Are you planning your trip or about to leave? I bet your camera is one of the first objects (if not the first) you’ve added to your list of things to throw in the suitcase. Thus, those of us who love photography are not able to leave home without our beloved companion. And you do well, because it is a wonderful opportunity to practice, have fun, enjoy and, above all, bring you bits of that extraordinary place that visits and bits of memories so that over time are not swallowed by the treacherous memory. Now I ask you… are you one of those who limit yourself to photographing yourself (or your companions) in front of each monument? Or do you prefer to narrate your trip in another way?
Narrating Your Journey
What I mean is that if you limit yourself to the first option you will lose many of the possibilities that a photographic trip offers you, it will be fine as a souvenir that you have been there, but if you want to show your photos, surely these are the ones that will end up less interesting to your public. Whoever is interested in seeing your photographic series on the way back from your trip would surely prefer to know what the site is like, its people, its customs… Tell them about your trip and what the place is like through a few images. Because that’s what you’re best at, isn’t it? Count and show through your photos.
That’s why today I’m going to leave some ideas for you to take with you a written list of what you can’t forget to photograph to tell your journey. You can modify the list depending on what you want to tell, what you want to photograph or where you go. This is an indicative list, you write the definitive one. The list is for you not to forget, so you have clear your goal and your ideal goals 😉
The locals have so much to tell about their land that it’s the first thing you need to photograph if you want to talk about it. His features, his clothes, his works, his looks… are a faithful reflection of his culture and society. In many occasions it will help you to say where you have been without mentioning it, to present your album and your trip without having to use words, let them open the door to your journey through the photos.
Architecture is another element you can use to start your graphic series and place the viewer in the place you have visited. Along with the portraits will help you locate your audience quickly. It also uses architecture to tell how they live, how their villages or streets are, whether it is modern or traditional, whether it is a rural, coastal or city environment.
What did you eat? Food is another aspect that speaks without saying, part of the culture of a country, tourist destination for the most culinary, adventure for the tasty and daring, torture for the most delicate, inspiration for beauty seekers or colorful … Food is an indispensable ingredient on your list. How? That is already yours, but here are some tips for gastronomic photography. I personally recommend a zenithal perspective.
And closely related to gastronomy, although not exclusively, we find ourselves with markets. Icon in some cities, center of interest in others, full of charm, floating or terrestrial. There are all sorts but all provide some information, offer many aesthetic possibilities and can serve you a lot of fun. Practice detail photography or even use a wide angle, play with perspective and use it to capture portraits and gestures.
Typical or special places (not monuments)
Wherever you travel you will find a special place, mythical, well known or visited, a reference in the city and I do not refer to monuments or cultural icons, I refer to that century-old cafeteria that has stepped all over the city or the country, the place where people or visitors concentrate to see the sunset, the fountain where most of the legends of the place lie, the park where a famous singer composed his best song, the forest where the elves live, the grotto of mysteries that the locals fear or the bakery where the richest cakes in the country are baked. Any one of these places has a special reason to be immortalized with your camera. Tell everyone.
There are some very curious means of transport, strange to our eyes or very characteristic of that place. I still remember the look on my face when I saw the first Beer-bike pass in Germany (a beer bike bar). It was the most curious thing. Just as it is inevitable to think of Lisbon and visualise its trams. What means of transport have you seen? Which have been the most curious or strange?
Monuments and icons (from another perspective)
As much as you try to avoid the typical repeated photos of the monuments, you will end up taking them because they are part of your journey and icons of that place. And that’s not that it’s wrong or right, it’s just that a well-seen photo may be uninteresting if there’s nothing else that attracts attention. To do this you can use a different perspective, photograph it from another angle or side, focus on its details or play with the light to make it look more striking or different.
You will find objects and details worthy of immortalizing, for their beauty, for their idiosyncrasy or for their color. These details are also part of the trip, they also tell about it and the site you are visiting. If I were you, I’d list them on 😉
How’s that city at night? Does it sleep? Does it party? Is it luminous? Do you see the stars? Or can you enjoy the wonderful Aurora Borealis? Perhaps it is the time when religious rites are performed, popular festivals or when the streets are filled with life. Count it. The night is also part of your journey.
In many countries religion is so important that it marks their character, their customs, their architecture and even their laws. We could open a debate about this but it’s not the place, the important thing here is that reflecting religious rites or places of worship in your photographic series on the journey becomes almost indispensable.
Religious or not, the customs of that country or territory will help you tell more about what it’s like, so that your audience understands a little more about the place you’ve been, so that they understand that anecdote you just told them. Pay attention and teach them.
A natural or city landscape will serve you to show its beauty, the environment in which the people you have shown at the beginning move, locate those customs or the architecture you have portrayed.
If you could live with a native family for a while, you would have an excellent opportunity to photograph their life. Who cooks? How do they sit at the table? What meetings are like or where in the house they spend the most time. From tea time in the English countryside to Argentinean barbecues and henna dyes in India. Are you going to miss them?
Wild, domestic, typical, cargo or transport, animals are also part of the place, of its essence. Some are so characteristic that they will know exactly where you have been without having to say it. Or are you going to travel to Australia without photographing a kangaroo or Mijas without portraying the donkey?
To contextualize your trip you can also portray these ideas:
Your suitcase: what’s in your suitcase? This can give you an idea of the destination you’re traveling to.
In which transport do you travel: land, air or sea?
Who you travel with: a group photo to say goodbye to your series is not the same as boring your audience with a hundred photos of you, your partner or your children in front of each site, it is a memory and a part of how you made your trip.
Any gesture, object, action or detail that attracts your attention or seems curious is worthy of inclusion in your series. But remember, you have to be interested if you want to show it and get attention.
Where do you sleep? Photographing where you’re staying is also a good place to add to the list if there’s something special about it. Will you sleep out in the open? In a luxury hotel? A cabin overlooking the sea? An ice room? Everyone will want to see it!
And to finish I will tell you that in the end the important thing is that you enjoy your trip, that you have fun, that you soak up the culture and its customs. If you do all this, the picture will come out naturally. It’s in your veins.
Some extra tips: try not to bore your audience and avoid some very typical mistakes. Now look for paper and pencil and… personalize your list! Bon voyage!
Pss, pss, wait a minute, I’m gonna ask you a favor before I say goodbye. If you found this idea useful, share it so your contacts can make their own list. Thank you!