Fiddling with your kit while the action unfolds
There’s nothing worse than a fantastic scene unfolding in front of you while you stare down at your camera’s menu screen. By the time you are ready, you have missed that decisive moment and the awesome shot you were looking for. The key is to be ready. Think about what sort of shot is most likely to come up and have your camera set up for it. For instance, if you think it might be a portrait then you might want to be on Aperture Priority with a wide aperture set. If you think it might be an action scene then you might want to be ready in Shutter Priority with and appropriately fast shutter speed. If it could be either, then no problem, you can set both up and just be ready to flick between the two depending on what happens. You can take this strategy a step further forward if you like by using your camera’s user defined settings.
Not knowing your camera
Vital seconds can be saved by knowing, without looking, where the buttons or short cuts are for changing vital settings. For instance, which wheel is it to change the shutter speed and which to change the aperture? What is the shortcut to change the white balance or metering mode? An afternoon spent memorising these can be invaluable and time well spent. But bear in mind, that when you upgrade your camera, you may have to learn it all again as camera manufacturers have a habit of moving stuff around…
Running out of stuff – memory, battery, ideas
It’s kind of obvious to always have a spare memory card and always have a spare battery, but the advice with this one is really to have an extra spare, or another form of back up. For example, what happens if you can’t download your images for a few days or if one of your cards becomes corrupted? What happens if you leave your plug adapter behind, or the place you are staying suffers a power cut? When travelling for photography it can often be quite difficult to pop out to the shop or to order something online, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry and have a spare spare!
Running out of ideas is a different matter. This is where travelling with other photographers can be a real advantage. Watching how they approach a scene or subject, and seeing what results they get can be really inspiring. If you do happen to be travelling alone then it can be useful to study the images of others that have travelled to the same destination, and perhaps even take them with you. They will help to spark your creativity when you are out of ideas, but you shouldn’t just copy them – try to put your own twist on them too.
Replicating the same old shots
Two things can lead to replicating the same old shots – firstly those iconic travel images that inspire us all to travel are just too tempting not to have a crack at and there is nothing wrong with that, so long as we remember to move on to other, more creative photography once we have the standard one in the bag. The other is trickier, and comes from the way we learn photography. We’ve all learned about the rule of thirds, leading lines and foreground interest, and these are undoubtedly tried and tested ways of making sure our images don’t come out too bad. But if we want to really take our photography to the next level, or get images with impact, then we have to try something different. A portrait close up with a wide angle for instance – using the lens to exaggerate the features. A long lens for landscape, just picking out a particular part of the scenery to focus on. Or a slow shutter speed to get some motion blur – either with the subject, or the background by panning. Whatever you do, do something different.
Being insensitive to the locals
Some of the best shots we get are those of people from different cultures. They wear different clothes and do different things which we can find fascinating. However, we have to take in to consideration that they may not necessarily like a stranger shoving a big lens in their face! What we can do is be sensitive and spend some time to talk and get to know them a little, and find out how they feel about being photographed. This way we end up being informal ambassadors not only for our home countries, but also for photographers and travellers everywhere.