1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Simplicity is key. Many people try to get as much into their photographs as possible. As a result, they’re often disappointed with the end product. Ask yourself what it is about a specific scene that attracts you. Is it the single flower poking through the cracks in the brick wall or the colorful boats in the bay? If you shoot that and only that, you’ll be much more satisfied with your images.
2. Change Your Perspective
You can make your photographs more creative and interesting by varying the angle from which you shoot. Don’t just look straight ahead. Move around, get down on the ground, or even stand on a chair. Take pictures from the side, above, or below. And don’t forget to turn your camera once in a while for both horizontal and vertical shots.
3. Capture the Everyday Details
You take photos to preserve your memories of your travels, so don’t hesitate to shoot the little things that make a trip interesting. Yes, you should still shoot the local landmarks and iconic buildings. After all, that’s probably why you’re visiting that particular location. But don’t forget to shoot that special meal or unusual street sign. These photos will help tell the story of your vacation and provide variety in your scrapbooks.
4. Follow the Light
Any photographer will tell you the first and last hour of daylight are the best times for shooting. This is known as the “golden” or “magic” hour. During this time, the natural light casts a soft, warm glow as opposed to the middle of the day, when the bright light washes out details. It works especially well for landscapes.
5. Turn Off the Flash
The light from a flash—especially from the built-in flash units found on almost every camera—usually produces harsh, washed-out images as well as red-eye. And when it comes to night images, especially cityscapes, the magic has to do with the lights we see without a flash. Try resting your camera on a stationary object or using a tripod to keep things sharp. It’s especially important to not use a flash when you’re photographing something behind glass, such as a museum exhibit or the landscape through your train window. The light will only bounce off the glass, leaving a bright glare spot and little else.
6. Don’t Forget the People
There are basically two ways to photograph strangers: You can either use a good zoom lens and shoot from afar without their knowledge, or you can ask the person for his or her permission to take a photo. Stealth-like photography from afar is best for capturing spontaneous, candid images, while asking the person to pose can result in stunning up-close portraits. Never simply walk up to a person and snap a photo. First, it’s rude, and second, how would you feel if someone did the same to you? Of note—in some countries, it is forbidden to take photos of women, clergy, or members of the military or police.
7. Remember That Size Matters
Pictures often don’t convey the size of the object being photographed. The photo of that massive stone arch in Utah or the tiny castle door lacks impact and meaning without a reference. The easiest way to convey size, whether large or small, is to include an object of known size, such as a person.