While photography is being more and more accessible to everyone it has never been so important to take unique photos with an unusual perspective. With everyone shooting from a similar ‘view point’ everyone’s image is going to look alike. Hence, it becomes imperative to scout for rare locations to create unique images. In the 21st century, as a photographer, the biggest challenge is no longer how to make an image but how to stand out from the crowd by making distinctive images.
Vacations happen to be a time when the long lost camera all of a sudden becomes our best companion. They are cleaned, charged and primed for action. But more than half of the images shot on a vacation turn out disappointing. Poor composition is the primary reason. But it can also be bad lighting and incorrect exposure settings. The following tips will help you to realize some of your composition mistakes even before you make them and that way help you make better travel photos.
Include people to express scale
Scale means when you have something in the photo that gives you a comparative reference of how big or small the scene / subject is. Let’s say you are photographing a beautiful landscape. It’s beautiful as it is and everything is perfect but without a point of reference the viewer has absolutely no idea how big the place is. What you need to do is allow someone to walk into the shot, just so that you can use that person as a point of reference. As a matter of fact, that individual will also become what is known in photography as the focal point or point of interest. The sweeping landscape and everything around that person simply converts into negative space. The viewer’s eye will invariably wander around and then get fixated onto the individual.
Images are just clicks if they don’t tell a story
If you hear a National Geographic photo editor describe what makes a great photo worth publishing on their magazine, you would invariably hear him/her say that the picture must tell a story. Random captures often don’t have the value and depth in them which can capture the imagination of the viewer for long. Only when you go above and beyond and is prepared to go the extra mile in order to capture an unfolding moment will you ever achieve that in your photos. Sometimes the difference between a god photo and a great photo is simply is simply to include people.
Catch them in the act
One way of capturing people, and this is only for those who would love to go the extra mile to capture a sense of the place they are visiting, would be in the act they are. I make it a point to visit the local market whenever I go to a new place. The market happens to be the most authentic place where you can really feel the pulse of the place. People buying essential supplies, busy going about their daily routine, vegetable sellers, fruit sellers, cyclists, pedestrians, sign-boards - it is a treasure-trove for those who love shooting street photos. I am not an ardent street photographer, but I have seen markets are one of the best places I can practice a bit of street photography and in the process capture off-beat images of the destination I am in.
Ask for permission
Photographing people at close quarters can be a problem in some places. Additionally, if you are like me it is a disconcerting thing for the first time. If you are unsure approach the person and ask whether you can take a photo of him/her. Explain that you are a photographer and you found him/her interesting and would like to take a picture for your collection. If you are just a casual travel photographer, which most likely you are, you can explain yourself and the reason you are taking the picture and most of the time it would be fine. It is all in the approach. A threatening and aggressive approach or a creepy approach would definitely be met with resistance. A smiling face can often mitigate the reason to worry.
Be aware of the local customs and practices
Albeit what has been said above be aware of the local customs and practices. In some cultures aiming your camera at people is considered rude. In most western countries you are fine photographing anyone as long as you are standing on public ground and the person you are photographing is also on public ground. But always be careful photographing children. In any case, you don’t always need someone to be facing the camera to be included in the shot. This is especially when all you need is just a point of reference. A person sitting facing away from you is just as fine.
Next time when you are out snapping photos, pause for a moment and think if adding a human element would add to your composition.
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