Jens Lennartsson, international travel and lifestyle photographer, shares his top tips for becoming a better travel photographer. He also stopped by the Radical Travel Podcast to share some of these tips on the show!
Do you think that a brand new camera or an expensive lens is the best way to improve your photography? Think again, dude. A talented travel photographer will create more stunning photographs with an iPhone than most are able to with a $3,000 DSLR. Travel photography is so much more than equipment, it is about connecting with people and being able to show what you feel in images.
So if you want to improve your travel photography skills, check out these tips!
1. Travel By Yourself
You will never have the calm you need to find the pictures you want if you are walking and talking with friends. There will just be too manydistractions and you will have the constant feeling that you are holding everyone up. I´m not saying you have to travel alone all the time (even though I think it’s the best way to travel), but you should give yourself some alone-time now and then. Decide when you are photographing and when you are not.
2. Empty Your Mind
Not only should you leave your friends in the hostel when you go for a photo walk, you also need to leave behind all the problems that you have on your mind. The less you have on your mind and the more open you are to new impressions, the more great photos you’ll take. Don’t even think about finding motives to shoot, just watch the world and let everything come to you. When you notice something interesting, pick up your camera and see what happens!
3. Think Before You Shoot
You should clear your mind, but you shouldn’t be mindless. The most common disease among amateur photographers is the Lets-shoot-the-crap-out-of-this-camera-because-i-can-take-as-many-pictures-as-i-want-because-it-costs-nothing-trigger-finger. Very common. Just because we’re able to shoot thousands of digital pictures doesn’t mean that we should. The quickest way to improve your photography is to really think about what you are about to capture. Look in the viewfinder and before you push the button, try to see the finished picture. Then, after you’ve clicked, look at the LCD screen and try to figure out what you can do better in your next snap.
4. Talk to the Locals
No traveler should go on a trip without interacting with the locals, and the same goes for photographers. Without talking to the people living where you are, you’ll only find what every tourist does. Talking to the locals will give you the opportunity to connect with the people, as well as the place. And if you’re shooting portraits, talking is a great way to make the person you are portraying relaxed, spend a while just getting to know him or her, that will improve the result enormously.
5. Look for the Light Instead of the Subject
The one great differences between a professional and an aspiring travel photographer is what they are looking for. While the amateur is out looking for interesting scenes to shoot, the pro will find the light first and then find a suitable subject in that light. Most of my best pictures were taken during the first or the last sunny hours of the day.
6. Your Camera Doesn’t Matter
Trust me, what camera you use has very little impact on the pictures that come out of it. Sure, to be able to publish the images in a magazine, you need a camera with certain image quality, but almost any modern DSLR will be sufficient. So, if you’re just getting started, don’t worry too much about your camera, just get started!
7. But Learn How to use the Camera You Have
The time available to take that amazing photo is every limited. So you need to know how to use your camera, so you don’t miss the shot. You don’t have to learn every setting and button on your camera, but those you need should become second nature. Thinking about equipment and settings is boring as hell and you should get it over with as soon as possible.
8. Use a Good Lens
Prime lenses don’t have zoom and are very compact. They are usually pretty cheap but deliver very sharp images. Ninety percent of my images are shot with my 50mm 1.4 lens. It didn’t cost more than $300 and it takes up no space.
9. Be Inspired by Others
Sorry, there is no real short-cut to become an epic photographer. I don’t believe anyone is born as a great photographer, it takes years and years and tens of thousands of shots. When you see a photo that really gets to you, stop for a while and dissect it. Is it the light that grabs you? The eyes of the model? Composition or the background? Mimic the styles of your role models in your own shots. At first you will create plain copies but the longer you let the styles and techniques of others in your own work, the more personal your mixture will become as you develop your own style.
Jens Lennartsson is an international travel and lifestyle photographer. He’s teaching the art of travel photography at The Zen Photographer.