by Jeoffrey Jouannet
photos © 2011 Jeoffrey Jouannet. All rights reserved.
Travel is a fantastic experience for our eyes and the perfect opportunity for all photo enthusiasts to make images and to create memories of their voyages. However, travel photography can be quite challenging even for experienced photographers. Here are some tips that should help.
What Camera or Lens Do I Need?
DSLR cameras (with interchangeable lenses) will give you the most flexibility in terms of settings and options, but some of the latest “cross-over” digital cameras that provide manual modes and useful presets can also work well when traveling. While I do not normally recommend compact “point-and-shoot” digital cameras for this type of photography, the old saying “the best camera is the one with you” applies, and if a point-and-shoot is all you have, then don’t hesitate in using it.
If you have the budget, go for a DSLR. Both Nikon and Canon make cameras that are perfect for travel photography (due to their per-installed presets and high quality). The Nikon D5000 and the Canon 60D are two affordable DSLR cameras that I recommend due to their rotatable screens – useful in many situations.
If you’re considering a camera with interchangeable lenses, keep in mind that DSLR cameras are usually sold with an 18-55mm zoom lens that is not always the best option for taking travel pictures. Most photographers agree that the best travel photo lens is the 18-200mm zoom – available from many manufacturers. You won’t find a more flexible lens than this, although it is pricey. Wide-angle lenses are also great for landscape photography and street photography as they allow you to have all the elements in one photo and usually with an interesting perspective.
Which Settings Should I Use? – Landscapes & Cityscapes
Typically, the goal with landscapes or cityscapes is to obtain as much depth of field as possible to keep all the details in focus. (“Depth of field” describes how much of the subject area – front to back – is in “acceptable” focus.) If you have a DSLR camera, use the Aperture mode and select a setting between f/8 and f/16. Remember that the higher f/number, the great the depth of field will be. However, high f/numbers require longer exposure times so you might have trouble if you use a zoom lens (if you move the camera during the exposure, the photo will be blurry). To avoid this issue, simply set a higher ISO setting, up to 800 if needed. If you don’t have a DSLR, you can use one of the presets already installed in your camera. Most cameras now have a pre-installed setting for landscape photography (it will automatically set up the camera to obtain a good deep of field).
Some great cityscapes are taken from a high vantage point (see image below). Use the settings mentioned above to get the best result (high f/number). Taking photos of the city from its streets also works (see “Street Photography” below), but nothing beats a great rooftop view!
Personally, when I use one of the automatic “Landscape” settings, I set the White Balance to “Cloudy” in order to warm up the colors – this tricks the camera into thinking the light is bluer than it really is and thereby makes the image warmer. And this can also look really great when the sun is low in the sky (see “Sunsets” below).
Also with landscapes, try to be as straight as possible. In your viewfinder, check the straightness of the horizon and try not to put it right in the middle of the photo. Instead, try something like 80% land and 20% sky, or the reverse. A 50-50% photo can sometimes feel too static.
Techniques for Street Photography
Street photography is often the best way to capture memories of the local culture and lifestyle. Many people do not take street photography pictures during their trip, and I think this is a shame. Maybe you’re hesitant or lack the confidence, but once you get over this initial hurdle, a whole new world of photo possibilities opens up. But please be sensitive to the culture and location where you find yourself. In some places, taking photos of strangers without permission is frowned upon. Make sure you understand the cultural ethics of this before you go on your trip. Google and Wikipedia can help a lot here.
Especially effective on the street, try B&W (black-and-white)! All modern digital cameras have a feature that allows you to shoot in B&W very easily — you don’t need a photo-editing program to get nice B&W pictures. Simply go to your camera settings and select the B&W option (usually under the menu called “White Balance” or “Style”). It will generate an artistic effect that you won’t regret.
During the sunset (or the hour just before, also known as the “Golden Hour”), experiment with setting your white balance to “Cloudy” to get warm colors in the sky. This sometimes makes your image almost “super real”! Play with the horizon and the position of the sun to generate some silhouettes or “backlits”. It can look pretty amazing. Try it!
Nights in the City
Travel photos at night can be spectacular if you know which settings to use. One technique to try is using a long exposure and some creativity with the ambient lights. Try to take a tripod with you otherwise your photos using a long exposure process will be blurry – you can also try to use a wall or a bench in front of the place that you’re gonna shoot. DSLR and some non-DSLR cameras have pre-installed settings for night photography, but they are not always the best for this. Instead, set your camera to Aperture priority and use an f/number setting between f/10 and f/20. In the Aperture mode, the camera will automatically set the shutter speed – at night with a high F/number, the setting could be between 10sec and 20sec. This can lead to some very interesting photos, such as the one below that has a street feeling to it, and which was taken with a long exposure and a tripod for steadiness. If you don’t have a tripod, you can set your camera with a higher ISO setting, but remember that the higher ISO you use, the “noisier” (grainier) your photo will be.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. If you own a wide-angle lens with your DSLR camera (for example a 10-20mm), make sure that you take it with you. If you set your lens to 10mm and put your camera low – almost on the ground – you can get a wonderful result.
If you have a zoom lens, you can experiment with zooming while exposing to get an effect like that shown below. Just pick a longer exposure time to capture the movement of the zoom. You can make some very creative pictures quite easily like this but remember that you’ll need a DSLR camera with a zoom lens.
Prepare a Check List Before You Go
Finally, make a list and check it twice!
• Take a tripod to take photos at night.
• Don’t forget a soft cleaning cloth or tool if it’s raining.
• Use a lens hood to avoid the sun’s rays from “flaring” in the image.
• Have UV filters on every lens to protect sensitive surfaces and even to protect your camera’s sensor if you go to a sunny place.
• A flash can be useful too.
• It’s also highly recommended to take an extra battery with you, same with the memory card.
• If you’re taking a DSLR, you might want to consider camera insurance.
Personally, I always check the Wikipedia page of the place that I’m visiting to find the points of interest where I can take my photos. Through a search engine, you can also see what other people visited and photographed – this is excellent way to discover some ideas for your own trip.
About the Author
Jeoffrey Jouannet is a young French photographer who is deeply passionate about street photography, and especially B&W. He started photographing for a classic car website at the age of 15, and his photos have been viewed by almost 3 million car enthusiasts around the world in the past 10 years. While traveling in Europe to cover classic cars events, he used this opportunity to start taking travel photos in 2005 and now has a large collection of photography mixing portraits, life styles, cityscapes and landscapes. Jeoffrey’s web site is www.jeoffrey-jouannet.com. He is currently planning to open his own photography business in Europe and is preparing book projects in the United Kingdom. This article is Jeoffrey’s first appearance on Phoozl.