You could invest your money in photography classes or an expensive Digital SLR camera with the hopes of improving your photography skills, but there are no guarantees you will improve at all. If you have the money to spare, by all means, go ahead and take some classes and upgrade your equipment. However, if you want to improve your photography skills without spending a dime, try the techniques below. (This post assumes you already own a digital point-and-shoot camera)
Take unlimited photos
Travel photography has literally been revolutionized by digital cameras. With the ability to preview and delete unwanted photos and the falling prices of SD memory cards, one can now take virtually unlimited photos. An 8Gb SD card averages $10-20USD and can hold several thousand photos depending on the camera and the settings. I wont even get into the math, but each photograph costs a fraction of a cent compared to traditional film. Over time, with multiple uses of the same SD card, your photos become essentially free, in comparison.
The more photos you take, the better chance you have of taking the “perfect shot” and the better you will become at photography. If you grew up using film cameras like myself, get over the habit of conserving your film and get photo happy. If you delete the bad photos as you go, you could potentially survive on one decent-sized SD card for your entire trip around the world. If you are like me, however, you have a “no deletion” policy which only requires that you bring along some spare SD cards (I prefer to see my photos on a larger screen before I delete them).
Linda and I began a tradition of “photo contests” while in Chiapas, Mexico. The entire goal of the competition was to get some really good photos at the end of the day, regardless of who actually took them. In that way, we both end up winners.
(The second photo was taken during a “photo competition” which, in my opinion, is far better than the first)
While sitting around the plaza people watching, at an archaeological site, or walking down the street, you can have a “photo contest.” If you are competitive like us, merely calling it a competition will challenge your photo creativity and will push you to new heights.
Think Outside the Photo Box
Like with all repetitive actions, we tend to find our comfort zone when taking photos and all of our photos start to look similar. When you take repetitive, centered shots of all of the monuments, people, and scenery you are unlikely to find very many amazing photos at the end of the day. I challenge you to take photos of your targets from multiple angles and play with the settings on your camera. Don’t be afraid to play with elevation and take a photo while lying on your back or get up higher by jumping up on that railing.
(This series of photos shows how playing with your camera settings can drastically impact your results)
Most point and shoot cameras have several color options such as sepia, black and white, and vivid colors. Play around with those settings and take the same shot using each one. Again, the beauty of digital photography is you can compare and delete the bad shots. Finally, don’t forget to switch up your target. If you are like me, you might tend to focus more on architecture. Linda generally focuses more on people. We have to remind ourselves to change it up from time to time.
Dawn and Dusk
(This series of photos shows how lighting and time of day can impact the end result)
You do not have to be a professional photographer to know that lighting is a major key to photography and direct overhead light is best avoided. Therefore, if you are able to visit the photogenic places in the morning or evening, your photos are almost guaranteed to be better. If you are at a location for a long period of time, just remind yourself to take photographs more frequently in the morning and evening.
By sharing these tips, I am in no way implying that I am a professional photographer. However, I have seen a marked improvement in the quality of my photographs over the last few years by implementing these simple techniques. Many of the photos on the site were taken during “photo contests” or while trying to think outside of the proverbial Photo Box.
Do you have any techniques that have helped you improve your travel photography over the years? If so, please leave us a comment.