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The Ultimate Photography Guide For Travelers

A Collaboration By: Wandering Bloggers & MENDmedia Solutions

The most disheartening moment when traveling can be arriving at an amazing destination with breath-taking views, only to end up taking a blurry and terrible photo. This is EVERY photographer’s nightmare. So you tell yourself….maybe it’s the camera on my smartphone, maybe it’s the lighting, or maybe…it’s just me.

So we teamed up with MENDmedia Solutions (@mendmediasolutions) who are experts and professional photographers specializing videography, imagery, and graphic design to bring you their expertise for capturing that perfect photo.

As travelers and ameatur photographers exploring the deep vast corners of our planet, we want to capture that “picture-perfect photo” to share with the world. The problem is that most of the time, our photos don’t come out the way we see them in person.

To capture the best photos as a photographer on your travels, here is our guide to help you take that “picture-perfect” professional photo:

Smartphone Camera vs. Digital Cameras (DSLR)

smartphone vs dslr

When it comes to selecting your camera of choice for your travels, you’ll first want to consider the type of trip you will be taking. If you’re going to be backpacking and constantly traveling, your best option is going to be using your smartphone since they take up virtually no room, are extremely lightweight, and much more portable than a bulky, heavy, DSLR. If your travels are going to be based in a city for a considerably long amount of time, then having a DSLR that can easily carry in a daybag will be your best bet and it won’t be much of a hassle.

DSLR and other professional cameras are packed with new technology. Even the mirror-less cameras which have been dramatically improved over the past couple of years, have remained on par with DSLR cameras regarding its specs. Another advantage of a mirror-less camera is that they are much smaller and lighter than a DSLR and will find that the prices are significantly lower.

How do you determine which camera to use?

Choosing a camera will come down to a few simple considerations:

  • Backpacking Vs. City Travel
  • The Image Quality
  • Budget and Specs

Backpacking Vs. City Travel

nature_vs_city

If you are the type of traveler who is easily satisfied with the simplicity of taking high quality photos, then a smartphone should be your go-to choice. That’s because the smartphone is perfect for those who simply enjoy sharing their photos on Social Media and are constantly traveling on the move. Why? A DSLR requires preparation, for example: charging batteries, handling MicroSD/Memory chips, transferring photos to your laptop/computer and just general maintenance. You always have to make sure that your DSLR is prepared and set up so you can grab it and go at a moment’s notice. Besides preparation, DSLR cameras are bulky and way heavier. So if you’re backpacking, the DSLR can turn into a more of a headache because it adds weight (which you won’t need more of) and it takes up space (which you WILL probably need more of).

Our Smartphone of Choice: Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy s7

With its Dual Pixel 12.0 Megapixel camera, the Galaxy S7 boasts a f/1.7 aperture which is pretty amazing for a smartphone and makes it one of the best smartphone cameras out on the market. In return, this allows you to capture great images in low light situations. Another prominent feature of the Samsung (vs. the iPhone) is the ability for additional memory to be added through its microSD slot. Any traveler with a low storage smartphone can easily relate to the frustration that comes along with running out of storage space for images.

Image quality

If your end goal is to have your travel photos printed with the highest image quality, then you’ll want to go with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera as opposed to a smartphone camera. The image sensor on smartphones are just not large enough, so when your images are blown up to a printable size, they will become extremely  pixelated and blurry. You will need either a full frame sensor or crop sized sensor which will allow you, if shot correctly, to produce a clear, large, printable image.

Our Mirrorless of Choice: Fujifilm X-T1

FujiFilm X-T1

The Fujifilm X-T1 is great for professional, printable, image quality photos.

The X-T1 has large sensor size for the overall build of the camera. However not being a Full Frame sensor it still provides amazing image quality with its 16 Megapixels and 51200 ISO sensitivity. With its huge 77 point AF (Auto Focus) area it allows you to capture your subject while on the move in clear focus. Also another feature that i like is majority of your controls are on a dial. This allows for quick adjustments when in the field. This camera is also weather resistant, allowing the camera to get wet and not having to deal with the hassle of frantically getting it out of the rain.

Fujifilm X-T1 approx. $915 USD ($1,200 AUD) (Body Only)

Cheaper option: Olympus OM-D E-M10

Olympus OM-D E-M10

Olympus OM-D E-M10 offers DSLR performance in a sleek, lightweight and ultra-slim metal body. This is a good option for those not wanting to spend a lot on topline mirrorless camera. If you’re looking for a cheaper body that will still provide you with great image quality, we would suggest getting your hands on one of these. Having the same 16 Megapixels and the X-T1 it is great value. Only downside is the sensor is smaller being a crop 4/3. It captures Full HD 1080p video and also has built in WIFI functions that allows easy sharing of your images.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 approx. $380 USD ($500 AUD) (Body Only)

Budget and Specs

Your budget will play a big role in deciding what camera you choose to shoot with. Everyone looking for a cheap option that will still provide clear, crisp images on a small scale would benefit the most from a smartphone. Opt for either a Samsung Galaxy or an iPhone 6S

SMARTPHONES ($$US)

Samsung Galaxy:

samsung-galaxy-s7-micro-SD-slot-DSC01916

  • 12 Megapixel
  • F/1.7
  • 4K Video Recording
  • Additional Memory

The Samsung Galaxy 7  is the overall winner as it has an amazing autofocus system with a low f/1.7 aperture which allows a significantly better amount of low light than other smartphones.

4K Video recording is also a big benefit as it allows you to record motion and then the ability to extract a frame in post production in order to use as a clear image. Lastly, the greatest draw is its ability to add a microSD card for extra storage.

iPhone 6S:

iphone6s

  • 12 Megapixel
  • F/2.2
  • 1080p HD Video Recording (120fps)

While the iPhone has the same amount of megapixels as the Samsung, it’s aperture is at f/2.2 which doesn’t allow as much light into the camera. The 120fps (Frames Per Second) in Full HD is an advantage over the Samsung’s 60fps when filming slow-motion because it allows the photographer to capture the frame of a moving object at the precise time.

Just note, Smartphones are constantly being updated so it’s best to look for the specifications that best suit your type of photography. A low aperture (the ‘f’ value) along with megapixels, High Dynamic Range can play a big part in how your camera performs. 

DSLR & MIRRORLESS ($$$$US)

Canon 5D Mark III

If you’re looking at a more Amateur/Professional level camera, your budget will need to be a significantly greater rang from $500- $3000 USD ($700-$4000 AUD). Again these DSLRs and Mirrorless systems can be a lot more bulky and heavy so they will need to be a factor to account for in your travel plans and requirements.

  • Full Frame Sensor
  • 22 Megapixel
  • 100-25600 ISO Range
  • 6.0 fps Continuous Shooting
  • 1080p HD Video Recording (30fps)

This DSLR is an excellent system that contains a full frame sensor which allows you to capture images (5760X3840) at it’s a full 22 Megapixels. With 6.0fps, it will capture moving objects with ease. To accompany this body, you will need a good lense that contains a low aperture. For travel photography as majority of shots are landscapes we would suggest the Canon 16-35mm EF f/2.8L II USM. This lense has a fast maximum f2.8 Aperture while holding its value while zooming. This is an L-Series lense that stands for Luxury and made out of Aspherical, Super UD and UD glass elements. 

Capturing That Perfect Picture

Time

When you’re planning to capture that “perfect” photo, you’ll want to consider the time of day. Time may seem like an odd consideration to take into account but it can help determine what camera is best suited for you. If you’re looking to capture amazing similar images that you see across social media (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest) and various online blogs, then you’ll need to consider time and preparation.

nyc sunset

For starters, it’s important to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time. So this definitely requires some pre-planning. However, some photographers may find themselves lucky enough to arrive at their desired location in time for that magical sunrise/sunset photo op. For the vast majority of other professional photographers, this isn’t the case. Professional photographers research their location with the assistance of apps. This helps them map out where and when the sun will be at the time they are looking to take their photo. Scoping the area is equally as important, so we suggest that you arrive 30 minutes to an hour prior to you taking your photo. This way, you can allow yourself to have enough time to walk and scope out the area in order to properly set up your camera.

Many travelers will not put the planning and research into their photo location, and that’s completely fine. Some may be just arriving at a location from a tour bus or train and explore the area taking photos as they go. If you are one of those travelers then a smartphone will be an advantage over a DSLR since it can easily be pulled out of your pocket to snap photos.

Composition

Composition is a key component. You want to  have a good composition and frame your subject so that your photo is intriguing and interesting for the viewer. Photographers spend hours to get the best composition. Many spend hours climbing mountains and trekking river banks just to find the angle and shot they’re looking for. You’ll discover that viewing platforms are built in areas that have a good vantage point and view of the subject, but if you shoot from these designated locations, the chances are, hundreds if not thousands, will have the same image.

photography composition

Walk further, higher, lower, and find something unique and truly your own.

Leading lines

Leading lines are used to draw the eye into the image and subject you are shooting. Typically, it starts from the bottom of the composition leading upwards and inwards. This can be a bridge angling across the frame leading the viewer’s eye into a majestic castle, or as simple as a road leading into a beautiful sunset on the horizon. When searching for your composition, always be aware and on the lookout for great leading lines that are, in themself, interesting to help define your framed subject.

20151221_094521

TIP: Just remember, lines exist everywhere, in the form of walls, buildings, fences or the bank of a river.

Framing Your Subject (The Rule of Thirds)

photography rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is perhaps the most well known rule in photography and it can help the photographer create a depth of field which allows a focal point within the frame. The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is breaking your compensation into 9 squares which can easily be set on your viewfinder or the LCD screen on your smartphone. Always refrain from framing your subject in the middle of your image. Using the lines and intersections as focal points will be better off for the composition. For an example, when shooting landscapes, place the horizon line on one of the lines of the third. If you’re shooting a sunset looking to show the dramatic sky as your main subject, place the horizon on the bottom third line. If  you have a beautiful shot of some rolling hills of a coastal town, place the horizon line of the top third line.

Layers

photography layersTo make your image interesting to the viewer you need to know your depth of field. The goal is to create multiple layers so the viewer becomes drawn into the image. It allows them to take a journey through the photo as you saw it and all the different aspects of the subject. When framing your shot, try to picture yourself as the viewer looking at your image to convey the type of journey and emotion you want the viewer to feel

Depth of field refers to how close or how far things are from the camera which allows the photo to be in or out of focus. Travel photography (such as landscapes) always uses a deep depth of field to allow everything in the photo to be in focus (foreground, middle and background)

Lighting

Inverloch_RockWaveLight is the most critical aspect of photography. Light is what creates an image, so how and when you use the light can be the difference of having a great or poor shot.

Light is the most critical aspect of photography. Creating an image is made possible by how much and how long light is emitted to the sensor. The amount of light is controlled by 3 things within you camera (for the more ameteur – professionals): Shutter Speed, ISO, F Stop (Aperture).

As photographers, we tend to only shoot during 2 times of the day, Sunrise or Sunset. These times offer the best light. They provide  a soft, useable light rather than harsh sunlight during the middle of the day. When shooting towards the end of the day you will enter the 4 stages of light:

Golden Hour

photography golden hour

Golden Hour, or sometimes referred to as ‘the magic hour’ refers to roughly the hour just after sunrise or before sunset when the light is soft and golden (the exact duration varies between seasons). This moment casts a beautifully delicate shadow with a gentle amount of light. This light is great for capturing those “cinematic” type images or the ones you can see on outdoor portraits.

TIP: Prepare to shoot right through the golden hour since the light changes remarkably quickly, and your scene can look vastly different after just a few minutes. This is our personal favorite time as it gives you a beautiful soft light to work with and allows a lot of creativity in post production.

Sunset

photography sunset

Sunset is pretty self explanatory, but this refers to the moment of time where the sun dips below the horizon which creates only moments after, an illuminating sky in beautiful colours. This light is sought out the most by photographers because it will produce those magical colors that produce such a great image. Typically, the best colors will occur between 20-40 minutes after the sun has dipped below the horizon depending on what clouds are in the sky.

 TIP: Look for clouds in the sky during the sunset as they will give a much more dramatic effect over a clear and flat sky. During the sunset period, shadows will become more harsh and your highlights will begin to blow out so it will be a balancing act to capture an image where both values work together.

Blue Hour

photography blue hour

Blue hour refers to roughly the hour before sunrise or after sunset where there is still enough ambient light in the sky to illuminate the frame. This is the best time in cityscapes when building and street lights will become illuminated as well which makes for that “twilight” effect. A DSLR is perfect for these shots because you can capture long exposure images which allows you to create light trails through motion. By having a slow shutter speed, you can utilize a great amount of the remaining light to enter the camera and bring out your highlights to give those city lights more illumination.  

Night

astrophotography

Night photography is mainly dedicated to astrophotography and a DSLR or Mirrorless camera which is required to capture the stars above.

Useful Apps

When you’re traveling with a smartphone, it allows you to have the benefit in using applications to assist with your photography. Apps can range from location preparation, to post production editing.

You will be able to find an app for just about anything, however, we’ll highlight a few that we found to be extremely helpful.

First off, find yourself a good Weather App that allows you to enter a specific locations that provides tidal information, moon phases, wind etc. If you are planning to shoot a reflection of mountains on a lake and it is forecasted to be blowing 30km/h (50mph), then you may want to rethink your proposed image.

We suggest: WillyWeather (Australia Only)

willy weather app

When planning your image, knowing the location and time of your sunrise is as vitally important. The last thing you want to do is getting to your location just to find out that the sun is setting behind you or behind a mountain.

We suggest: Living in the Sun

living in the sun app

This allows you to drop a pin at your location on a map and see all the sun paths and what time the sun will rise and set.

If shooting astrophotography, we suggest: Star Walk

star walk app

This is a fantastic app allows you to see in real time where the stars and constellations are in the sky. You simply turn your GSP on and move your phone around to locate the Milky Way in the sky. It also has the ability to fast forward in time to figure out when the milky way will rise into your frame. This is a must have if you’re interested in astrophotography.

There are many apps out there for post processing that do many different things.

We suggest: Afterlight

afterlight app

This app allows you to edit your photos to a greater extent than those within Instagram. It allows you to have more control with balancing the shadows and highlights. It also allows you to edit the colors of the Highlights, Midtones and Shadows. This is great for adding beautiful colours within your scene such as a sunset or golden hour image.

If you’re interested in taking a timelapse on your smartphone then we suggest: Lapse It

lapse it app

This allows you to lower the frame rate taking a photo every 12 seconds then rendering them together to make a seamless time lapse. Note: A tripod is advised to ensure your camera remains in the one place and stable. When rendering, more options are available for different file type and frame rates.

Social Media and Additional Tips

Social Media is everywhere and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are the big three social media apps that populate the front page of many phone screens and are the apps people go to first because they allow us to connect with the world, our family and our friends.

For travelers, these social media apps are the ones that travelers will post their photos to first in order to spread awareness and recognition. Whether you goal is to get Likes, Follows, or simply looking to post your photo because it’s special to you, there are a few things that you can do to help spread your photo’s awareness.

For starters, It’s no surprise that Instagram is the go-to social media platform for displaying your photos. You’re able to post photos, comment, like, and direct message with other users all within the app. So when you take that perfect photo utilizing our tips from earlier on in this guide, you’ll want a lot of people to see it.

Here’s how:

1). Download Snapseed. Snapseed is a great photo editing app created by google that allows you to customize and edit your photos in so many more ways possible than you can on Instagram. It’s completely fine to edit your photos, just don’t go so overboard to the point where the photo doesn’t look authentic anymore unless you have a specific theme you are going for with your photo.

snapseed app

Refrain from using frames on your photos, especially the ones provided on instagram. They aren’t easy on the eyes and drastically take away the main focus of your photo, plus it makes it smaller! You’ll want a nice, clear large photo that pops out and grabs the user’s attention.

There are typically two ways to display photos, Portrait and Landscape. If you are taking photos for social media, ALWAYS go portrait. It allows you to take a great photo that easily transitions into Instagram. Landscape and panorama are great for facebook and printing photos, but on Instagram, they become dramatically smaller.

2). It’s important to know your audience’s demographic such as: Where do most of your followers live? Do they have similar interests as you? Are your followers mostly friends and family, or users from all over the world?

This is important because this will directly relate to how many people could end up engaging in your photos and spreading recognition by either likes, comments, or shares. For example, if you want to target your fellow travelers who follow you, then taking travel photos will get you the most user engagement.

3). You need to time your post. To get the most engagements regarding likes, comments, and shares on social media, you will want your photo to be posted when the majority of your users are on social media. There are apps that can give you great analytics for your social media accounts about your users and when they are engaging, but they aren’t necessary if you consider the following:

They are on social media when…

  1. They wake up and are getting ready to go to work between the hours of 7:00am to 9:00am.
  2. They are on a lunch break between the hours of 11:30am to 1:30pm
  3. They are commuting home from work until the are getting ready for bed between the hours of 5:00pm to 10:00pm

Posting photos before or after  any of these times will allow you to miss your main audience since they are primarily on social media during the times mentioned above.

Analytic Tool we suggest: Iconosquare

iconosquare

The once, used-to-be-free analytics tool is the best tool you can find on the market. You do have to pay, but there is a free trial for you to try out. Check out the website here: https://pro.iconosquare.com

Good luck and we hope you have enjoyed our Ultimate Guide!

All Photos Belong To Their Respective Owners

ChristopherHill
World Traveling, Coffee Addicted, US Army Veteran

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