(Editor’s note: We asked American expat Krystal Kenney at Miss Paris Photo, one of the top expat photographers in Paris, to share her pro secrets for capturing memorable travel photos. Krystal is available for assignments in Paris including weddings, events and private sessions. All photos by Krystal Kenney.)
Travel may have come to a temporary halt, but that doesn’t mean we can’t plan for the return of vacation and for new destinations. With flights so affordable and the Internet at our fingertips, people were traveling more than ever to their favorite cities.
The beautiful part of travel is we have all become photographers due to the tiny little camera that is with us at all times – our smartphones. Whether you consider yourself a pro or an amateur, everyone is capable of taking gorgeous travel photos with the advancement of smartphone cameras along with the price drop of larger DSLR cameras.
I’ve lived in Paris for more than seven years now and love documenting my life here and teaching others how to shoot. If you are an expat, it’s important you document that time, and also it proves you are brave enough to travel so you probably do a lot of it!
Here are my top tips on how to take better travel photographs:
Research your destination
Some people prefer to wander aimlessly or let the universe guide them on their trip, but if you really want to photograph your best work it’s always a good idea to do a little homework first. I always research a place first before I arrive at a destination. I want to know the best places to visit, what time to go and what is not to be missed.
There are a ton of sites to help you learn the best places to shoot. Instagram is a top favorite for many. Simply enter the hashtag of your destination and checkout all the photos from that area. It’s amazing how people can all visit the same place but capture completely different images. So don’t be wary of visiting known places – put a spin on your work to differentiate it from the rest of the travel shots.
SHOOT AT SUNRISE OR SUNSET
Most people hate getting up early on vacation, but it really is the best time to discover a place. Many times at sunrise the destination is empty, especially cities. If you are aiming to avoid other people in your shots, it’s important you take the initiative of an early riser just for one day.
You will be so thankful when you see the gorgeous pinks and reds of a sunrise glowing over a gorgeous waterfront or cityscape, you will feel completely alone and in the moment. It won’t just be about the beautiful photos you capture, it will be about connecting with the place in your own way and feeling relaxed.
SHOOT PORTRAITS OF LOCALS
We share many common fears and needs but also there are shades of varieties in food, clothing, religion. It all interweaves beautifully to tell the story of the local people.
It’s always important to ask before photographing a person; in some cultures it can be an insult if you take a photo without asking.
In France, it is illegal to take someone’s photo and sell it or share it without their permission whereas in America, a photo is considered your art and you are welcome to use it however you please. So be sure to look into the local rules when shooting people but also don’t be shy to just ask! Many people will be flattered and interested, and it’s a great way to get to know the locals and make friends while abroad.
TELL A STORY
Whenever I start a trip I like to think about the story I want to tell. You can think of this as photojournalism the same way a documentary or news program would show you a story. Do the same with your photos, take a few photos of each event and go along on a timeline of your day.
Take a photo of a local dish, a local person, a less traveled route. When you print or share the photos it will make the journey so much easier to relive.
Change your perspective
Everyone may get the same shot of the Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars, or the same beach shot with a coconut tree and drink in hand, so think about how you can be different. I always recommend getting higher and shooting down on your subject from a balcony or building. Or you can take the opposite route and get super low by getting down on the ground close to the street or head into the water and shoot from just above the waves.
We are all seeing the world from different perspectives, but try your best to bring something new to the table and think outside the box. Another great way to do this is to shoot through something. Think of trees, plants, bridges, shoot your landscape or person between other subjects to make a more interesting subject.
Your iPhone has just as much capability of shooting a silhouette as a giant DSLR camera. The key to taking a great silhouette photo is to shoot at sunset and using people to blacken against a landscape. If you are using a smartphone tap on the sky to darken the rest of your silhouette and if this is not working well for you then tap on your screen again until the yellow box appears with the sun icon along a straight line. You can drag the sun down to darken the photo more or up to lighten it. This can be a lot of fun to play with silhouette shots.
Most people take only photos of themselves and family standing in front of monuments or wide landscape shots with the whole building or beach scene. But, don’t forget to also get closer to your subjects; detail shots can be just as interesting.
A close up of a local food or fruit. Closeup of architecture or tiles. Remember to try to see the place in a different way and by what defines it.
Lastly, remember to put the camera down and look and think. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in shooting and finding the perfect shot, we forget to be in the moment, your work will approve when you learn to slow down and be thoughtful.
About the author:
Krystal Kenney is a photographer and writer in Paris, France. She also runs a podcast called “La Vie Creative” where she interviews creatives in Paris. She moved to Paris more than eight years ago from Annapolis, Maryland to start a new life. Krystal loves spending her days exploring Paris, and traveling all over Europe. You can see more of her photography and her podcast on her website here. She specializes in wedding, event, and vacation photos.
You can see Dispatches’ archive here for most travel posts and some world-class photography.