14 USEFUL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
HOW TO SHOOT BETTER PHOTOS
A Beginners Guide For Travel Photography Tricks & Gadgets
By Ken Faught
I have been shooting professional photography since I was in high school, and have been addicted. I began my career shooting film and traveling the world as a motorsports photojournalist. I have shot AMA Supercross, NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA Drag Racing, and a whole lot more. And for three years, I co-hosted Dirt Rider Adventures and Motorcyclist TV, and my work took me on exotic off-road motorcycle rides to Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Peru, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Canada, Mexico, Baja and more. My travels mandated that I choose my equipment wisely, and take good care of it because it was a necessary tool. What follows are tips that anyone can use, especially beginning photographers. I have also included a few links, so look for the best prices. As with most of the content on this blog, I do have sponsors, own some of the companies mentioned in the articles, receive compensation from endorsements, affiliation, and advertising. I just like to be transparent and let people that's how this site is possible and why we put so much effort into providing a lot of stories and info. None of that costs you anything, and those who contribute on this site always try to be as objective as possible.
It's these tips that have allowed me to win photography awards and help create an income for most of my life. I hope you enjoy and learn a lot about photography tips and techniques.
There are a variety of levels of photography to choose from, and the cost difference is huge. There are entry-level cameras, midrange cameras, and high-end cameras. I have decided to go with the top-of-the-line Canon 1Dx Mark III and Sony Alpha a7r iv. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. The Canon feels more ergonomically correct while the Sony feels small and somewhat awkward to use. The Sony, however, has better colors and better video capabilities. If I were to recommend one, I would probably go with the Sony, because it's small, half the price, and the result is nearly the same as the Canon overall.
Your ultimate goal should be to choose a camera platform that offers high-quality imagery, a useable ISO/ASA range that allows you to shoot in low light, a motor drive that provides a fast enough frame rate for your liking, and a lens system that will enable you to maximize depth-of-field (the ability to control how much of your image is in focus). Another lens consideration if how fast of an aperture the camera has, such as an F2.8 lens. The faster the lens, the better it is for nighttime photography. We also recommend finding a camera that shoots in RAW format, in addition to .jpg, and can also shoot quality video. The ability to operate in a manual mode is a must because it will give you greater control to create unique images
Nikon also has a lot of good options, and I started my career using their equipment. Minolta, Pentax, Hasselblad, Fujifilm, Kodak, Leica, Mamiya, Sigma, Olympus, and Panasonic also make quality cameras.
As far as lenses go, we like to have as much variety as possible. We usually carry four lenses with us that cover a range from 8mm (extreme wide angle) to 200mm. We do own much longer lenses, but they are not that practical to go on all of our adventures.
Here are Some Other Things to Consider:
Size & Weight – This is pretty self-explanatory, but people do forget the obvious sometimes.
HD Video – Most cameras also shoot quality video. The higher the number, the more detail will be captured. For example, 4k (4000p) offers better image quality than 1080.
Megapixels – This ultimately determines the quality of your image and how much detail will be stored in the digital file.
Image sensor size -These come in a variety of sizes, and we prefer a full-frame. Full frame sensors typically offer the highest image quality and allow the right focal length of your lenses. Smaller sensors have what is called a crop factor, meaning there is a multiplication factor for your camera lens. This can be confusing and can hinder creativity. This means that, for example, a 15mm lens won't shoot at 15mm. If you have a smaller sensor, and it equals a 1.6x crop factor, your lens becomes a 24mm. Your 100mm lens becomes a 160mm, and your 200mm lens becomes a 320mm lens. This also results in reduced image quality because the sensor doesn't get as much information (i.e., picture data through the lens) as a full-frame camera. Hence, we strongly recommend a full-frame camera.
Stabilization – The better-quality cameras and lenses offer Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), and this can be an incredible feature for a lot of situations. This helps reduce motion blur caused by slower shutter speeds.
Lens Aperture – We touched on it above, but faster lenses, like f/1.4, f/2.8 typically perform better all around, and especially in low-light situations. Faster lenses also create a nice depth-of-field effect for portraits, also known as bokeh.
Lens Focal Length & Interchangeable Lenses – We prefer to have zoom lenses, such as a 17-35mm instead of fixed focal length, i.e., just a 35mm lens. We also like cameras with detachable lenses. Although zoom lenses are more expensive, the money is worth it, and it gives you far more creative options. The lower the number, the wider the lens. The higher the number, the more closeup you can get to a subject.
WIFI & Bluetooth – Many modern cameras are WIFI or Bluetooth enabled, which allows you to upload your photos automatically to your laptop, desktop, or smartphone. This is perfect for those who want to upload their images to social media instead of waiting to download them to a computer.
Tripods are a must because they allow the camera to be held steady, which eliminates camera shake and lets you shoot at slower shutter speeds. This is important because, in low-light situations, such as sunrise, sunsets, and nighttime shooting, you have much greater control. We recommend carrying two tripods, a medium tripod, and a small one that can be placed low to the ground. These come from a variety of quality levels, and we think it's essential to invest in a lightweight model made from either carbon fiber or aluminum.
We use a Manfrotto befree model MKBFRA4-BH for all our traveling. It can hold 17.6 pounds, has a minimum height of 15.8 inches, a max height of 59.1 inches, and has a folded length of 15.7 inches. It costs around $200, and it is a great tool. It features a ball head, weighs 3.6 pounds, and is very well made. Gitzo, Slik, Magnus, Vanguard, Oben, and Joby make some excellent products that you might want to consider.
We also like the Manfrotto Pixi Mini Table Top when we want to get low to the ground. It only holds 2.2 pounds, so you can't use it with a camera with a big external battery grip or long focal length lenses. The cost is around $30. Another option is a Joby GorillaPod 3k Flexible Mini-Tripod with a Ball Head kit. Price is about $60, and it's unique flexible design allows it to be set up quickly.
And while most digital cameras feature a timer so you can avoid camera shake during long exposures, we recommend some type of cable release. These are model specific to your camera, so just remember that they are not universal.
CAMERA BAGS & BACKPACKS
A quality camera bag is essential for travel, and there are three different categories – traditional fabric camera back, fabric camera backpack, or a hard case). I use a lot of Pelican cases when I am transporting a lot of equipment for commercial purposes, but when I am traveling, I prefer a backpack. Just like everything, there are a lot of styles, but I prefer one that can also carry my laptop and can fit in the overhead compartment on a plane.
We always recommend a camera with manual settings so you can control the shutter speed, aperture separately. This subject is so intense and so important that we recommend that you read a book about it.
LOCATION & LOCATION SCOUTING
TIME OF DAY
Much of photography is about light and shadow, and no doubt, you have witnessed the effects of this throughout your entire life. There is also what's called "The Golden Hour," and this is the first and last hours of the sunrise and sunset. It's at this time that colors are typically vibrant. That's because of the color changes throughout the day, and it's measured in what's called the Kelvin Scale. For travel photographers and travel bloggers, this is important because the time of day can mean the difference of an average photo or a stunning photo. Below is a photo of a model that I shot in Palm Desert, California, and it was shoot about a half-hour before the sun disappeared.
The imagination of the photographer, his choice of equipment, understanding of lighting, and composition are some of the things that separate extraordinary photographers from the average shooter. It's more than just getting the horizon straight; it's understanding where to place items in the frame. In the first photo below, I chose a wide-angle lens and got close to the light to make it more interesting. I also used a slow shutter speed and a big aperture to increase my depth of field (i.e., make as much as possible sharp in the image). The second photo I shot at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah during my Land Speed Racing days. Like the third photo on the beach in Exuma, Bahamas (which is actually under the subhead Mindset) , I used the rule of thirds because the image would be less interesting if it were centered in the frame. When shooting, I typically shoot several photos of each location or subject and mix up the composition, and I also use a variety of lenses to get different angles.
To be creative, you have to be in the right frame of mind and thinking clearly. You also have to ask yourself what you want to be. Are you a traveler who stumbles across locations, or are you a hunter who seeks out beautiful destinations. Either can be okay, depending on your goals, but if you want the best results, you have to set yourself up for success. It's the whole luck-equal- preparation-and-opportunity thing! You need to make your luck, and your attitude and actions will ultimately determine how far you go with photography.
Sometimes photos are more interesting without people, and sometimes they are more interesting with people. I took advantage of the small surf in St. Barth's to get this image of Vanessa. I only took a few shots with a 200mm lens, but otherwise, I had a difficult time making the scenery look interesting. I stood in the water and intentionally waited for the wave to come and placed Vanessa in between the beach club onshore and me.
MEMORY & PORTABLE HARD DRIVES
Storage is a huge part of photography, and there are lots to think about. The first is your actual camera memory card, and there are a variety of options. First, you need to know what type of card your camera requires. Some cameras use Micro SD cards, some take SD cards, and some take proprietary cards, so just see what you are looking for before you begin your search.
The two most important aspects of camera memory are the actual size, read in megabytes, gigabytes or terabytes. The larger the number, the more photos and video the card can store. The second is reading and writing speeds. These are measured by there megabits per second or MB/s or Mbps, a number which is typically found on the front of the card.
Since I do a lot of action and sports photography, I typically am forced to go with something that has a higher speed, but they are also way more expensive. I recommend carrying multiple cards in case one fails, and recommend sticking to main brands like SanDisk, Lexar, Samsung, Delkin, PNY, and Transcend. You want to invest in a quality card since you don't want to lose pictures that you have already taken because the card gets damaged or corrupted.
I typically use fast cards, but with smaller storage capacity. This forces me to transfer the images off my card and onto my laptop or desktop more often. This helps prevent losing an entire trip's worth of pictures.
I also use external storage drives because I have run out of room on my Apple MacBook Pro and my Apple iMac. I have a variety of LaCie, Seagate, and Samsung, but there are other good ones from G-Technology, WD, and San Disk. Note that you have to use the right one for your computer, and they are different for Apple and Windows platforms. And just like memory cards, both memory size and transfer speeds are something you should consider when making a purchase.
CLEAN YOUR CAMERA
Your camera and your lenses are tools that require maintenance every once in a while. Specifically, your camera's sensor can get small amounts of dirt and dust on it, that will leave unwanted blems on your images. As a rule, I make it a habit never to set my camera on its back because it allows gravity to force any small particles to land on the sensor. This is just bad, so don't do it.
If you do get it, we recommend buying a sensor cleaning kit. They come with detailed instructions, and you should carry the equipment where ever you go. The same with a lens cleaning kit that has different types of cleaning tools and supplies. These are relatively inexpensive and lightweight and are critical for the adventurer or travel photographer.
Zeiss Lens Cleaning Kit
ALWAYS KEEP LEARNING
Never stop learning and don't be afraid to try new things. Experiment with different lighting techniques, try an off-camera flash, play with shutter speeds, and learn everything you can about depth-of-field. There has never been a better time to learn photography. When I started, we shot slide film for magazines, and photographers had no way to edit them once the image is captured. Nowadays, the possibilities are limitless, with all the photo editing programs and apps. YouTube is also an excellent source for instructional videos, and all social media (Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok, Pinterest, etc.) offer tons of inspiration and ideas for photographers of all skill levels.
Capturing images during your travels is only part of the equation for creating stunning photos. The final act is editing them, and there are all sorts of tools out there. We've played around with a lot of them; in fact, I have a full-time graphic artist for Pole Position Raceway, the chain of indoor kart tracks that I founded in 2005. My favorite is the combination of PhotoShop and LightRoom. They are both made by Adobe and interface seamlessly. I am also a big fan of Adobe's Create Cloud.
Best Camera Accessories
Quality camera strap such as Blackrapid Sport Breathe
Flash and off-camera cord for your specific camera
Spare battery unique to your camera
Microphone such as Rode VideoMic pro
Travel Backpack such as Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 II
Spare memory card. If you have several extra cards, we recommend a Pelican Memory Card Case, which is waterproof.
Memory card reader if your computer doesn't have one built-in for your camera type
Tripod (both medium and small made from either aluminum or carbon fiber)
Portable Hard Drive
Miniature Drone such as a DJI Mavic Pro2
Lens cleaning kit
Polarized lens filters
Graduated filter kit
Manfrotto Befree MKBFRA-BH Tripod
Joby GorillaPod 3k Flexible Mini-Tripod With Ball Head
Sony Cable Release
Lowepro ProTactic BP450 AW II Camera and Laptop Backpack
No doubt, you have heard what many people call the three most important words in photography – location, location, location. It's pretty much a cliché, but that's because it's so important. You simply can't create stunning travel photography if you are not in a beautiful place. It's why places like Bora Bora, Fiji, Maldives, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Bahamas attract so many travel photographers.
The photo shown right is one that I shot for a company called Bomber Eyewear in the Bahamas.
I suggest that before any trip, you search Google Images and Instagram hashtags to learn as much as possible about the area. If a place is worth shooting, you can bet those travel photographers and iPhone warriors have some images that may inspire you.
"My personal favorite is the
Lowepro ProTactic BP450 AW II
Camera and Laptop Backpack.
This costs about $200 and is
very durable. Other quality brands
include Tamrac, Manfrotto,
Incase Designs, Mindshift,
CineBags, and Tenba."
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Hi! We are Ken Faught & Vanessa Doleshal. We love adventure travel, photography & share our journey with YOU! Our goal is help you plan that perfect trip & keep inspiring you to take the next one.