#5 – Play with light. The most critical ingredient in all great photographs is the lighting. The best images always make interesting and powerful use of light. The angle of the sun significantly affects the warmth, contrast and texture of a photograph. As often as possible, shoot in the warm “golden hours” of early morning and late afternoon (one hour after sunrise, or one to two hours before sunset when the sun is low and the light is soft and yellow/orange). Dramatic light can make even the most mundane subjects appear outstanding, so also be on the lookout for beams of light peeking through clouds, filtering through trees or shining through windows. Make use of long shadows cast during the golden hours, and try to use backlighting to silhouette your subjects.
#6 – Freeze frame. Capturing motion in photographs is something many people associate with sports. However, it is a technique that is equally as dramatic in travel photography. Illustrating movement can be a powerful expression of energy or speed to help bring a static image to life. To capture motion, secure your camera on a tripod (or even a sturdy table or ledge) and slow the shutter speed as your subject moves past.
#7 – Be respectful. I believe a travel photographer needs to recognize his boundaries. Our subjects are not paid models, and sometimes they don’t want to be photographed. We need to respect this and be mindful of such wishes. If I approach somebody and want him to be my subject, there is an unspoken contract when I look at him and raise my camera up with a smile. Often, if he doesn’t want me to take his picture, he’ll say no or shake his head and turn away. As photographers, we really must show consideration for this. Most times, however, the invitation is welcomed.
#8 – Share with your subjects. The digital revolution has been a wonderful thing for travel photographers. It is a fantastic experience to be able to take a photograph and then show the subject his image as it instantly appears on the screen. The looks on the faces of my subjects (particularly children and the elderly) as they react to their photos are wonderful. And once I’ve shown them their likeness on the screen, I often find I have subjects who are engaged and more likely to allow me to snap away.
#9 – Experiment. Be on the lookout for creative and dynamic angles. Shoot without looking through the viewfinder. Shoot speeding traffic by moving the camera at the same speed as the vehicles. Get on the ground and shoot up. Climb a tree and shoot down. Shoot without the flash. Try long exposures. Get close to your subjects. And when you think you’re close, get even closer. The more creative you get, the more you’ll learn about what works and what doesn’t work, and the better your photographs will be. Or maybe you’ll just get lucky and make a beautiful accident.
#10 – Be a tourist in your own city. To me, people don’t necessarily have to travel to make “travel photography.” London is an exotic destination to someone who lives in Bangkok, just as Bangkok is an exotic destination to someone who lives in London. There are fascinating places, characters and stories everywhere – even in our own backyards. My advice is to be a tourist in your own city: explore your familiar surroundings with a keen eye and you will find wonderful photographic opportunities. This practice and experimentation will help you be better prepared when you do finally go on a big adventure.