Sandra Laurin

Etobicoke Camera Club

Travel Tips for Photographers

“some people photograph their travels, other people travel to photograph”


Whichever group you belong to, there are a few things you should prepare for your trip.


Before you go…

  • research your destination so that you know the best time to travel (arriving in the rainy season can limit your photo-taking opportunities… as well as your patience!)
  • google your destination for tons of current travel info about weather,political situation, currency, festivals, and celebrations
  • guide books provide lots of info that can enhance your trip
  • learn a few key phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting (never underestimate the power of “Good Morning” in the local language)
  • get to know a new camera before your trip
  • make sure your camera is in good working order
  • pack the camera manual in your carry-on backpack so you can spend some time reading on the plane. I find something new every time I consult the manual.
  • take a backup camera if possible
  • take extra batteries, a recharger and electrical converter for the country you’re going to visit
  • have extra memory cards (preferably 2-3 smaller cards rather than one huge card as it could possibly malfunction), so “don’t put all your photos in one basket”
  • it’s a good idea to download photos to a card reader or laptop if you don’t mind the extra weight
  • use a microfibre cloth to keep the lens clean (can also be used for your glasses and sunglasses)
  • a travel tripod or a tabletop mini-tripod to steady your camera in low light or to set a time exposure that allows you to be in the picture
  • photocopies of your passport, tickets, insurance, medication and eye glass prescriptions, travel itinerary, driver’s license, credit cards also leave copies of the above with someone at home
  • a small notebook to record names of places, tips from other travellers or addresses if you promise someone a photo
  • a small flashlight…in some countries the hydro goes off at a certain time of night…also if you’re near the equator you’ll be surprised how darkness comes within minutes after sunset!
  • a nail brush is useful for scrubbing dirty hands and feet as well as hiking boots or dirty clothes
  • a small compass, as it’s often hard to determine direction even in cities and to find north in the rain or after the sun goes down
  • a thermometer, as it’s sometimes interesting to know just how hot or cold it really is!
  • an iPhone has apps that can do many of the above (ie. compass, flashlight, notes, temperature,)


When you arrive..

  • talk to other travelers and locals to find out points of interest
  • pick up a local English newspaper to check out “what’s happening”
  • look at postcards of the area…they usually have good composition and location ideas (it’s OK to copy!)
  • a map of the city or area and be sure to mark your hotel and jot down the address and phone # (take a brochure or card from the hotel as it’s often easier to let a taxi driver read the address)
  • be friendly and interact with people…buying a mango from a market seller can give you the opportunity to ask if you may take a photo (if you promise to send a copy, write down the address and make sure that you follow up)
  • a friendly greeting and a smile will result in more genuine people photos
  • carry small change of the appropriate currency in your pocket ready to buy that mango
  • although there’s much debate on whether or not to pay people for pictures I feel that even a small amount of change can help out a family in a developing country and you will have negotiated for a much better photo than if you had to “steal” it on the sly
  • download images to a card reader every night
  • don’t delete photos on the camera until you see them on a large screen (unless they’re totally horrible!)
  • recharge batteries every night ready for the next day of shooting


On the go…

  • always have your camera ready to go with probable settings (ISO, white balance, aperture or shutter speed) and at arms reach
  • when you first get sight of a subject (especially animals if on safari)…take a shot…you may not get a second chance
  • then move in closer…frame your shot to get the image you really want
  • turn around…often the best shot is behind you!
  • use a fast shutter speed (or sports mode) generally with animals and with active children
  • try using fill flash outdoors especially with subjects in front of water or with strong light from behind
  • get wide angle shots of herds…then zoom in on a specific animal for close-ups
  • zoom in to fill the frame or take a couple of steps closer
  • close-up shots are fantastic but don’t forget to include the surrounding environment or habitat in some shots to give a sense of place
  • think about the direction of the light and if there’s time,move for a better angle
  • in cases where you can’t get out of your vehicle (on safari), a beanbag or rolled clothing resting on a window will give added stability, especially when using zoom lenses
  • “early to bed, early to rise”…you will get wonderful lighting at dawn and dusk (the Golden Hours) especially if on safari at the water hole where all the animals come to drink at that time of day
  • check white balance…often the sunset mode is useful at these times
  • always use the histogram to determine proper exposure…if necessary, change the settings and shoot again
  • don’t hide indoors in the rain..protect your camera with a baggie or even use the shower cap from the hotel


Take time to ENJOY your trip. Take photos that please YOU. They are YOUR memories.