Nothing in travel has changed as much as travel photography. We’ve gone from lugging our lenses and filters and bodies and meters and film in a United-breaks-guitars-certified hard case to a phone that was a hundred bucks with a service contract and has a lens smaller than a dime and a body thinner than a USA Today.
Not only that, because the phone is a phone, and portable, and as essential a part of your kit as underwear, it’s always there, ready to be used. The old excuses of not having your rig or a part of your rig, or being out of film – those excuses are as outdated as a cassette deck.
If the equipment changes weren’t disruptive enough, photo-sharing sites have removed the other immense obstacle for travel photographers: getting their work in front of others. Now, if you’re so inclined, you can browse travel pics from photographers and locales worldwide with no more effort than it takes to read this article, and put your own photos in a myriad of galleries to be viewed, reviewed and (hopefully) liked. The obstacle has shifted from being published to being seen, and standing out from the herd of newly liberated great photographers showering the web with the great photos they were able to take because their phone is portable, and affordable, and powerful, and always in their bag.
The changes in travel photography are for the better because they’ve democratized the process. People who had the skills to be a great travel photographer but neither the wherewithal nor the equipment now have access to the tools to take great travel photographs and share them with the world. The old film-to-print paradigm lent structure but that’s it, and while the ways of the current world are occasionally chaotic, good democracy is messy sometimes.
That’s a really long preamble to the main point, which is: There’s no shortage of great tools, apps and sites you can use to take better travel photos and share them with your friends and the world.
Knowing What To Shoot
The world looks different through a lens. If that statement doesn’t resonate with you, you need to take more photographs. If it resonates, you still may find yourself asking, “Why don’t my pictures look as dramatic as their pictures?”
The answer may be in how you choose your locations and how you frame your shots. Choosing locations in popular destinations is a little easier with photo-based city guides. Travel-photography tutorials are rarely found in the same locations as travel photos, though there are a couple of good (albeit rudimentary) ones in the blog of recent Yahoo acquisition (and shutdown) Days. Scroll past the farewell speech and you’ll find them.
Other than that, practice. One of the best things about digital photography of any type, whether shot through a DSLR or an iPhone, is that practicing is essentially free. You can take as many shots as you want from weird angles using different filters, exposure times, aperture openings, and lighting effects, and if you don’t like the result, you delete it, you’re done, and no one’s the wiser. If you want to take great photographs on your next vacation, learn how to take great photographs in your backyard.
Knowing What To Do With Your Photos After You’ve Shot Them
Instagram filters. Experiment. Moving on.
Hipstamatic positions itself as the anti-Instagram, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s expanded from its make-your-photos-look-like-they-were-taken-by-an-Instamatic roots and now offers a broad and very fun selection of cool looks and funky filters for Apple users. The Swankolab virtual darkroom is particularly cool; it’s Reason No. 478.5 why I should have bought an iPhone. And if you have nothing but time on your hands (grrrrrr!), there’s always Photoshop. For Photoshop fans, Photoshop Elements may be the best of all possible worlds: a lot of what you love about Photoshop (and some of what you don’t), made portable.
Sharing Your Photos After You’ve Messed With Them
Outside of the obvious – Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest – there’s no shortage of good places, travel-dedicated and otherwise, to share your photos. Trover (above) is a sort of Pinterest for travel photos, with location-awareness and the ability to create pages built around a given destination. Oggl is Hipstamatic’s take on Instagram, with community-based sharing features, special lenses and filters, enhanced post-production capabilities, and a subscription-based model that gets members access to the complete Hipstamatic suite. EyeEm (at the top of the page) offers Instagram-like capabilities in a much sleeker, more fun package. Consider SnapDish (below) for your favorite food photos. And you can always post back your photos with reviews to sites like SpottedByLocals.
In the End …
Becoming a better photographer is about more than having cooler stuff to post to Instagram (or Oggl or EyeEm or Trover). It’s about discovering something about the world that you never knew existed — and in the process, discovering something about yourself. With that thought in mind, snap away.