The coastal town of Manarola, Italy, one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre
1. Wake up early
I can’t stress this point enough. So much good light is wasted when we sleep in! It can be so difficult to set that alarm clock for sunrise (especially when you’re on vacation), but it is so so worth it. The soft light of the sunrise will make your memories in that exotic location even more special. Pro tip: reward yourself with some local coffee after sunrise and conquer the day.
Hotel Casa San Agustin in Cartagena, Colombia
2. Do your homework
Going into a new city or country with an idea of what you’re looking to shoot can definitely help cut down on the overwhelming sense of newness. Finding yourself in a different environment can quickly turn into a lot of clicks of the shutter with very little to show for it. You want to have purpose and focus when going into a new environment. Researching your destination on social media before packing your bags will help offer inspiration, save you time and help you produce better results. We love using tools like Instagram to understand how the locals live and see the top photos from that location or hashtag, or even a simple Google search. However, you should always…
Drowsy Water Ranch in Granby, Colorado
3. Be spontaneous
Going with the flow is a crucial part of traveling, especially when you’re traveling with a group of people. Even after all the preparation you’ve made for your trip, there will inevitably be some things that surprise you (that’s why we travel after all, right?). Embrace the surprises. Expect them, even! That way, when they happen, you’ll be ready with your camera in hand.
4. Capture something uniquely local
When getting off of the plane, we always look for opportunities to capture an image that really defines where we are in the world. Some of the things we look for are signs in other languages, unique vegetation or trees, photographing people with specific regional clothing or capturing unique foods.
Lounging poolside at Perivolas Hotel in Santorini, Greece.
5. Know your equipment
The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time and money on planning a trip, only to get there and be woefully unprepared with the equipment you have. We like to rent equipment sometimes from places like lensrentals.com, but we always schedule the delivery for a day or two prior to our trip. This gives us time to familiarize ourselves with the equipment so that we’re ready to focus on capturing the image when we finally get to our destination. The image here, for example, was taken in very bright sunlight and was wanted the final image to still look soft without too harsh of shadows. Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop are two very powerful software tools we heavily rely on and help us fix a lot of our mistakes! It’s best for us when we can use them to enhance an image that already looks good, rather than spend time correcting it, because we had improper equipment.
Something that we’ve found handy is using Adobe Lightroom in sync with Lightroom Mobile. The iPhone is such a powerful camera and so discreet that sometimes it makes sense to use the iPhone. With Adobe Lightroom Mobile we can remotely sync our phone photos onto our laptop for editing when we get back. It’s such a huge space and time saver!
6. Go outside of your comfort zone
There are so many exciting things happening in this world. Sometimes putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation can lead to some incredible photos. When we travelled to the Amazon Rainforest, there was a lot of concern about safety from the animals, plants and, unfortunately, some of the people. A little element of risk can make capturing a great photo that much more rewarding. To travel to an area that few would venture and bring back images to the masses is really an exciting feeling. When we travelled to Israel there was a severe travel warning issued by the United States for US citizens traveling to Israel. We had a fantastic time and this was one of the most memorable trips we’ve ever taken. That said, you should always check travel warnings before you leave home.
7. Always be ready
Some of our most favorite photos are taken when a person is initially unaware that we’re taking their photo. Something changes in a person’s demeanor when they know a camera is pointing towards them. It’s our job to capture the image before that spark disappears.
8. Learn the culture
Take time to read as much beforehand about the place you’re about to travel. The amount of time you put in beforehand will give you an idea of how to communicate that culture or experience through photos. You’ll be happier and you’re audience will be happier when you can do this. You can do this in a variety of ways, but we highly recommend Rick Steves and his travel guides. He has been traveling his entire life and has tremendous insight into local culture. Other ways to learn the culture asking a friend who has been there, asking someone who is from there, reading about the country or location on Wikipedia, talk to your Airbnb host if you’re booking through them. So many ways to learn about the culture!
9. Use people for scale
Oftentimes it’s difficult to convey the size and scale of a new place. Something we like to do is put a person in the picture. It helps the viewer quickly gain perspective on, say, the grandeur of that waterfall you’re looking at. (Side note: This is a lot easier to achieve when traveling with a spouse!)
10. Have Fun
You’re in a new place, after all. Enjoy it! Sometimes it’s better to leave the camera at home for a while and just take time to soak in the experience.
Bonus: Editing in Action
*This post has been written in partnership with Adobe.