the foreground of a landscape can create depth, he says, or even emotion.
Peter Vitale, an interiors and lifestyle photographer based in Los Angeles, Calif., who has worked with Four Seasons since 1999, suggests combining compelling scenery with a dramatic element, “such as a stormy sky in an otherwise sunny landscape.” Contrast, he says, may result in the most successful photographs.
Instead of reproducing a shot you’ve seen before in books and magazines, try “to find your own unique angle,” says Markus Gortz, a Bangkok-based travel photographer who has worked with Four Seasons since 2003. “Explore the scene you’ve arrived at, regardless of its familiarity, and find the element that might present a new perspective.” For example, “Rather than taking a picture of the Taj Mahal behind a trove of heaving tourists, perhaps [the better shot would be of] the smiling face of a street vendor at the great monuments’ gates, with the silhouette of the building in the background.”
“In general, daylight is easy to handle and always the best source of light,” says Gortz. “Try to shoot in daylight when you can.” Switch your white balance settings from automatic to regular daylight to obtain more realistic colours.
In low light conditions, turn your ISO setting to 400 or 800. “Flash can also be used in close-up situations and is best if [the flash] is slightly underexposed,” Waite says. Experiment with a lower aperture setting or faster shutter speed to minimise the light from the flash so that the subject is not superficially bright.
See if your camera has a night-time setting for taking pictures in low-light conditions. You can also “place the camera on a tripod and set the [shutter speed] controls to an exposure of several seconds or more,” Vitale says. “The tripod will stabilise the camera, thereby avoiding motion blur, and the long exposure will capture dusk or evening scenes.”
Long exposure times are essential for sunsets or cityscapes at night, Gortz says, because flash alone cannot illuminate the entire scene.
Don’t shoot the locals without asking first, Waite says. “Never offend with a camera.”
Offset people in your image to one side, giving the location some importance to your photograph. Shots from farther back, with people appearing smaller in your frame, can “help show the scale of the location,” says Waite.
Vitale suggests “a mix of posed and candid shots. When the subject is gazing directly at the camera, it establishes an immediacy that directly engages the viewer, but . . . most people will just stand squarely to the camera and grin. I like to angle the bodies and vary the heights of the subjects so that no one is in a static line.” Angled poses, or simply tilting the camera, “can add dynamic tension.”
Shooting more than once lets you choose the best expressions of your subjects later, adds Gortz.
Of course, all of this is attainable only if you have the right gear on hand. Vitale suggests keeping it “light and readily accessible.”
“If you’re fumbling around for the right lens or the camera is too heavy and becomes a burden to carry, chances are you’ll either miss the magic moment or decide to leave the camera behind altogether,” he says. The right camera has a “lens that is flexible in terms of focal length and speed. A zoom lens with a broad-range focal length will enable the shooter to capture a wide landscape or to zero in close to a subject.”
The bottom line: “A good quality compact camera with some manual settings is often the best tool for travel,” says Waite. “Large, cumbersome SLRs are necessary for professionals and keen amateurs; however, one is far more likely to take pictures if the camera fits in a pocket or small bag. Those who have the SLRs will generally not need any of this advice.”