Pictures are more than eye candy. They are moments frozen in time. Each a memory like a pearl in a dream catcher. Posted on Facebook and Instagram, they are a window into other peoples’ lives, and a door into our own. Indeed, one well-composed picture can speak a thousand words and incite a million feelings.
Here at Meridican, we have a passion for photography. Amongst our ranks we have one professional photographer (Rob Seguin) and many amateur shutterbugs. Given that we’ve lived and breathed incentive travel for 30-plus years, it makes sense that that we’ve amassed some awesome images.
We’d like to share with you some of the key takeaways we’ve learned along the way, in the hopes that they will help you add more beautiful pearls to your dream catcher.
1. The Frame Game. Look for natural frames to highlight your subject. Trees, doorways, panels of grass and windows work well. For example, take a shot of the Eiffel tower through the trees or window. Framing helps emphasize your primary subject, gives it centre stage and is aesthetically pleasing to the viewer’s eye.
2. Have you ever asked someone to take your picture and then needed a magnifying glass to find yourself in the image? Determine what you want to take a photo of and what you need/want to include of the surrounding area, then zoom in or change your positioning to remove everything else from your picture.
3. Get high. And low. Look for interesting angles to get a unique perspective on the “same old tourist photo.” This technique also helps to avoid unwanted/unintended photobombers. To avoid a crowd, aim your camera UP – you can often find interesting things overhead. Similarly, aim down. Better yet, bend your knees and lie on the ground and capture the world from underfoot.
4. Look for lines. Lines are everywhere: Trees planted in lines. Lines on the pavement, in a rockface, building facades, fence lines, tiered rice terraces. Use the vertical and horizontal lines inherent in your surroundings to draw the viewer’s eye in a desired direction and to create interest and impact.
5. Keep in mind the Rule of Thirds (ROT). This “rule” – really, it’s more of a guideline – is a compositional technique that enhances a subject by where we place it in the frame. When you look through the viewfinder, move the camera around and as you do, imagine a grid of six equal parts superimposed onto the image. Now, for the best effect, situate your subject at one of the cross sections of the grid so it’s top left or right, bottom left or right – just not dead centre (see below). That said, rules are meant to be broken, so go ahead and experiment with putting subjects in different parts of the frame – including the middle.
6. Shallow and Narrow depth of field. Play with the depth of field (aperture) by making the foreground crisp and the background blurred (shallow depth of field, whereby you set the F-stop to a lower number like F2.8) or make the entire image crisp (narrow depth of field, using F11 or more).
7. Size matters. Convey size and scale by using a point of reference. For example, the famous 46m long Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho Temple (Bangkok, Thailand) is given perspective when photographed next to a person. Or the Big Buddha of Phuket, as depicted below.
9. Set your intention. Ask yourself: “What is the point of interest in my photo?” If you can’t answer this question your audience won’t either, and you’ll likely lose their interest.
10. Cue the crowds. When we travel, we often want to take the perfect shot void of strangers in the background. However, there are times when the crowd can MAKE the photo! Think of world famous festivals. The crowd creates the interest and energy in the environment and ultimately the photo.
11. Be like a statue. To avoid shaking the camera, especially with a slow shutter speed/long exposure, use a tripod if you have one. If you don’t, become the tripod! When standing, take a wide stance with your feet, squeeze your elbows and arms against your sides, hold one hand on the bottom of the camera, the other around the lens, from the underside, take deep breaths hold—and shoot!
12. Be click happy. Don’t take just one shot – take lots and lots and lots, then go through them later to find the “money shot.” Take it from the pros, like National Geographic photographers, who take hundreds of thousands of photos per assignment. One caveat: Keep your tour/travel time constraints and companions in mind… You do not want to keep people waiting too long.
13. Let there be light. Don’t forget your light source. If you can’t change the lighting, use what have to your advantage. Take note of where the light is coming from. Is it creating the effect you desire? If no, how can you change it to create a more interesting shot?
14. Know thy equipment. Don’t leave home without knowing your camera and its settings. Play around with it before you leave so you are comfortable with the options and different photo treatments at your disposal.
15. Look back. Don’t forget to look behind you! Stop and do a 360 degree turn to see the big picture. Sometimes a phenomenal shot may not be evident until you have walked past the subject and turned around. Another tip: When photographing a sunrise or sunset, turn around to see what might be illuminated by the soft light. That image can sometimes be more striking than the sun itself.
BONUS SHOOTING TIPS:
- Window pain? In a vehicle but want to take a great shot through a window? Place your lens flat up against the window pane and snap. This will reduce the glare. WARNING: Only do so if the vehicle is stopped. If the vehicle is moving and hits a bump you could damage the lens.
- Like gold. The best times for photographing landscapes are just after sunrise and before sunset. You will find the light is much more pleasing and easier to work with. This is called the Golden Hour. Partially cloudy days are also great because they cast soft and diffused light.
- Rise with the sun. Like the early bird that gets the worm, the early rising photographer inevitably gets the best shots (get the soft light and wildlife, avoid crowds).
BONUS: TRAVEL PRODUCTS
All products that Rob personally uses…
- A very versatile tripod – Joby GorillaPod
- Keep your gear safe – Pelican Carry-On Case
- A much better take on the camera strap – Black Rapid
- Easily back up your images directly to other devices with this SD Card using Wi-Fi – FlashAir W-04
BONUS: CHECK LIST
- Bring extra batteries
- Bring extra memory cards
- Format your memory card before leaving home
- Backup your photos to the cloud daily – and don’t delete from the cards. Bring more cards.
- Asses your equipment to determine which camera/lenses would be ideal on your next adventure.
- Travel light.
- Don’t get bogged down with gear you don’t need. Bring only the essentials.
- Don’t forget your battery charger, and international adapter if needed.
We’d love to hear your ideas, tips and comments. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. And meanwhile, keep clicking!