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Travel Photography Tips: Lights, Camera, Reaction!

Today’s blog entry is written by our own Adrianne Hess. She is a reservations specialist here at Auto Europe as well as a freelance photographer in her own time. She holds a degree in New Media with focuses in Documentary Photography and Digital Storytelling and a minor in Public Relations.

In the years I have spent as a photojournalist and freelance photographer, the way that I have come to view photography is that, while it’s got amazing potential for visual creativity, in most cases, photographers are collectors rather than artists. In the role of photographer, it’s your job to collect moments, small glimpses into the experience at hand. This is especially true for travel photography. What you shoot provides reference for remembering the amazing times you had abroad to aid in storytelling and remembrance for years to come.

Here’s where we come into a photographic pet peeve of mine, though. Even while I philosophically view photography as an act of collection rather than creation, there is no reason you shouldn’t strive to make your collection interesting. What if your vacation photos didn’t just prove that you took a vacation but said things both about the vacation experience and the people on the vacation? Remember that your vacation photos are not just to tell stories of the place… they are stories about you.

There are two ways to accomplish this: One is to go candid, the other is to play.

Going candid: Keep record of your companions as they interact with their surroundings… things like your toddler chasing pigeons in Hyde Park, your fiancee savoring her tea at that charming sidewalk bistro near your hotel, your college buddy attempting to work his charm on some girls and succeeding only to amuse them with his rendition of the robot, your husband in lederhosen at Oktoberfest giving a toast with a stein that is large enough to strain his arm, your mother grinning as she gracefully hops onto a ski lift in the Swiss Alps. These are all unique image opportunities that tell stories for years to come. Just make sure to pass the camera to your companions now and again so that you will be in the story, too!

Playing: When you play, you are capturing the way that the experience of traveling makes you feel. It’s your opportunity to react to the surroundings and capture things that you thought were especially neat. I try to see things in ways that most people do not. If there is a parade, for instance, I might take a close up shot of just the snout of a horse with a shiny, festive bridle on it. And then I also might shoot its feet, decked out in more festive regalia. And then I will zoom out, and shoot the entire carriage with the beauty queen in the back, step back and photograph the crowd and my friends reacting to the parade, and then I might zoom back in, and get a close up of the smiling, waving beauty queen. Arrange these photographs together on one page of a scrap book for maximum effect. This method is actually very similar to the way that professional photographers often approach feature stories for newspapers and magazines.

In this digital age, it’s possible to keep a lot more exposures on much less space than ever before, so it’s both efficient and inexpensive to take thousands of photos, weed out the 50 that you like the best and show those ones off. However, a little practice or planning never hurts anyone, either. You can practice by playing tourist in your own city for a Saturday with your loved ones. Doing this is also a good way to build memories and learn about great things in your own back yard, and serves to get everyone warmed up and excited about their upcoming European vacation. Above all, keep your eyes and ears open because you never know what amazing thing you might find. A car rental in Europe may help you to get off the beaten path, but it takes just a little bit of creativity to preserve the excellent times you have there.

Adrienne Hess is a Former newspaper assistant photo editor and has experience teaching and guiding aspiring photographers. She hopes to eventually return to academics for a Masters in Photographic Studies at the University of Westminster as a legacy to Margaret Harker, a relative of hers who founded that very program. She has yet to travel to Europe but has, on more than one occasion, driven a car across the Continental United States in under 4 days. Her other interests include, but are not limited to, crochet, middle eastern dance and gourmet cooking. She was eager to provide tips about an important aspect of travel and tourism: photography.

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