5 steps to become a better travel photographer

remove your lens cap

Everyone is a beginner – in the beginning

As a new owner to a DSLR or a MILC camera there are a lot of things to learn in the beginning. Many users start with auto mode which is ok for the first couple of weeks, but if you have invested a great deal of money, you need to get something more out of then what a iPhone can give you.. we are of course talking about great looking pictures. There are a few shortcuts, some are obvious and some aren’t. I will below go through what I learnt when I bought my first DSLR, which later was changed to a Sony A7 MILC (mirror less interchangeable lens camera). Here you can dive in to my camera bag and get an insight what I carrying around most of the time.

Remove the lens cap

The first one is pretty obvious, remove the lens cap from your camera, and I’m not referring to when you are going to take the actual photo. If you have the camera in your hand or on your shoulder you shouldn’t have the lens protection on, you will loose some valuable seconds just to take it of when the awaited photo moment occur.
In short, you can easily see the difference between a professional photographer and a tourist if the lens cap is on or off. If you have the camera in your hand, probably the goal is to take photos, not to protect the lens. Lens cap is for when you are putting your camera in the bag.

Another lens protectionUV filter

If you have bought an expensive lens and you are afraid for getting scratches on the lens (because you don’t use lens cap anymore, right), then buy an UV Protection Filter. They are pretty cheap compared with the cost of a great lens. If an accident occurs, then the UV filter will take the first hit.

A soft strap will save your shoulder

soft camera strapIf you have the camera on your shoulder most of the time when traveling (which you should), then the camera strap can be annoying after a while. I haven’t seen any original camera strap that are good so far, and these straps really “lights” up like a beacon and shows that you have an exclusive camera in your hand. My advice is to go for a soft strap in black, it saves your shoulder or neck and it´s much more anonymously.

Ok, enough of nagging about taking of the lens cap and use a comfortable camera strap. Make sure that you always have your camera loaded any ready on you shoulder then. I have seen to many photographers that have the camera in their bag. You can’t take any good pictures in the bag, promise.

Time to master your camera

auto versus manuallyTime for some photo related advises then. I have seen many travel photographers who have bought a really nice DSLR camera, just because everyone else have one.

I know that many travel-bloggers are using their cameras in auto or half auto mode. That can be ok during the lighter part of the day but as soon as the sun is going down or if you are shooting inside, then the camera might play some tricks with you. In short, the camera doesn’t really know more than that its darker; is it a moving target or is the light rapidly changing all the time. To only way to solve these situations is to learn how to take photos in manual mode. When you know how that works, then you can handle the most difficult situations that might occur.

I know that it can be tough in the beginning, but give it a try, force yourself to shoot manually for a weekend and you will never go back. Suddenly it’s you that are taking all the marvellous photos and not the camera. Just to be clear, I’m talking about controlling ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed, not the focus. I’m still jumping between auto and manual mode for the Focus.

Exposure level indicator – your best friend

If you learn how to master your camera in manual mode as described above, then you need to have control of your camera all the time. First thing I do when I enter a new location or area is to double-check my settings. Can I lower the ISO, shall I increase the Shutter speed etc. After a while you will have these settings in you hand naturally.
meterNot mentioned before but all cameras that can be switched to manual mode do also have a great tool to help you out. You need to look after the exposure level indicator in the display or in you digital viewfinder. When the arrow is in the middle, then you have at least the right amount of light in to the lens. If it is the right ISO, Aperture or Shutter speed, that´s up to you to decide.

Some hints for the beginners then.

  1. Your first step is to make a decision about the depth of field. Adjust it to something around f4 to f5.6 if you are unsure. A lower value will give you a shorter depth of field.
  2. Now its time to adjust the shutter speed, set it to 1/125, that a good starting point. If you go below 1/125 you might get motion blur or even worse, motion blur because you can’t hold the camera steady enough.
  3. Last but not least, adjust the ISO with the help of the exposure level indicator as described above.
  4. Take some photos and start to play with the three parameters, keep you eyes on the exposure level indicator and you will see that they all are linked together.

Hope my advises above have helped you on your way to taking better pictures on your future travels. Do you have any questions or feedback, feel free to comment below..