Getting Started With Travel Photography

Learn the Basics When it Comes to Shooting as You Travel

girl taking a photo on a boat
••• An example of the rule of thirds. Jordan Siemens/Taxi/Getty Images

I'm not a great photographer.

You're more likely to see me snapping away in auto than fiddling with my aperture; relying on editing techniques over seeking out the perfect composition; taking thousands of photos with the hopes that one will be good rather than spending just as long finding that perfect shot.

In short, I'm lazy. I'd much rather spend my time soaking up my surroundings with my eyes rather than through a viewfinder, and I don't prioritise improving my photography skills over sitting on Facebook writing my book.

And yet, I still receive compliments on my photos. And not just from my mum. Or my dad. Or my boyfriend. In fact, I regularly receive emails asking for tips from people who want to take photos just like mine. Which does blow my mind a little.

Here, then, is my lazy person guide to travel photography:

The Rule of Thirds

Check out the photo above. The horizon lines up with the top third of the photo and the boats line up with the bottom third of the photo. Notice how the girl lines up with the left-hand third of the photo and the boat in the distance lines up with the right-hand third of the photo. The rule of thirds! It makes your photos more interesting if you align the elements at these points than if you place the main element of the photo smack bang in the middle.

So, next time you're taking a photo of the horizon, move your camera up and down until it's aligned with the upper or lower third.

Have more of the sky if the sky looks interesting; more of the foreground if that's more exciting. Easy!

HDR Can Occasionally be Great

I'm not in any way a fan of HDR when used to make photos look unnatural and over-processed. The scenes look fake, aren't an accurate representation of the reality and, well, are mostly ugly.

I like HDR when it's used discreetly, and some of my favourite photos have been given the HDR treatment.

First, you'll want to make sure that your camera has a setting that allows you to take photos at three different exposures -- check online to see if it does. Next, download PhotoMatix to start playing around with tonemapping and HDR. Photomatix has a full tutorial on their website here. It's pretty easy to figure out and experiment with. Just play with the settings until you see an improvement.

If in Doubt, Play with Photoshop Actions

Photoshop Actions have saved my photos on so many occasions. Easily downloadable from hundreds of places -- just Google "free Photoshop actions" -- they're automated actions that apply certain settings to your photos without you having to do anything. They can make your photos warmer or cooler, more vibrant, vintage looking, add a flash effect to lighten dark areas, whiten teeth -- anything! I have something like 2000 actions on my laptop and have only trialled around 1% of them. Download and experiment -- I can always find one to make my photos look better.

Listen to Other People, Read a Lot

After this post, you've probably realised that I'm in no way a travel photography expert -- I just happen to know a few editing techniques to spruce up my photos.

If you're looking to take your photography to the next level, you don't need to pay for an expensive course -- there's a whole wealth of free information online to be read. I'm about to head to the Philippines and I'll be looking to take some envy-inducing beach shots while I'm there.