Monthly Archives: December 2016

A Guide to Photography for Beginners

Learn to Take Amazing Travel Snaps

Let’s dispel a myth right away – you don’t need to be a professional to take travel photos. You just need to know the basics of your camera and follow a few rules. Some of the best photos you’ll take will be from being in the right place at the right time, and that happens often when you’re travelling.

I have broken this short guide into five sections to give you some fast tips on travel photography. Happy snapping!

Equipment

There is no standard equipment for taking photos but when travelling you best make sure you have the necessities with you. Most people will be taking a point and shoot or a DSLR due to space constraints. For both cameras the following is recommended:

  • Make sure you have a big enough memory card for the camera – Rather than buy one huge memory card, I would recommend buying three or four smaller ones and keep them separate from the camera. That way if you lose your camera you don’t lose all of the photos.
  • Bring a charger – Nothing is worse than being in a foreign country and the battery on your camera dying, and spending all afternoon trying to find a place that might sell your charger.
  • A padded bag – There is a strong chance you will be knocked around on trains and buses. Make sure you get a bag padded enough to take these blows. Nothing is worse than opening up your bag to find it in pieces after being kicked on a bus.
  • A small tripod – Most cannot take a bit 6ft tripod. But there are some really nifty 1-2 ft fold down ones that fit in a handbag. They aren’t very big but if you want to do self photographs, scenery or night time shots they are a god send.

Using the Camera

Before you go look at your itinerary and see what landmarks there are. But more importantly look at what else there is. Remember that the locals know the best places. If they talk about a park or a museum then it might be worth a look. Most countries know what a camera is and most countries are used to tourists. If you are in a place where there is a lot of action then keep your camera to hand. But not obviously. Do not walk around with it hanging round your neck all the time. I tend to have a hoodie on that it tucks into or if it is warm it sits at the top of the backpack.

Don’t just look. Observe. With your camera to hand and an eye for a picture you can often get very spontaneous photographs. If you are in a place where there aren’t a lot of tourists and you wish to photograph the locals the best way to approach it is to not have your camera out. Put it away, go up to the locals and talk to them. Mention you are taking photos and get it out. Show the camera to them and to an extent let them have a go. Once they are comfortable with it then ask if you can take some photographs. The trick with kids is to take one photo and show it to them. Often enough they then laugh and play up to the camera creating a better photo.

Remember you are just a tourist taking photos. You are not doing anything wrong. So don’t act like it. Be friendly, and talk to people. Don’t just walk up take a photo and run away.

Settings

When thinking about settings the best thing you can do is learn about what you have got. If it is a point and shoot then learn what each setting does. Most have settings for indoors, low light and outdoors. Make sure you know when to use these settings. There are no perfect settings to take a photo but there can be wrong settings. So learn what each of them does. If you have a DSLR your horizons are massively widened but so are the settings. If you camera has a manual setting then learn to use it. Start by grasping a basic knowledge of Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials showing you how to use these. All have an effect on the light and texture of a photo. The best tips to have are to leave it on auto if you are unsure. But when you get to grips with how to use light in the manual setting the world is your oyster.

If you are comfortable with the manual setting then here are a few tips:

  • For photographing people, use a high shutter speed as they move and become blurry otherwise.
  • For scenery you can have a slow shutter speed. A slow shutter speed often makes things like a sunset look more glowing.
  • If you have a tripod, use it. Especially at night. Slow shutter speeds at night need a tripod otherwise they come out blurred and/or ruined. Unless you are an abstract artist that is.
  • Place the subject off centre. A simple photo of a girl leaning against a wall is much more interesting and aesthetically pleasing if she is off centre. It’s not rocket science but placing the subject off centre and following a rule of thirds can turn the most boring photos into something worth looking at.
  • Depth of field is an important setting. This is controlled by the aperture. A small number means a short depth of field and a large number means a bigger one. The rule of thumb is that for people use a small number. This focuses more on the person and not the background. For buildings and landscapes use a large number as this gives you the longer depth so more of the subject is in focus.

What to Look For

If going to a place where there are lots of tourists try to give another angle on things. For instance rather than just standing by the Eiffel tower, go to one of the side streets covered in graffiti and shoot it from there. Give the viewer something different. Once you find your subject, find your angle. How do you want your image to end up?

Side streets and off the beaten path is where I shoot my best stuff. Go to the places you wouldn’t have considered before. You can do this while still staying safe. Don’t just rock up into a ghetto with your camera out.

While people are shooting the landmark, shoot the people. Sometimes the most interesting thing about a landmark is the people there to see it. You could take a photo of the leaning tower of Pisa. Or you could take a photo of the girl on her dad’s shoulders pretending to push it over not realizing her ice cream is about to fall on his head.

Most importantly, capture what you are doing. If you are having fun at a bar with some new friends get the camera out. Don’t worry about being all artsy with it, capture the moment. If someone tells a joke take a photo of everyone laughing. You will look back on that photo and remember the joke.

Scenery

When taking photographs of scenery, take one or two. Get the setting right and move on.  There is no point taking 10-15 photos of the same object. Try to make use of the golden hour. The golden hour is the hour before sunset where everything looks magical. People walking along a beach look like they are from Baywatch. The sun setting over tall buildings makes them look like mountains. Use it. Your surroundings may be boring during the day but during the golden hour they have a whole new perspective.

Look up! Don’t keep your camera street level. Look up to the sky and the scenery up there. The quagmire of coloured roofs in Amsterdam or the spiral buildings of Moscow.

Look down! Get on your hands and knees, take photos of things a foot off the ground. A flower sprouting in the middle of a Berlin pathway. A hedgehog sleeping in a bush by The Louvre.

Mastering the Art of Travel Photography

How to Nail the Perfect Shot and Become a Great Travel Photographer

I really love photography. I love taking photos, I love visiting photography exhibitions and I love talking about photography with friends, but as with most creative activities, I find my inspiration and drive comes in bursts.

I’m sure photographers of all skill levels will agree that sometimes it can be a real struggle to find the inspiration to get those ‘killer’ shots. It’s sometimes taken for granted, but inspiration truly sits at the heart of all great photography and, for many keen photographers, this is where much of the value of travel lays.

Beautifully vivid magazine shots of Indian markets may inspire others to visit, but the inspiration to take those great photographs will have undoubtedly come from the fascination and sense of wonder the photographer felt when he or she was there, amid the bustle and shouting and smells. This is the symbiotic relationship that exists at the heart of travel photography. Travel inspires photography and photography inspires travel.

Thinking Ahead

It’s probably fair to say that I’ve never been one of life’s natural planners but when it comes to travel photography, there is definitely value in forward thinking; especially if you’re only planning a short stay.

Run an internet search for destination advice on almost any location and you are likely to find a wealth of useful information, but it is also likely to be quite generic.

Advice specifically written for photographers is surprisingly thin, so if you want to find the best photo spots it will probably require some old-fashioned manual research.

If you are serious about taking good photos, plan your trip with photography in mind.

Finding your way to those iconic photo spots overlooking the Grand Canyon or Machu Picchu is generally easy to do with little or no planning, but an adventurous traveller looking to capture post-civil war urban decay in the former Yugoslavia, or a budding photojournalist hoping to immortalise the essence of village life in Sub-Saharan Africa, would be wise to plan ahead.

Perhaps the easiest approach to location scouting is to simply look at where other photographers have taken great shots. One way to do this is to browse through online photo galleries and travel magazines and look at the captions. Glossy travel magazines will offer more professional shots but are generally costly, so buying a stack of new issues probably isn’t wise. Look for second hand ones in charity shops. This is a great way to find inspiration. Working out where the photos were taken relies on the accuracy of the photo captions. Some magazines are good for inspiration, but caption accuracy tends to vary. For sound commercial reasons, magazines rarely offer much that pushes the boundaries, but the aspiring amateur can afford to take more risks.

Geotagging is the process of adding map references to photos. Geotagged photos should carry the information you need to get to the exact spot on which the picture was taken. Many photo gallery sites will also show you the photograph’s Exif data.  This is very useful for learning how to recreate a particular style. Exif data contains all of the technical information about a photo, so you can see for yourself which camera and lens were used to take a photo and even the aperture and exposure settings used by the photographer.

The point of photo research should, of course, be to find new destinations that will inspire you, not to find pretty pictures to recreate. When you arrive at your well-chosen destination, turn on your inner artist; explore, interpret and capture the place in your own unique way.

Getting in the Zone

If you are serious about getting good photos, you need to become one with your camera. If you don’t feel you know how to use your camera properly, figuring everything out while travelling might mean missing great photo opportunities early on in your trip, something you are likely to regret later.

Spend time learning how to use your camera at home and practise using it in different situations and with different light levels. Even if you know your camera inside out, a few weekend photography excursions near to where you live should go a long way to ignite your photographic inspiration before you go.

Time might be tight when you are travelling, so deciding what to shoot may require some strategy. Some iconic shots will be obvious. Look through your lens while standing in front of the Taj Mahal, gazing upon the beautiful symmetry of its architecture perfectly reflected in the water, and you’ll no doubt find yourself composing a classic shot that many generations of tourists and photographers have taken before. There are of course many reasons why this has become a classic shot, so line it up, take your own version, and then move on to something a little more outside-the-box.

Taking Pictures of People

Photographing people up close takes a bit of courage, which can be difficult at first. Starting off with some easy subjects is a pretty good tactic. Bartering with market vendors and getting them to allow you to take a portrait as part of your offered price is a bit crafty, but quite effective. Save introducing this till the end of the barter; you’ll eventually accept their final price, but only on the condition that they let you take their picture.

Unless you want a portfolio focused on the market vendors of the world (which might actually make a nice little project), you’ll need to build courage quickly and become confident asking people if you can take their portraits. Look and act the part, respect others’ wishes but don’t be down-hearted by people saying ‘no’ and don’t let the time constraints around each individual portrait cloud your longer-term creative development. Learn from each shot and try new angles and techniques with each new photographic subject. Patience and hard work will pay off over time.

Think Like a Travel Photographer

Imagine the (not at all uncommon) scenario of standing among a large group of photographers, shoulder-to-shoulder on a tropical beach; all looking out on a tranquil sea, all trying to get that perfect image of the setting sun reflected in its calm waters. Try as you might, your shot probably isn’t going to be the best of them, and even if it is, there are likely to be dozens of other photographers with an almost identical shot.

Simply taking ten or twenty steps backward and looking down the beach might reveal a highly photogenic scene; scores of photographers, lenses glistening in the blaze of the setting sun, all looking out in wonder. Originality in photography is often about seeing the trees that make up the wood.

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.Dorothea Lange

I’m a firm believer that with the right balance of skills and inspiration a decent photographer can take a great photo of almost anything, from the most grandiose of skyscrapers to that mundane pile of nails in your dad’s shed. Your own interests and photographic style will play a big part in determining what you shoot as well as the way you shoot it. If you have a well-honed style, then be sure to do what you do best, be that finding amazing textures, composing minimalist landscapes or capturing urban decay. Travelling will of course give you great scope to do these things, but try not to get too hung up on staying consistent with what you’ve done in the past while you’re away.

Think like a travel photographer. Imagine you haven’t paid for your own trip. A magazine such as National Geographic has hired you and sent you to your destination. What kind of brief would they give you? I mean it, actually think about it…

It might seem a bit childish to play ‘make believe’ in this way (and I guess it is), but the ‘thought experiment’ does serve a purpose.

Taking a few minutes to reflect on this myself, it is clear that the kind of destination photographs travel magazines favour tend to be vivid, bright and iconic. The best photojournalism always tells a story.

A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.Ansel Adams

The most memorable portraits are those that are emotive, capture the essence of a person’s mood and contain some clear cultural identifiers. Simply taking the kinds of shots that would inspire you to travel is definitely a good place to start, but it is worth taking a moment to note that the kind of shots a skilled photographer might covet aren’t always the same shots a potential traveller might appreciate.

Truly great travel photography should be photographically brilliant while also able to appeal to a general audience that lacks, for the most part, the technical knowledge required to appreciate exactly what makes it so good.

The true ‘art’ of travel photography is not in simply learning how to take photos when travelling, but in aspiring to create images of far-away places that get a reaction, that inspire photographers, travellers and non-travellers alike.

Enjoy Yourself

Above everything else, make sure you have a great time while taking photos on the road. No matter how much you love photography, if you are taking a gap year to go travelling, you’ll probably come home with regrets if every travel memory you have engrained on your conscious mind has been made while peering through a viewfinder.

If you are travelling for a prolonged period, taking time off from the camera can be every bit as important as driving yourself to take photos. Sometimes the best inspiration comes from just relaxing and enjoying the wonders of life and nature, just so long as the camera is always to hand when you need it.

It’s very easy to get obsessed with getting the best shot wherever you go. At times you’ll learn to love this obsession as it drives your photography to greater and greater heights, but you’ll also need to learn when to cut your losses and move on. If you only have a few days to spend in Rio de Janeiro, and you end up spending all of your time in its outskirts trying to get interesting shots of life in the Favelas, you’ll miss out on seeing the likes of Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana Beach and Sugarloaf Mountain.

Colourful capture of a lake in Ireland

A photographer is like a cod, which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity.George Bernard Shaw

Chances are that if you are travelling on a gap year, you are going to visit places you’ll probably never get the chance to go back to, so snap happy! When not in ‘travel photographer mode’ it’s fine to shoot hundreds of average shots which just capture memories for your own benefit, as long as these don’t end up in your travel photography portfolio. Do the touristy things too. Get strangers to take pictures of you standing in front of iconic buildings, get snapshots with nice people you meet on your travels. Make the most of the experience. Enjoy yourself.

7 Things To Do Besides Take Photos

Photography Fatigue: There’s More to Travel Than Filling Your Phone

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they’ve had enough of clicking the shutter on their camera. It may take years, months, hours or even minutes but at some point I can guarantee the average person will get photography fatigue and just want to put the camera to one side.

I travel with a Go Pro, an iPhone and a point and shoot camera, I feel ridiculous but they’ve all got their purpose. Sometimes I even add a DSLR on top of that too. I’ve increasingly noticed lately that I’m just not in the photography mood, and as a full time blogger, my snapping can come more from duty than from love.

I just feel like people are taking all these photos, thousands for every trip, but what do they do with them all? Is it not better to live an experience for real, rather than view it from behind the lens?

1. Look up

When I went on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania everyone was stuck to their viewfinder. You can get the same view as they did if you Google ‘Ngorongoro Crater’ and for a lot cheaper too. The fun of actually being on safari is looking up, looking around and trying to spot the wildlife for yourself. Safaris are all about feeling the savannah air and looking out to the expanse of the landscape. I understand wanting a photo of the wildlife, I want one too, but when you get home all you have is a photo of a lion like everyone else who’s ever been on safari. You won’t have that feeling of what it was like to be on a safari because you were too busy setting up the camera for the shot.

2. Talk

Instead of looking down, sorting out your camera or clicking the shutter for the tenth time, how about talking to someone? We’re so quick to hide behind our technology these days. In the olden days of disposable cameras, which I just about remember, you’d ask someone else to take a photo (and make a new connection) and you’d take the one or maybe two because they cost 30p per photo to develop. Now it’s all selfies and 7 snaps before you’ve even sorted your hair. Trust someone else to take a photo once in a while and strike up a conversation while you’re at it.

3. Draw or paint

Do people still paint anymore? I’m guessing that if ever anyone made some sort of graph showing the amount of paintings done per day compared to the amount of photos taken, the lines would cross somewhere around the late 1990s. From 2005ish the photo line would be off the chart. Painting a scene is a great way to really look at an image, to notice all the nuances and characteristics and to record them for yourself. Instead of taking the obligatory photo of a landmark or site as you walk on through, painting gives you the time to actually really sit and look at it properly.

4. Write

Sure, a picture paints a thousand words and all that, but what about writing a few verses on what you see? It doesn’t have to be for any sort of publication but the notes you write now on how you feel will me sacred memories when your gap year is over. If you’re quickly progressing from destination to destination it’s surprisingly easy to forget the details and how you felt at the time. Writing when you’re on you gap year gives you the perfect opportunity to actually sit down and think about all the amazing things you’ve done, rather than just relying on your memory or the photos on your iPhone.

5. Experience

How about you don’t do anything but just soak up the experience and live in the here and now? Put the camera down, any other thoughts to one side and just focus on the here and now. Work your way through your senses when you reach a moment in life you’d normally photograph and think about how it affects each one and enjoy it.

6. Take your time

It’s easy to get caught up in attractions, to follow the crowd and eagerly get onto the next thing before you’re ready all to get the perfect shot, orshots. Take time out at a destination. Have a cup of tea, a picnic, or simply sit and people watch. Find out what it’s like to actually be there rather than just to see it and snap it.

7. Quality photography

Obviously I’m not suggesting you give up taking photos all together, but maybe cut down on the snap happy attitude and go for quality over quantity. Think about how you want to frame the shot and take time to set it up. Don’t fill your phone with half hearted attempts at photography that waste time and memory – go for the money shot. Done!

Tips to Make Money from your Gap Year Photos

Money for Nothing, Clicks for Free

Not long ago, I made lots of money for doing absolutely nothing.

I hadn’t won the lottery, and the size of my student loan hadn’t compelled me to join some kind of criminal organisation (yet). All I did was sell the licensing rights to my gap year photos.

A few months earlier, while kayaking in New Zealand, a baby seal clambered onto the back of my boat. I grabbed my camera and started filming. Back in London, I reminisced about my incredible trip by posting the footage on Reddit. When this proved popular, I sold the photos and a short clip to the news agency Barcroft.

While I didn’t make millions, and you won’t find me gracefully swan diving into piles of cash any time soon, I did make enough to recuperate the cost of my return flights. As a graduate returning from a gap year with a hefty overdraft, this was a welcome development. Selling your story to a news agency is a great way to earn some extra funds. Here’s how to do it.

I’m in – what can I sell?

If you’re hoping to go the same route I did, you’ll need a story to tell. The clue is in the name really: news agencies buy news. Think about what yours could be, and then offer the chance for someone else to tell it with one complete media package.

Note: Make sure you don’t post any photos on social media if you want to include them, because outlets can and will lift them without paying you.

In my case, I had photos and videos of the seal, as well as photos of me in the park and near Adele Island, where the seal caught up with us. These were later used to illustrate my story in news articles and videos. It helps if your story is particularly news-worthy or quirky.

You don’t need to worry if your camera isn’t high-tech and your photos aren’t perfect – I used an old underwater camera, which I’d dropped in the car park just before heading out. If your photos are the only ones available of a great story, then the agencies will no doubt still be interested.

Next step: negotiating

So you’ve got your photos ready – what next? You’ll need to find agencies to pitch to. This sounds scary, but just search online and start emailing.

They can specialise in different things, like animal videos or celebrity gossip, so try to find one that fits. In your email, explain what happened and include some sample photos as a taster. I didn’t watermark mine, but it’s probably a good idea to do so. It also helps if you have evidence that your story will be successful – I sent the URL to my Reddit post.

If you have a good story, it won’t be long before you get responses. I emailed Barcroft with my seal video, and within 10 minutes they gave me a call.

The news agency will take a cut of whatever they sell your story for, so use this call to negotiate how big that cut is. They’ll probably start by offering you 50:50. It doesn’t hurt to play hard ball – I didn’t accept the first offer and ended up with a better deal.

If you’re selling a video, it’s important to make sure you’ll also get paid for the YouTube views. These will never amount to more than a few pennies unless your video is the next viral sensation, but it all adds up.

Another thing to watch out for is the contract’s length. Make sure you can cancel your agreement with the agency at any point, because you never know who might offer you more money down the line. Also ensure that you will retain the copyright, because this means you’ll still be the owner of your material.

What happens next?

Once you’ve hashed out the agreement, you’ll be sent a contract. Make sure you read it carefully, and check everything you agreed has been worded correctly. Once the contract is signed by both parties, you can store it in a safe place and send your files.

Now, all you need to do is wait – the agency will handle the rest. You’ll be sent statements of who your story has been sold to, and it won’t be long before you see it popping up online. Mine appeared in the Daily Mail and the New York Post, to name a few!

You’ll only get a statement when you’ve made a sale, which is fun because you’ll receive variable amounts of cash out of the blue.