Turning travel photos from drab to fab

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By Randee Dawn

Most of our travels bring us to places we’ve never seen before and may never visit again. So the dilemma is this: Enjoy ourselves in the moment, or snap pictures so those moments may not be forgotten. In the end, a little from Column A and a little from Column B works best, but once you’ve decided to immortalize your trip on film (analog or digital) what are the best ways to optimize your results? Here are some tips worth remembering:

Don’t be Selfie-ish

Your selfie stick may help your pictures, but it’s an intrusion on everyone else around you (and when indoors, you can damage artwork or furniture if you’re not careful). So be kind when waving it around. (It’s already been banned in museums and theme parks around the world, so be an ambassador for good stick behavior.) That said, it’s a useful tool to reveal depth and distance – and comes in handy if you want to reach difficult angles – like over a cliff or way above a crowd. But don’t drop it!

Randee Dawn


Tell a Story in Pictures

You don’t have to capture the world in one photo: A wide shot that slowly gets closer, a panorama or a series of side-by-side shots can be seen like frames in a movie that have a beginning, middle and end. A broad image that shows an entire scene is an “establishing” shot; in subsequent photos show smaller elements that reveal detail – people interacting with items, speaking to one another, a random dog or surprising sign.

Credit: Randee Dawn

Get Closer

We all know what the Eiffel Tower looks like. In fact, tour group leaders usually know where the ideal place to have your picture taken in front of it is – which means thousands of us are taking the exact same picture. Instead, look for interesting architectural details – staircases, filigrees, iron loops and nuts and bolts. One of the most fascinating things about the Sydney Opera House is not the shell-shaped configuration we’ve all viewed before, but how the tiles fit together on the roof and the beams bend inside.

Don’t Forget the Human Element

Landscapes and scenery are hard to beat, and it’s not always possible to call over a companion to stand in your picture and be interesting. But wherever possible, put yourself or a human being in a photo. It tells more of the story and provides a sense of scale that tends to be lacking in most static shots of landscapes or interiors. But always ask before taking someone’s photo; not everyone wants to be part of your memory collection.

Writer Randee Dawn in IcelandAnd … Action!

“And here we are in front of the Statue of Liberty. And here we are in front of the Empire State Building.” Yes, yes, most likely a) you will remember your family members and b) you’ll be boring everyone to tears because they’ll be the same clutch of people posing with smiles in front of the same postcard landmarks that we already know. So take pictures of your family or companions interacting with the environment – sampling chocolate in Belgium; trying on a sari in Mumbai. Kicking a football in London, or diving into the waters of Thailand. Not only will those pictures share your adventure, they’ll conjure up specific stories and memories for you to remember later.

Consider different angles – and play!

Put your camera on the ground. On the roof of your car. At the edge of the water (assuming it’s waterproof), Experiment with the built-in effects (an iPhone can do “burst” – try it while moving sometime). Learn your camera’s shortcuts before that once-in-a-lifetime photo passes you buy. Have fun: One of the joys of digital photography is you can take pictures more or less forever.

Randee Dawn in Rome

Happy shutterbugging!

Randee Dawn is a contributor for InsureMyTrip and can be found at randeedawn.com and @RandeeDawn on Twitter.


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