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Aim, Focus, Shoot - The HyPyC blog
Travel Photography Tips

How the hell do I take a decent photo?

For me photography is an important part of my travels – I enjoy taking photos and trying to create powerful, unique and beautiful shots of the places I visit. Therefore I am always looking to improve my techniques, composition and general photographic skills – Listed below are some of the tips I have found really helpful; while some of them may appear simple or common sense, it is surprising how much difference they can make. I have split them down into two main categories: Hardware (I.e. the actual camera and accessories), and Shooting (I.e. the actual composition and process of taking the photo). If you have any useful tips of your own please share in the comments – I am always looking to learn and am by no means a pro!

Hardware tips

Take additional accessories - I always take a minimum of three camera batteries and three memory cards on any trip – For me it is too risky to take one of each – What if a battery brakes or what if a memory card malfunctions? I would then be stuck with no equipment and miss out on many photographic opportunities. Taking several of each allows for redundancy and gives you a safety net if anything does happen.

Always take several batteries and memory cards

Furthermore carrying several batteries means you have a safeguard if one suddenly looses charge – You can simply pop another fully charged battery in and re-charge the dead one when you get back to the hotel. ALWAYS CHARGE YOUR BATTERIES! Finally, having several memory cards means you do not have to worry about how much space you have left! I have two 32gb cards and 1 16gb – I havn't filled one yet during a trip, but I know that I would have plenty of space left if I did.

Regularly swap memory cards - This might seem OTT or unnecessary but I think it is a must! Do not use the same memory card throughout your trip - If you loose it, if it breaks, if it doesn't record the data properly then your screwed and you will have lost all your snaps! I always use a different memory card each day of the trip to ensure my photos are split across several storage devices - If I have an issue with one, I will have at least not lost all of my photos.

Shooting Tips (With a camera.....)

Take multiple exposures/attempts of each photo - This one has been my downfall in several instances - I have taken a photo, and on the preview it has looked epic, but when I've exported it into Lightroom, it actually has been bollocks, and I have thought "Why didn't I take a couple shots of this!". Don't be afraid to take the same photograph several times - This gives you greater choice and allows you a wider range of photos to choose from afterwards - You can choose the best and then delete the worse examples. Click on the example below.

Take multiple exposures and compositions

I also often take the same photo with different exposures (Exposure is the amount of light that is let onto a camera sensor - More = Lighter photo, Less = Darker photo). If you take several exposures - One slightly over exposed (Lighter), One at normal exposure, and one slightly under exposed (Darker) you will be able to pick the best! Obviously you can manually alter the exposure of a photo in editing programs such as Lightroom, however it is always a good idea to try and get the best exposure in the initial photo. It's not always easy to tell from your camera preview if your photo is exposed properly, hence why taking multiple exposures can help.

Rule of thirds - This rule is fairly easy to follow and generally provides a more appealing photograph - Imagine your composition split into segments - Always try and frame your main subject in the last third both horizontally and vertically of your shot - I have put a grid on the photo below to illustrate - In this photo, the main subject (I.e. the statue) is not central, and has been photographed towards the top left third. Don't put the subject right in the corner, but slightly offset. This will in most cases create a better end photograph than if the subject was simply slap bang in the middle.

Note how the statue has been photographed in the top-left third

Shoot from different angles - I have only recently started putting this into practice, but it's surprising what different and more interesting photos you can take! When you are taking a photo, stop and think: Would this look better if I were crouched down? Would this look better if I were at a higher angle? Would this look better with X in the foreground? Don't settle for a conventional composition i.e. stood on the ground, camera at neck height, facing towards your subject. Experiment and move around - Don't just stay static!

Look at this moron!

Leading Lines - A good photograph draws your eye in to focus on a specific point - This process is accentuated by using leading lines in your compositions. A leading line is basically a line or feature of a scene that your eye will follow towards a specific point. In the example below the diagonal lines of the grass and the rape-seed fields lead your eye towards the main focal point which is clearly the lone tree.

An example of leading lines

My biggest tip for travel photography however is to just enjoy yourself in the process - Don't get too bogged down with creating the perfect photo and don't forget to actually admire and observe the places, people and objects you are snapping - Too often have I been hidden behind my camera and not fully enjoyed the sights and surroundings I have travelled too.

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