A very good friend of mine asked me if I had any suggestions on how to take a few meaningful holiday photos. She also wanted to know, "How do you get an idea of the photos you want without creating faux moments and missing real memories?"
We're no experts, we're always learning but here's our photography tips from our own research, experience and lessons learnt!
1. Not always looking at the camera makes better travel pictures.
I personally believe being in travel pics of the dream places you are visiting make better photos. Anyone can take a photo of a place, but there's something about being able to see the two of you, having lived that dream - what you wore at the time, how you looked, how you felt, your body language, reactions and more.
Are all your photos together starting to look the same though? Something like this where you are always standing in the same pose and looking at the camera? Most of our photos used to look like this...we were almost always in the same pose and only the background was different.
It's amazing what a difference it can make to a photo if you don't look at the camera. I personally prefer the bottom photo to the top photo of us. I feel it's a better representation of the great time we shared staring at the amazing Tanah Lot temple in Bali, taking it all in. It was a site that I'd been dreaming of visiting for ages.
I think we can all agree that photos become more meaningful when they are less staged and capture actual events or reactions. More ways to capture actual reactions:
A. set up the camera to keep taking photos before having an experience and pretend there is no camera or
B. you can have the experience and enjoy it, then before you leave recall where you were standing or sitting, set up the camera in the best angle and imitate what your actual poses were.
I adore this photo because it really captured the fun we had trying to stay on this unicorn inflatable and how much we laughed when we fell off. There's my husband looking quite chuffed with himself for staying afloat while I fell off :P We set up the camera to take photos continuously as we tried to climb on top of the inflatable together.
2. Find and follow other inspiring Instagram travel couples for travel photo ideas.
Have a look at what it is that you love about their photos and see if you can do the same. One of the couples that really inspire my own travel photography is the couple from Instagram account @DoYouTravel.
The biggest travel photography tip I learnt from reading their blogs is don't try so hard to get the perfect photo - just be yourself in the moment and it will lead to a photo that is unique to you as a couple and a more genuine reflection of your time there.
I also love the photos of Instagram account @FollowMeTo which inspired the photo below. A lot of couple travelers do this pose and to be honest, it's been done to death by now!
This pose is inspired by the Instagram account @followmeto and is a popular choice for traveling couples!
We follow heaps of couples on our Instagram account @RomanticExplorers - hope to see you there!
3. Decide what needs to be in focus.
When we were walking along the beautiful Nobbies Boardwalk, the view was just incredible. We walked along and paused to look at the views. I wanted to take a photo of us enjoying that moment and what made it so beautiful and so I set up the camera with a timer and got the photo below which is one of my favorites. The view was the main focus but we are in there somewhere too of course.
Most of our best travel photos show us in the scene but with the scene taking up MUCH more of the photo than we do.
4. Visualise what your best travel photos could look like.
If you are visiting a place that you've been looking forward to seeing, try to visualize yourselves in the space or having the experience before actually having it - try to imagine: 1.1 what you will be doing, 1.2 from what angle it would photograph well 1.3 what lighting will make the best photo and experience 1.4 what outfits will compliment the photo. Yes, I do actually think about this too! Picking a colour outfit that is contrasting to the background of the location you will be taking a photo in will make you pop in the photo whereas choosing an outfit that is the same colour as any of the elements in the photo will result in a more harmonious photo and take the focus off of you.
Then decide which one of the following ways will best photograph it:
A. Set up a tripod and self timer. Will it be best for one of you to set up a tripod before you walk in and set up, while you are there or after? By setting it up before, you could capture the look of excitement on your faces.
B. Ask a supplier to take the photos for you.
Some hotel staff don't mind taking photos for you at the pool for example.
One of the hotel staff members took this photo for us.
C. Ask another person/couple in the same area/experience to take a photo for you. How do we do it? I scan around if there are couples taking photos of each other - it tells me photos are important to them. I then go over to them and say "Hello, would you like to do a photo swap? It's so hard to get a good photo together as a couple isn't it!?" I haven't had anyone say no and they also don't mind if you ask them for something specific because it makes them more comfortable to ask you for what they would ideally like too.
Sometimes when people see us fiddle with our tripod they also offer to take a photo for us which is great. If you are hoping they will get a particular angle, take a photo of it and show it to them when you ask. Where possible, check the photo before they leave. I know it can be embarrassing.. but you more than likely won't see them again and be glad that you survived a bit of embarrassment for a photo that will bring you joy for years to come.
5. Try to stop caring what other people around you think when you are trying to take a good photo.
Our neighbors in the camping grounds certainly looked at us a bit funny when I was setting up the tripod and running to sit down for the photo before the timer went off but... it was worth it!
Yes, it can feel embarrassing, awkward or rushed taking a photo or two when there's a lot of people around or when a line of people are waiting. Just remember, you spent a lot of time and money getting there and also waited your turn so take your time (within reason!) and do what you have to do - it will be worth it!
6. Think creatively and find different things to use as tripods.
Using different things around you as tripods can give you some unique camera angles that make photos more interesting than it would be if every photo is taken at eye level.
We used what looked like a power box as a tripod to capture this photo. It was situated high in the corner of this balcony that was overlooking Xiamen, China and its surrounding islands.
7. Learn about flattering camera angles and poses.
If you want to look better in your photographs and don't know how to pose, I recommend reading articles like these that teaches you tricks for looking slimmer in photos for example. The tips that work especially good for me is:
7.1 Angle your body to look slimmer - standing and facing the camera with your body straight-on will show you at your widest.
7.2 Keep your arms slightly away from your body for a more flattering shot. Putting your hand on your hip or around your partner works well.
I also search on Pinterest for pose ideas sometimes and try and imitate those :P But that's a last resort and if you do that - don't choose a pose that's been done in the exact location you're going to.
8. Our preferred travel photography equipment
I used to travel with a DLSR camera and they are great but lately I'm absolutely hooked on my Olympus Stylus Tough TG-3 Digital camera which is making a huge difference to my photos because:
8.1 It's light and compact - it's so quick and easy for me to snap a photo in the moment when I have it wrapped around my wrist instead of carrying it in my bag and having to unzip my bag every time I decide now is the time to take a good photo. Especially useful for when I'm trying to capture a photo of my husband's reaction to something. If you want to take good photos of a persons reactions, it helps to try and anticipate when they will react and be ready to take the photo then.
8.2 I love that my camera has different modes to set to easily for me to take the best portrait shots. It will definitely enhance your photos if you make an effort to learn about the different modes your camera has and using them accordingly. Taking better portrait photos of a person can be achieved by blurring the background in the photo which portrait mode can do for you.
I loved using landscape mode for this photo because I wanted the cityscape to be clear. I also didn't have to worry about my camera getting wet. This shot was set up with a tripod
8.3 It's super durable - even if I'm climbing rocks to get to waterfalls, I don't have to worry about my camera damaging if it knocks against the rough surfaces.
8.4 It's waterproof and water resistant (make sure you know the difference!) With this camera, I've been able to take photos of our snorkeling and hot springs adventures without worry that it would get wet. Just remember to wipe the lens before taking a photo! If you forget you will most likely have a big blotch of water in the middle of your photo! I know this because I learnt it the hard way - just look at the photo below - can you see the two blotches?
I would have loved this photo if it wasn't for the two water blotches spoiling it because of a wet camera lens!
8.5. It's got a great mobile app for setting up the camera, getting into position - looking at what the photo is going to look like on your phone and then pressing a button on my phone to take the photo. It's pretty easy to hide your phone in a photo when you are using it as a remote to get your camera to take the photo.
This camera was only AUD $500 by the way - I highly recommend it!
9. Put in the effort to learn the basics of good photography techniques.
I can definitely say that learning about composition, lighting, the rule of thirds and leading linesfor example has made a significant difference to our photographs. There's so much free information on this available on the internet and learning these things doesn't have to be boring - you can learn it by booking an experience together on Groupon for example where a photography expert teaches you the ropes. It's a fun activity to do together as a couple!
10. Have fun!
Allow yourself more time to enjoy the time in the places you are photographing than the time it takes to take photos. Make sure you actually enjoy your moments there and that the time spent there doesn't just get used up on taking good photos. A little process I follow is to take photos for the first 15 minutes when we are most excited and glowing about what we are experiencing and then putting the camera away to really enjoy it. I might take another snap or two again before we leave. Don't get consumed with taking good photos - make sure you and your partner can still relax and take it all in camera-free.
For good photos of once-in-a-lifetime, expensive experiences that you've been dreaming about for years we recommend hiring a professional photographer.
We still recommend getting a professional photographer to take photos of those once-in-a-lifetime romantic experiences.