When my husband & I were first married, we traveled extensively through Europe our first 3 years together. It was amazing. We saw different countries, ate different foods & experienced as much of local cultures as we could. I wouldn’t trade any of that time for anything & in fact, the only real regret I have is that photography wasn’t as important to me then as it is today. Recently, I got another chance to head back to London & Paris (sans kids!) & honestly, the only thing (besides food) I could think about was how I would capture my travels this time. How would it be different than the first time I’d been to these cities? How would I approach each place with new eyes & make sure to capture the experience but still… ya know, experience it. I actually didn’t have any game plan & just went with the flow of things but now that I’ve come back across the pond & had several nights of 10+ hours of sleep, I feel fully able to share what worked for me & provide you with my list of Dos and Don’ts for Travel Photography.
No.01Do Ask Permission AKA - Learn the Language
I wouldn’t say I learned this the hard way but I found myself snapping away at a market stall in Portobello Road in London & was met with a grumpy stall owner. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the beauty & excitement of being somewhere new & seeing new things. Just remember it’s best practice to actually ask someone before you take a picture of either them or anything they might be selling &/or consider their property. And if they say no, don’t worry. Just say thanks & move on.
I also made sure that when we traveled through Paris I knew how to say – May I take a picture? – in French. That’s another thing people appreciate – when you try & speak their language. No matter how much I was likely butchering the phrase I was always met with a smile & nod.
No.02Photograph the Details
It’s easy to get caught up in the big stuff. That’s everywhere. You can’t miss it. One of my favorite things to capture when I was traveling were the little, quiet details. The surprises that were waiting down windy alleys or behind half open doors.
Make sure you get those big, expansive shots, but also don’t forget about the details most people will never even see.
No.03Do Capture the Touristy Stuff Too
I have to admit, since this wasn’t my first trip to London & Paris, I was more excited to photograph the smaller things. The things that made each city unique outside of those well known landmarks. But I think it’s still a good idea to make sure you’re capturing that Eiffel Tower or Big Ben. I mean, I’d hate to say I went to London & didn’t get a snap of thier most well known landmark!
No.04Do Use White Balance
Probably my favorite thing about taking pictures in Europe was the exquisite, overcast, beautifully diffused light we had almost every single day. To say that cool, low light is just about my favorite thing would be an understatement. I was in heaven! But, that might not be your particular aesthetic or experience. Knowing how to use custom white balance like Kelvin will make sure you’re getting a great image in camera & not fiddling around with the post processing too much.
No.05Do Stay Connected
I knew I’d need chargers for my camera(s), laptop & phone plus adaptors &/or converters depending on the country/appliance. Take mental note of if you need an extra battery (like I have to have with my Fuji) or extra SD cards. If you plan on sharing images, consider having a way to upload & edit them. I just used Lightroom on my laptop & then exported to Dropbox. I was easily able to access the images from the Dropbox app on my phone. Staying connected was actually much easier than I thought. Yay for the digital age!
I don’t like to focus too much on the negative so I figured I’d just leave you with a few thoughts on what I think you shouldn’t do when photographing your travels.
Don’t over pack. Change to say “Don’t overpack your gear. Traveling lightly makes navigating airports and train stations much easier. You want to (enjoy the flight), not worry about your camera bag in the overhead bin. For this week long, two city trip I took my DLSR + one lens & my mirrorless Fuji + one lens. This was perfect for me.
- Don’t monopolize your traveling companions time by taking too many pictures especially if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere. Not everyone has the same joy of photography. If you’re in a hurry to get to a commitment, don’t stop your group every 3 minutes to shoot yet another doorway. There’s plenty of doorways all over Europe. Trust me. It’s not worth irritating your friends.
- Don’t be afraid to look like a tourist. My first time in Europe I was worried about always looking like a tourist so I’d be scared to pull my camera out. Don’t let that fear keep you from getting the shots you want. After all, you are a tourist. This might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Embrace it!
- Don’t get stuck behind your camera. I have this thing when I visit a new city where I close my eyes & breath in deep the city air. I want to make sure I don’t miss any bit of it. Don’t get trapped behind the viewfinder of your camera. There’s beauty that can’t be captured waiting to unfold in front of your eyes. You don’t want to miss it.