Ten Travel Tips for Photographers
Keep all photo equipment in your carry-on bag(s). Do not put it in checked luggage. The fine print on the airline ticket says the airline is not responsible for lost or damaged articles. Especially when flying into, out of, or within the United States, which requires that all bags be unlocked (or equipped with Homeland Security approved locks).
At airport security checkpoints, try to keep your camera equipment together, preferably in one bag. Do not get flustered. Take your time, and ensure that you have every item when you leave the security area. Note that security areas typically forbid photography or videography.
Bring two photocopies of all travel documents, plus a list of camera equipment including serial numbers for lenses, cameras and flashes. Keep them separate from your equipment. These are invaluable to show the authorities if something goes missing. You will also need these for potential insurance claims.
Less is more. Minimize the equipment you bring on trips, without curtailing your creative output. As a pro, I travel with three to five lenses. For non-working travel (is this possible?!), three lenses should suffice, and preferably just two. The quality of digital zoom lenses is excellent, allowing coverage of the most frequently used angles of view with just a few lenses. There are three categories to keep in mind: very wide-angle (to get it all), moderate wide-angle to moderate telephoto (best all-purpose range), moderate to extreme telephoto (to get close and isolate subjects).
If your pictures are not good enough, get closer! Close-ups always have an impact. Use your feet to do the walking or zoom closer with your lens. Enlarging the image on the LCD monitor doesn’t count; this is artificial digital sizing within the camera meant for checking details such as sharpness. Optically enlarging the image by using your lens to zoom closer and/or by physically moving toward a subject are the only ways to have your subject occupy a larger portion of the frame.
Beware of telephone poles sticking out of people’s heads and wires through their ears. Funny as it sounds, this often happens because a photographer is so excited about making a picture that details like this go unnoticed. Always check the background behind your main subject. Moving your subject or simply raising or lowering your camera position can eliminate unwanted elements such as bright colors and strange shapes.
With digital imaging, almost every day is a good day to take pictures. In the tough old film days, gray days were even more gray, but digital cameras have a great technology called White Balance. This refers to the ability of a camera to automatically change the color tone of a scene regardless of the actual ambient light – for the better, usually by warming it up. Many cameras even allow optional adjustment of white balance, but the auto version is pretty good. That’s one reason digital images look so good even on bad weather days. So keep shooting.
Experiment. Let your creative juices flow. One of the greatest benefits of digital imaging is the ability to experiment freely to achieve what you want. And we can view our shots immediately. Studies have always shown that immediate feedback such as this is beneficial to learning. Just be careful you don’t bury your enthusiasm in a mountain of images. A machine-gun style of shooting won’t get you what you want and wastes your time with tedious editing.
For pictures of people, try to have even light on their faces. Open shade is perfect; ditto for overcast days. Harsh sunlight with deep shadows is not flattering. And for groups, have everyone as close together as possible. Linking arms and hands of family members and good friends strengthens visual relationships even more.
Respect the world. I usually find people much more receptive to being photographed when I ask permission rather than sneaking images. It takes guts to approach strangers, but most people are friendly; if people don’t wish to be photographed, they will tell you. Showing your subjects on the LCD monitor almost always elicits cooperation with improved pictures. The natural world has its own beauty too. Your pictures have the power to help preserve it, so shoot what you like and share the experience.
Images courtesy of Gary Crallé.