Getting Better travel photos

Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Adventures, Travel | 0 comments

Getting Better travel photos

Last year I traveled to Morocco on a photography trip with my good friend and business partner Tony White. Our trip was focused on photography and with about three weeks in the country we certainly had the opportunity to see and experience a good deal of this wonderful location. Looking back on the trip now and looking through the photos I captured, gives me a chance to reflect on some of key items to consider for travel photography.


  • Pre-visulation is powerful tool to get you started. When planning a holiday, how do you decide which country of location you want to visit? Chances are, you do it be seeing photos from that location. This is the same for me, I had seen a photo from the central square in Marrakesh at sunset, the square was coming alive with food stalls the sun was setting in spectacular fashion through streaky clouds. This photo drew me to Morocco as a location for my travel, so it was no surprise that when arriving in Marrakesh I wanted to create a similar photo. Seeing the original photo had given me an idea of where to be to capture the scene, this meant that Tony and I could stake out an early front row seat in the right cafe being ready for sunset beating the crowds. Looking at photos from your desired locations can be useful both before you go and by looking at postcards when traveling.

Djemaa El-Fna at sunset_KD

  • Embrace the culture shock you get when traveling but be aware of the effect it will have on your photographs. When we travel to new locations, our senses quickly become overloaded with everything being so different from our normal experiences. As photographers we tend funnel this culture shock into our photos, for example a cat in an exotic location suddenly becomes a wonderful subject when we would not have thought twice about photographing a cat on the streets at home. We should absolutely continue to capture all of those photos when traveling, it is part of the experience after all, but whilst doing so remember your photography fundamentals. How do capture the subject in the best light available, fill the frame and tell a story with you photo.
  • Be flexible. Whilst the pre-visulation in point 1 is a great start, sometimes things just do not work out the way you were expecting. We had traveled half way around the world to the Sahara desert and expecting blue skies with red sand to make an iconic desert image. When we got there it was raining with flat skies and blowing sand, downhearted we put our cameras away to relax and enjoy some tea with our camel drivers. This time was priceless and would have been missed with our eyes behind the cameras. Later as we headed out into the desert on our camels the storm cleared away and we were able to make some absolutely spectacular desert images with black storm clouds over the red sand. These desert images are some of my favourite from the trip.

Camel train in the desert_KD

  • Review your photos whilst traveling. In the crowded streets of Fez, we came across a wonderful scene with sunlight filtering through the smoke of cooking fires into a crowded street. I managed to take a grab shot whilst we battled through the crowd, a quick check on the back of my camera and the photo looked good so I hurried on to catch up with the Tony and the guide. A little bit later whilst sitting down to enjoy a mint tea, I reviewed the photo again in more detail. To my horror the most prominent person in the photo was another western tourist taking a photo in my direction, this was not at all the image I was after. I showed the guide the photo on the camera and we were able to go back to the exact location and spend more time there to better craft the photo I was after. Regularly reviewing your photos gives you a chance to ensure that you are getting the type of photos you want or helps to avoid some critical errors such as accidentally switching your lens to manual focus which would be disastrous to find out later.

The smoke lane in Fez_KD

  • Travel as light as possible. When it comes to camera gear whilst traveling I am always battling to keep my gear as light as possible. This means I am not overly burdened both physically and mentally with the weight of my gear. The physical burden is best understood, during the trip to Morocco there was a lot of walking and most of it was in tight marketplaces. Carry to much gear means that you get tired quickly and that you feel uncomfortable, it is hard to make good photos when you feel this way. Mentally carrying too much gear has an effect as well, you might feel self-conscious carrying a lot of gear or you might suffer from options paralysis e.g. what lens should be used to get the best photo in any particular situation. Keeping my gear light and simple means that I am looking for the best photos that fit my available gear and regularly produces successful outcomes.

Ken Dickson is an Australian based photographer with nearly 30 years experience. A regular contributor to international competitions, Ken holds honour levels both within Australia and Internationally. He started in photography when travelling the world with the Navy using both film and slide film. Moving to digital in 2004, Ken has embraced the available technologies to continue his artistry. With a love for sharing his knowledge and experience Ken helped to launch Ozlight Photo Adventures ( providing courses and practical workshops in all aspects of photography.

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