Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tips to Take Great Travel Photos as a Solo Traveler

on your own is a fun way to have new experiences and expand your boundaries without worrying about synchronizing multiple people’s wants and needs. It can be a truly inspiring way to get to know your own limits — just not that great when you need an extra pair of hands to snap a quick picture for the memories. Luckily, technology makes travel self-documentation much easier (and we all know everyone wants to display their best shots from their travels on sites like Instagram).

I travel solo on about eighty percent of my trips, so I’ve had to learn a few tricks along the way. Here are some of my top tips for taking great travel photos as a solo traveler.

Set Up a Tripod
Bringing a tripod is a tip for good photography even if you’re not traveling solo, but if you want steady photos, they’re a must. Tripods will help you avoid the blur and warp of out of focus or unsteady shots. For smaller cameras, the Gorillapod line and similar flexible tripod products are great for keeping your camera steady even on the most unstable of terrain. Their ability to wrap around poles, skis, railings, and other surfaces means that you have the freedom of setting up shots even in tight urban settings too.

I personally use the Manfrotto line of tripods for my heavy 5D Mark II and I’ve been able to set it up in some precarious places. I also carry a digital timer remote and set it up to take photos every second so I don’t have to constantly run back and forth just to get a couple of different angles.

Use a Selfie Stick
Yes, using one may look silly, but selfie sticks are still incredibly useful for taking pictures on your own! By extending the range between the camera and the subject (likely yourself) further than a natural human arm span, it allows the frame of the photo to be expanded. This way you’ll be able to fit more of the background into your photo and you won’t come home with a million unflattering close-up photos of yourself. I personally love this selfie stick because it’s all-weather and they offer a money-back guarantee.

Using a Selfie Stick to Take Great Travel Photos

Attach a GoPro
If you’re looking for the perfect action shot or want your video and photos to come from a first-hand perspective, then attaching a GoPro to your gear while you surf, ski, bike, or even bungee jump can be a great way to capture the experience. Furthermore, the wide range of mounts available mean that you can capture images with the GoPro in environments where other cameras may fear to tread — like underwater or tumbling through the air. We use the Hero4 Silver because it’s the only GoPro with an LCD screen to frame and view your shots.

Using a GoPro to Take Great Travel Photos
Here I used a GoPro and a selfie stick to get a wide shot

Ask a Stranger
Whether you have specialized gear or not, there’s always the option to reach out for help from someone new. After all, you’re not traveling just to look at a foreign place or culture, you’re there to experience it, to take part in a different world or way of life. Photos can be a great way to capture memories from your trip, but starting an interaction with another person, even if it’s just asking for help with your camera, is a great way to make them.

You won’t always get the best photos with this option, but my trick is to ask someone who is carrying their own DSLR camera. I like to give people an idea of how I would like the shot framed before I hand over my camera as well.

Photo Tips for Solo Travelers

Install Photo Editing Software or Apps
Ok, so you’ve taken the perfect selfie: now what? What you do to the photo after you take it can be just as important to the character of the photo as how you set it up. Most cell phones come with a built in image editor which allows you to do basic editing, such as slapping on a filter or cropping and rotating the image, but experimenting with other apps like ProCamera or Snapseed will give you further options such as color correction, noise reduction, and curve adjustment.

For photos not taken with your phone, I recommend Adobe Bridge and Photoshop for editing software. Plenty of photographers use Lightroom as well. It’s very similar to Adobe Bridge, but it’s a little easier to learn.

Consider Upgrading Your Gear
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer who takes good pictures.” While I agree that you don’t need $10,000 dollars worth of photography gear to take a great photo, megapixels do count for something. I regularly take the exact some photo with my iPhone as I do with my Canon 5D Mark II and the photo from my camera always wins. A nice camera with more megapixels means your photo won’t look grainy after editing, you can crop the image and still have a decent quality photo, and you have more options — like taking the photo in RAW instead of JPG and bumping up the ISO for night shots.

The 5D Mark II is a little overkill for the everyday photographer, so I usually recommend that travelers start out with the Sony a7 Mirrorless or the Canon Powershot G16 Point and Shoot camera. For more information about some of the photography gear we use, visit our travel resources page or our travel photographer’s camera kit post.

Tips to Choose the Best Travel Camera

The Best Travel Cameras
Over the past ten years, I’ve scoured the internet and tested camera gear in order to find the perfect travel photography kit. When readers and members of our Instagram community ask us what camera we use, I always tell them that what works best for us won’t necessarily be the best fit for them. Choosing the best travel camera is more about finding one that allows you to shoot the photographs you want.

Choosing the best camera for travel photography is different from choosing a professional camera for things like wedding photography and portrait photography, or even just everyday use at home. With so many camera options on the market, it can be a little intimidating when you start your new camera search.

How to Choose the Best Travel Camera for Your Needs
There are several types of travel cameras on the market (Point and Shoot, Advanced Compact Cameras, DSLR, Mirrorless) and each one has its own list of benefits. First, and most importantly, you should consider what is most important to you – size, weight, price, ease of use, etc. Below, I’ve listed the benefits and limitations of each type of camera as well as the top cameras in each of those categories.

If your main concern is price, weight, and purchasing a travel camera that is easy to use, then you will want to look at purchasing a Compact Digital Camera. This type of camera won’t weigh down your luggage and it will easily fit in a small backpack or purse.

Compact Digital Cameras are perfect if you don’t want to be hassled with too many controls and you want the least expensive option. Nowadays, you can still find a Point and Shoot camera that takes great photos. That’s not to say you should pick just any Point and Shoot because they are not all created equal. Here are the best travel cameras under $450.

Advanced Compact Digital Cameras (High-End Compact)

Advanced Compact Digital Cameras are similar to Point and Shoot cameras, but they come with a few more bells and whistles. They are the high end of compact cameras with built-in lenses.

Advanced Compact Cameras are similar in size to the above mentioned ones and they offer full manual mode in addition to auto mode. (Note: Both of the cameras listed in the above section offer manual mode as well.) They also usually have the ability to capture photos in RAW format — which is important if you plan to make any edits to your photos once you upload them to your computer.

These cameras tend to be slightly more expensive than the regular compact cameras, but less expensive than DSLR or mirrorless cameras.

Mirrorless Cameras

If image quality, size, and weight is the most important factor, you will want to look at purchasing a mirrorless camera. What is a mirrorless camera, you ask? Unlike a Digital SLR, this type of camera does not have a mirror reflex optical viewfinder — hence, the name mirrorless. This type of camera is perfect for people who still want an interchangeable lens without the weight of a DSLR.

Another plus for mirrorless is the electronic viewfinders because you can view the realtime effect of aperture and ISO adjustments, unlike a DSLR. If you want to take some of the guesswork out of your photography, then mirrorless is the way to go.

Digital SLR Cameras

Mirrorless cameras have come a long way and many photographers have decided to ditch their bulky DSLR cameras for this lighter option — including me!

DSLR cameras are better suited for sports, wildlife, and other types of action photography. If these types of photography don’t interest you, then you will probably be fine with a mirrorless. I often travel to photograph wildlife and I need a capable zoom lens, which is why I hesitated about switching completely to mirrorless.

However, there are a few zoom lens options out there for mirrorless cameras, just not as many. I currently use the Sony 70-200mm with my Sony a7ii and it gets the job done in most cases. I opted for the F4 instead of the Sony 70-200mm F2.8 in order to keep my kit light.

Choosing a DSLR means you will have more lens options, faster focus (although mirrorless is following close behind), and a slightly longer battery life. Eventually, I’m sure DSLR cameras will become obsolete, but we are still a little way off from mirrorless replacing traditional DSLR cameras entirely.

Underwater Travel Photography
This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention underwater photography. If you are anything like us, then you love to play in any body of water and who doesn’t want to get the best underwater photos on vacation?

We’ve tried a handful of point and shoot underwater cameras, which have taken decent photos, but ever since GoPro came out with their Hero5 Black with LCD screen, this is now our favorite underwater camera for travel. The issues I had with the Hero 3 (fogging, no LCD screen, ultra wide angle lens) have all been fixed on the Hero 4 & 5. It’s great for action selfies on land too!

Should Know About Checklist for Overseas Trave

Before traveling to another country, I always consult my travel checklist. Here are 8 essential things to do before traveling abroad.

Overseas Travel Checklist:
1. Get Visa Information: Do you need a pre-visa for the particular country you are visiting? We just recently went on a trip to South East Asia. We did not need a visa for the length of time we were staying in Thailand, and we planned on getting our Laos visa at the border of Thailand and Laos. Luckily, I stumbled upon the information that Vietnam’s requirements are a little different. They require a pre-entry visa, which you can get in Thailand or Laos, but only if you are staying in one place for about 5 days. We didn’t want to take any chances, so we rushed an application to the Vietnam Embassy in D.C. and got our Vietnam visa shortly before we left on our 6-week trip.

2. Register with the nearest Embassy: Before you leave, it is wise to register with the Embassy of each country that you will be visiting. It helps the Embassy to better assist you in case of an emergency, such as a lost or stolen passport. It will also be easier for the Embassy to help you in the case of a natural disaster.

3. Travel Medical Insurance: I always purchase a travel medical insurance policy before I travel to another country. This will cover important things like emergency medical evacuation, trip cancellation, and baggage delay. We use and trust World Nomads for our travel insurance policies.

4. Required Travel Vaccinations: Check with your local travel clinic about any vaccinations that are required and suggested for that particular area.

5. Copies of Important Documents: Make a copy of your passport, any credit cards you will be bringing, drivers license and travelers checks receipts. I usually keep a copy with me and also scan a copy to send to my email. Also, bring extra passport photos of yourself for visas.

6. It’s a good idea to join airline mileage programs to earn miles for all the flights you take. We have a couple favorites such as Continental and American that we use whenever we can. If I am taking a flight and they are not partnered with either of my main airline mileage programs, I always create an account with that airline. You never know when you will be taking that particular carrier again and it doesn’t hurt to get credit for those miles. In order to be sure you get all of your mileage points, keep a copy of your boarding pass!! The mileage program will ask for a copy when you call them to find out why they have not credited your miles.

7. Print out some currency conversion charts for the currency of the places you will be visiting. If you are bringing an ipod, download the conversion rate and you can use this instead of carrying around a bunch of paper.

8. Print out common phrases for the language of the country I am visiting. If you have a guidebook, they usually have this information in them. But I don’t always want to carry around my guidebook and knowing how to say, “thank you,” “hello,” “I’m sorry” and a few other phrases are a necessity whenever I’m visiting a country.