How many times have you come back from a trip disappointed with the images you’ve taken? How many times have you though to yourself, “If only I’d been there an hour earlier. If only I’d known that event was on today.” While it is true that hindsight makes everyone smarter, and no one can control the weather, it is possible to maximize your chances of success just by doing a little homework.
Plan your trip
There is a major difference between planning to take photos on your travels, and traveling to take photos. This will be evident in the images you produce. Spend some time researching your destination and its photographic potential. Is it a place affected by the seasons? If so, when is the best time of year to go? How are you going to get there? What is the public transport like? Should you hire a car? Answering these questions can take you a long way to a successful shoot. For example, you may be grateful you decided to get that international drivers license once you get back and look through those beautiful sunset shots you took off a beaten track a few miles from town because you were able to hire a car and drive out there.
There are numerous resources available on the Internet and in print, most of them free. An hour or so online can provide a wealth of information, not to mention inspiration. A pocket travel guide can also be an invaluable investment as a reference to have at your fingertips as you go.
Make a shoot list
Think about the locations you want to shoot. Which landmarks do you want to visit? What time of day do they appeal to you? Are you interested in capturing your location’s architecture or its culture? Or both? Deciding all of this in advance can give you clear goals to aim for on your trip, rather that simply wandering the streets and shooting whatever you come across that you find appealing. This may prove successful but is more about luck than anything else.
What happens if you get there and the weather suddenly turns sour? Do you wait it out in your hotel room hoping it will pass before you are due to return home? What a waste of time that would be. If you are planning to travel somewhere that can be greatly affected by weather, you might want to think about how you can use this to your advantage. Some subjects can be greatly enhanced by sudden changes to the weather, or even just the threat of it. Imagine missing out on a sweeping panorama of a storm rising over the bay because you were sitting in a room cursing your bad luck.
It is possible for anyone to point a camera at a subject and take a picture. Not all can use that camera to tell a story or teach something to a viewer. Apart from technical skills and, to a much lesser extent, equipment, the difference comes down to planning. The most important factor in the success of your photographic journey is the goals you set for yourself and the steps you take in achieving them.
About the Author:
Mark Eden is a freelance photographer and the founder and director of Expanse Photography (www.expansephotography.com). A photographic services company offering fine art images as well as stock and assignment photography and a range of publishing and printing services.