If you like to travel a lot, I am sure one of your favorite activities while on the go is taking pictures. But when you traveled for many years, you would probably like to move from your amateur pictures to more professional results. If this is what you look for, then this article will be a pleasant read for you. The best way to come out with good photos is most definitely having good equipment, but knowing how to post-process your pictures is something important as well.

The camera

If you look for a standard camera for your travel pictures, then a 35mm one is probably the most suitable for travel. Not only it is not difficult to carry around thanks to its weight, but it supports several lenses which can all be carried around in a single camera bag. Although technology is advancing quite fast, a 35mm is something that will probably be high-quality for a long time. If you want a camera that gives you perfect image, then a medium or a large format camera is what you should go for, however they are really slow operational devices and are difficult to carry due to their weight.

A 35mm camera can be a rangefinder or an SLR. Although each one of them has its own good and bad parts, the winner is the SLR for sure. They tend to be more affordable and the quality of the images is continuously improving due to something that rangefinders do not have – incredibly tight competition between the manufacturers. Taking pictures is easier today thanks to all the processes that are automated; before everything was manual so all the processes were more difficult. Now the camera does everything itself without the user needing to set up lights, exposure and so on.

If you plan on getting even more professional in some time, you should pay attention to the camera system you decide to go with. The lenses are usually not interchangeable between different camera systems and this may cause you problems later on.

Lenses

Once you have the camera, you will probably also need some lenses for your travel pictures. I assume the followings would work just fine: a one-wide angle 20mm, one zoom 24 to 120mm and one zoom 75 to 300mm. The good thing about the last two ones is the variety of focal lengths they feature. Compositions are very different with such a zoom lens and cropping is more than often needed in post-processing.

However, my favorite have always been the wide-angle lenses, because one can incorporate much more into a picture when using them. The only issue about the use of wide-angle lenses is the linear distortion (convergence of lines) which is quite visible, but some artists consider this as a positive aspect of wide-angle photo shooting. Two of the biggest camera manufacturers in the world, Canon and Nikon, already produced perspective correction lenses (you might have heard of them as PC lenses). These lenses seem to resolve the problem of linear distortion while also incorporating the same width into the picture. The only downside of these lenses is the outrageous prices.

If you wish for good field in your pictures, then using a moderate wide-angle lens (somewhere between 24 and 35mm) are the best choice – they usually offer a great image sharpness. If what you wish for is very dramatic images, then super wide-angle lenses (anything below 24mm) is the way to go.

I suppose this is not something you read for the first time, but before going on a trip with photography as purpose, it is a great idea to try the equipment before leaving. It is always better to be sure what your camera can do than being uncertain at the place.

Films

Although this might seem old and expensive, printing is way better from slides. The color is more natural, but it has quite a weakness for black and white pictures, because it needs a separate body for it. Unfortunately there are not too many photography studios that still do black and white, so you need to be careful about this if this is what you want. Sticking to only one brand of films is very good, and Kodak and Fuji are leading the industry nowadays.

Accessories

If there is something you really have to buy, then a flash is it. Although there usually is one built in the cameras, that one is small and might not work as well as an external one. You also really need to have a tripod, as it is useful to use for photos with different exposures and it prevents shaking. It also gives the opportunity of taking pictures which are impossible to take in hand-held situation. If HDR pictures are what you want to get out of your travels, then a tripod is crucial.

What to focus on

If you travel with somebody, then that person might be in focus in some of your photos. However, this is an art of itself and deserves another article, collaborating with people is not that easy. During your travel it is easier to photograph buildings and general scenes.

However, for the sake of it, I will talk a bit about people photography. Although everybody likes to get photographed, many people are shy in front of the camera, especially in the beginning. If you want to help them feel a bit more comfortable, some flattering words always work fine. Requesting someone to laugh is not too good, but making a person laugh will give a more natural effect. It is always better to accept a “no” than to force someone into being photographed.

If people photography is what you want, then there are two options for camera lenses. When it is only portraits you want, then you need lenses of at least 85mm, with something between 85 and 200mm being ideal. When people are part of your pictures, then any focal length in a wide-angle section below 50mm would be good.

Care for your tools

Another important aspect you need to keep an eye on is taking care of everything you have, from camera to lenses and accessories. Your films should be protected from X-ray machines (mostly when you fly) and be kept in a polythene bag. Also, keep your lenses and bodies in a polythene bag if moisture and dust are likely to fall on you.

Having a small screwdriver might come in handy if your tools suffer vibrations; small screws might become loose due to those and being able to fix them right away will be really good for the overall maintenance process. Cleaning the equipment should be done with a piece of charms cloth or a brush. And don’t forget, if you have very expensive equipment, make sure there is an insurance on it.

Before leaving

It is always a good idea to check the weather forecast for the period you leave. I know it is impossible to check it for when you book the flight tickets, but at least make sure you know if the sun will shine few days before you go on your trip.

It is always smart to know where you are actually going. I know it sounds uncommon, but many people actually go on vacation and have no idea about things they wish to visit. Don’t be like them. Always have a plan, know your way around a city (even if only virtually) and make sure your see everything you planned.

Filters are also something you should look into. If you want HDR pictures, then filters will help you tremendously and, thanks to their properties, they will also help the colors of your pictures. How? Well, most of the cameras have a common problem: during shooting the blue from the sky can get lost and the picture will appear very fade. If you shoot over water, the problem can gen even bigger, due to all the reflections. If you do not wish to invest in filters, you can also do it some other way: taking the same pictures at different aperture settings and then post-process them on your computer.

However, I strongly recommend you to go and buy some filters. If you are that much into photography, you will need them anyway. Filters usually reduce reflections by water and glass. All those pictures you see with lakes between mountains and rivers flowing over stones and rocks are all taken with filters – otherwise the effect wouldn’t be the same.

If you go for filters, you should know polarizers are used to deepen blue skies in landscape shots, while neutral density filters work just like sunglasses for you camera – they reduce the amount of light, but do not change the color.

Other tips

I will finish the article with some general tips about shooting while traveling. You always need to carry around the camera with you. You never know when a beautiful sunset is worth shooting or when you bump into a park full of kids. Having the camera ready all the time is also something worth saying, as pictures taken one second later will never look the same.

Studying the environment in which you take pictures is also something worth doing. If your eye is trained, you will start to notice better angles and better possible shots.

If you are in people photography, be quick. Catch that smile while it is still natural, don’t ask for a fake one. If people get self-conscious about the fact that they are photographed, it will kill the overall shot.

If you go in some places, there might just be too many things to snap. It is impossible most of the time to catch them all, so make sure you look around and decide upon the best thing to spend time on.

I suppose keeping your camera charged is not something I should remind you of. It is always an awful feeling to have a beautiful landscape in front of you and no battery in the camera. Even if you will come back afterwards, the place will never give you the same feeling.
Unless you travel for photography only, which is quite unlikely, you will not be able to take all your equipment with you. You should always have a checklist and decide which things will remain home and which will be part of your journey.

If you have the possibility, taking pictures of the same place in different times will definitely surprise you. Like for humans, things have also a general mood which changes at short notice. Different times of the day will also offer you different lightning and this will make an interesting comparative study.

Although it might not seem like it, bad weather can be positive for travel photo. They usually offer a general negative mood, but who said this is bad? Snow, fog and rain should not be issues for a photographers – they should actually make you take your camera and go for a walk.

With this last advice I will put an end to this article. I can tell you I have been doing travel photography for three years when I was still a teenager and I simply loved it. Although I never had enough money for powerful equipment, I always came home with thousands of shots which, in the end, equaled maybe ten great shots. But it was worth it. I imagine that if I had better tools, my pictures would also have been better.

However, even like that, I fell in love with travel photography and had my equipment all the time with me when I was traveling. I assume that if you have even the slightest interest in photography, you will fall in love with travel shooting as well. It is something worth giving a shot, I promise you.