Most people enjoy traveling — the thrill of adventure and discovery, experiencing new cultures, tasting new foods — the usual. People also enjoy taking photos to document their travels. If there’s one problem with travel photos it’s that they all look the same.
I suppose this really isn’t a “problem” if all you’re trying to do is show your friends and family that you’ve visited some world famous landmark. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But many photographers want their travel shots to stand out in some way. The best way to make your travel photos stand apart from the pack is to make sure they are an authentic representation of the place you visit.
Here are 5 tips to help you create more authentic travel photos.
Embrace The Mundane
Everyone flocks to the most beautiful or iconic locations in any city they visit but such locations don’t truly reveal the essence a place.
By venturing into the more sedate areas you can get a view of daily life. Photograph the regular, everyday movements of the people and the places that matter most to the locals.
These scenes may not be “beautiful” in the most traditional sense, but if you’re in search of authenticity this is where you might want to start. You will get a glimpse into the reality behind the shiny facade that most tourists chase after.
I’ve addressed the importance of curiosity before and it applies well here also. As you wander through each area you visit, throw off any pretentiousness of being a “professional” photographer.
Just be curious. Be willing to engage with locals and ask them questions and listen to their stories. Don’t turn your travel photography into work — forget all the analytical, procedural stuff and use your camera as a tool to help you answer questions.
Take Full Advantage Of Your Time There
In other words, don’t rush and don’t pass up opportunities.
Understandably, you will be operating within certain time constraints — you have to go home eventually. This means you need to spend your time wisely. If it’s authentic photos you want, you should spend less time in areas typically frequented by tourists and, instead, give preference to those purportedly mundane places mentioned above.
Additionally, no matter where you’re shooting, be sure to take the shot when you have it. When you see something/someone intriguing, take the picture. There’s no guarantee the same opportunity will be there a day later. Or an hour later.
Sometimes, setting yourself apart from others is simply a matter of capitalizing on situations that others pass up or don’t notice.
Get Up Early
It would seem that all the good stuff happens in the middle of the day — sporting events, festivals, markets. These are all potentially wonderful photo opportunities, but you’ll have to contend with crowds, meaning other other tourists will also be taking very similar shots.
Want photos that others aren’t going to get? Well, you’re going to have to wake up early. Before all the tourists come out, before many of the locals even appear on the scene.
Capturing the early birds and their morning routines is a way to show a side of a place that most outsiders don’t see.
Embrace Bad Weather
One thing that makes travel photos so homogenous is that they often portray places only as picturesque, sunny utopias.
Well, any place can be picturesque without being sunny. The people who live year round in that place have to deal with the reality of bad weather. So why not capture that reality?
If you encounter bad weather while on holiday, don’t stay indoors. Go out and take it all in. Dark, cloudy skies can make for dramatic landscape/cityscape images. Snowfall can add a touch of visual magic. Rainfall can quickly alter the appearance of absolutely everything around you.
The shots you get by going out in anything but sunny conditions won’t be the run-of-the-mill travel shots. And that’s exactly what you want.
Your travel photos don’t have to look like millions of others that populate personal websites and social media pages; they don’t have to resemble cliched postcards that line the shelves in tourist shops.
With the ideas above as a starting point, you can make inspiring travel photos that are a more authentic representation of the places you love to visit.