8 ways to avoid ‘postcard shots’

Travel photography tips: 8 ways to avoid postcard shots

Travel photography ticks all the boxes – exploring the creative possibilities of your camera in a fascinating new location is about as good as it gets. But great travel photography is about more than hopping on a flight to Havana and snapping old ladies with cigars. It requires as much skill, preparation and careful technique as any other photographic genre. How do you make your shots of a popular tourist destination stand out from everybody else’s – to be more than pure ‘postcard shots’? These 8 easy travel photography tips will help you think differently about your pictures…

Travel Photography Tips: 8 ways to avoid ‘postcard shots’

Travel photography tips: 8 ways to avoid postcard shotsPyramid photo from Shutterstock

Travel Photography Tips: 1 Get the ‘classic’ view in the bag early
There’s nothing wrong with a simple visual reminder that says ‘I was here’, but finding your own personal take could give you greater satisfaction, not to mention some more interesting pictures to look back on. We’d recommend getting the classic/cliché shot out of your system as soon as you arrive at a well-known location, otherwise it can have a tendency to block you from more creative images.

Travel Photography Tips: 2 Go the extra mile

Getting up in the small hours, skipping meals, putting up with extreme temperatures, long-distance trekking – it’s all in a day’s work for the dedicated travel photographer. There will be very few instances when you can simply roll up beside your subject in an air-conditioned taxi and shoot a truly knockout view. As the saying goes, you never get a great shot from the car park! 
If you want to capture truly memorable pictures you need to be prepared to pound a few streets. It might be possible to reach a historic landmark quickly on foot, but finding the most impressive view might involve a little more legwork.


Travel Photography Tips: 8 ways to avoid 'postcard shots'

Travel Photography Tips: 3 Find a new viewpoint

When confronted with a famous landmark, move around it and look for ways to show it in a different context – such as framing it through an archway or using a slow shutter speed to render moving elements as a blur. A variety of lens focal lengths can be invaluable here. If the classic shot’s taken with a wide-angle, for example, move further away and switch to a telephoto for a tighter composition – or vice versa. Shoot from a more adventurous viewpoint by lying on the ground or looking for a high vantage point.

Travel Photography Tips: 4 Set yourself a holiday project
Sometimes the sheer number and variety of potential photographic opportunities on a trip can leave you feeling overwhelmed rather than inspired. To avoid coming home empty handed, try setting yourself a mini photography project.

This is a great way to focus your mind’s eye and to help you prioritise what to point your lens at. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel here; your project could be something as simple as doors, shadows or kids, or something more ambitious like religion. Anything goes, as long as it fires your imagination. Once you’ve got a few shots under your belt there’ll be no stopping you…

Travel Photography Tips: 5 Stay alert and ready
Interesting events, characters or compositions have a habit of presenting themselves just when you least expect them 
to, so make sure your camera is always out of your camera bag and switched on. To give yourself the best chance of nailing those unique opportunistic shots, set your camera up in advance and get used to changing your exposure settings on the fly – particularly how to dial-in positive or negative exposure compensation quickly.

Travel Photography Tips: 6 Make yourself look past the obvious
It can be tempting to rely 
on the new, colourful and exotic quality of subjects you encounter on your travels to carry your shots. But work with the light to create something more dramatic. Try shooting a few frames facing towards the sun, for instance, and using fill-flash to illuminate a shadowed subject against the bright background. This is a great technique for people, animals and road signs, which glow under flash illumination.

Travel Photography Tips: 7 Try bracketing
In difficult lighting, it makes sense to bracket your shots, taking the picture at different exposure settings to ensure you come away with at least one usable image. This idea can be applied to composition, too, especially if you plan to 
sell your photos. Shoot vertical and horizontal images of an interesting subject. Get in close and pull out wide. Give yourself options when you’re editing back at home – the mood will change subtly between frames.


Travel Photography Tips: 8 ways to avoid 'postcard shots'

Travel Photography Tips: 8 Zoom in on detail

Wide, all-encompassing views are great for setting the scene, but small details can be more telling when it comes to painting vivid pictures of people or places. Switch to a macro or telephoto lens and think architectural flourishes, signs and traditional foods. Pick out strong, graphical colours and shapes. With people, try zeroing in on features like hands, tattoos or even possessions that hint at a way of life.