In my last post I talked about the importance of communication on a fashion shoot or any kind of collaborative shoot. Today, I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learnt whilst travelling and some general manners that should matter when you’re both at home and away!
1. Research the places you’re visiting. There are so many platforms where people share their photos, experiences and recommendations. I like to check out Flickr, and sometimes, look through images via the location hashtag on Instagram. The latter is amazing! Just by looking through different people’s streams, I’ve come across new towns, cities, great locations, and even got an idea about what time of year is best to visit.
2. Communicate! Talk to locals! Talk to fellow travellers! I’ve learnt about some great photographic locations and events just by talking to people. Taxi drivers are full on information about the best parts of the city, places to eat, and what happens where and when. Once, a taxi driver in Rome recommended a pizza restaurant to me so passionately that I walked for over an hour through bustling plazas and beautiful crumbling buildings to get to it and the verdict… totally worth it!
3. When sightseeing, it’s worthwhile to learn about the the customs and be culturally sensitive. I’ve learnt that in most religion dominated countries, there are certain rules that apply. For example, many places require that legs are covered up, heads too, and sometimes, women cannot just go certain locations nor men in others. Making friends with a local can get you access to places and its communities that might be great for your photographic projects.
4. Be conscious of where you are walking, and also the subjects you are shooting. For example, women, children, prayers, certain events, etc. Above all be respectful. You are after all, in their country and if you’re not sure of the dos and don’ts then just ask those around you! Often, hotel or hostel staff are more than happy to answer questions and give you tips too.
5. Ask people if you’d like to take their portrait. Travelling in India, I noticed that most people didn’t mind and in fact, loved having their photos taken. However this was not the case when I was in . There, most people shied away from the camera and I noticed several occasions when locals would get aggressive if photos were taken without their consent. Different cultures different rules, being polite and considerate will take you further in the long run.
6. If language is a barrier, I’ve found that more often than not a smile and indicating to the camera wordlessly expresses your intention to a person. This way the subject will work with you to get a beautiful picture. Show them the photo of themselves after you’ve taken the shot and if they’d like a copy, grab their email address, and send it to them! It’s really the little things like this that connect us to each other.
7. Head out first thing in the morning or late evening for that beautiful soft, glowy light. 6 a.m wanderings will show you a world waking up, empty streets, sleeping dogs, and other fellow early risers. 6 p.m. is a time of winding down, hustle and bustle, the delicious scents of dinners, sweet scented flowers curling up for the night, and that twilight light… what can I say, there’s magic in the in between.
8. Streamline your kit! You don’t need to take all your camera gear with you. One or two lenses will do. The easiest lenses I’ve found to travel with is one zoom lens, in my case a 24-70mm and one portrait lens, the 50mm f1.4. After some experimenting I’ve found that these two have proved to the be the most versatile for me. I’d highly recommend renting various lenses and playing about with them so that you can decide which lens work best for you.
9. Take a polariser and a couple of ND filters with you. These are so much fun to play with for those landscape shots and when shooting in bright light!
10. Consider hiring a guide. While in Chefchaouen in we hired a wonderful old man to lead us through the scenic parts of this winding, sprawled out town. He shared with us his knowledge on the city and introduced us to several locals. We saw some really beautiful parts of the city that we most likely would have missed had we been left to ourselves.
11. Shoot in RAW. That is all. So much information lies in these uncompressed files. Give yourself room to play with exposures and colours. I’ve found that Lightroom, with it’s batch editing option, is a great program to work up those beautiful travel photos.
12. Back up your pictures! I travel with several CF cards and a hard drive. Cards can sometimes get corrupted and having the pictures already transferred onto the hard drive can save a lot of heartache!
13. When flying take your gear in a carry on and place it in the overhead compartment on the plane. I wouldn’t risk checking it in! Once or twice a jacket with big pockets has saved the day in the event that they weighed my carry on ;)
14. Utilise social media! Share your photos online, hashtag them appropriately on Instagram and Tumblr. Check out others who are tagging at the same time as you and you never know, you could make yourself a fellow photographic buddy while out there!
15. Be safe. rough up your camera a little bit by adding duct tape or a couple of scuffs. You don’t want your gear to look sparkling and desirable to those who might be looking to make a quick buck at your expense. As a woman, when travelling in Asia, India, and Africa, I didn’t emphasis my appearance. I wandered about wearing soft, loose clothes, minimal makeup and jewellery. In most places I’d have my camera in my bag and only take it out when there’s a particular shot I saw.
I hope you find these tips useful! If you have any further travel photography advice please feel free to share your knowledge in the comments below!
About The Author
Bella Kotak is a photographer, traveller, nature lover, storyteller… Her work is a mix between fashion, fantasy and portraiture. She is also an educator on Train To Create. To see more of her work please visit her website here. To keep up with her day to day feel free to connect via facebook, instagram and twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.