1.) Freeze using Shutter Speed
I took this image of The Water Tower, in Cardiff. In order to freeze the flow of the water that constantly streams down the tower, I used a shutter speed of 1/320. (How did I reach that number? I experimented with a few different speeds until I was happy with the results).
Because Tv controls how fast the light enters the camera, a fast shutter speed lets in less light than a slow shutter speed. To compensate, I opened the aperture to f3.5 to increase the amount of light (so the image did not appear too dark) but without compromising the ‘freezing’ nature of the Tv.
2.) Deep Blacks
Drop the blacks to purposefully lose detail – makes for a more dramatic image.
I captured this image under a walkway at Cardiff Bay. Look at the wooden poles, there is a lack of detail – you cannot see the wood grain, just areas of solid featureless black. I do this often in my live concert images as it add a certain level of drama. It totally works in travel photography too.
I used Adobe Lightroom (LR) to increase the amount of black and shadows in the image (see below).
On the ‘BLACKS’ and ‘SHADOWS’ options, I slid the arrow towards the lowest points and played around with the levels until I was happy with the image.
3.) Frame Up and Wait
Find a great spot, frame up and …. wait for someone to walk by. Typically a shutter speed of 1/200 or 1/250 should be fine to stop people walking fast becoming a blur (unless you want that blur?)
Don’t be afraid to use the crop tool to get rid of anything in the frame you don’t like and/or to make the image neater and more powerful. (‘Before image’ above & ‘after image’ below)
5.) Flat / Depth
For certain shots I have a style that I call, ‘Flat / Depth’.
If we look at my photo of Roue de Paris below in a two-dimensional sense it looks rather flat. I’ll explain: The image has been framed so everything sits on various horizontal strips.
Along the bottom of the frame are the chairs and a few people dotted about. Above that is the pond, then some more people and trees and then the wheel and sky.In reality you are actually looking at an area about 50m deep, but my framing makes the area seem reasonably flat. I often create images like this as I find it pretty pleasing. To do this yourself, look out for patterns in the photos and perhaps even get down on your knees (or lower) to create that perspective.
6.) Understand story
All cities have a rich history with many stories to find. Understanding those stories and adding your own spin is a great way to create images. I shot this image at Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. I spun around and noticed a woman looking like she had just stepped out of war-time Europe; black coat, head scarf – really timeless, a ghost from the past. I quickly raised my camera, filled the frame with those concrete slabs, and pressed the shutter. I managed one single frame before she was gone.
The image was quite eerie and speaks a lot about who the memorial is dedicated to.
7.) Use the Big Light in the Sky
Nine times out of ten, your travel photos will be taken using available light (i.e. you wont be adding any flash) so use The Sun to your advantage. You don’t always have to put your back to it, turn towards it a little and get some cool lens flare. Real lens flare is infinitely better looking than the fake stuff added in post.
8.) Ignore the truth
Is a photo the truth? Not really no – only a version of the truth. So with that in mind, get extreme. This statue base already had some graffiti sprayed on it so I went full comic book punk by using the Split Toning feature in Adobe Lightroom (See below).
The split toning feature allows you to add colour/tone individually to the highlight and shadows. For this image I chose a pinky/red colour for the highlights and a blue-ish colour for the shadows.
9.) Achieve depth by shooting through things
Add depth to your frame by shooting through things. You’re showing a narrative and/or an environment with one single image, so do so by having multiple things in your shot but find a creative way to do it. This image is super symmetrical – I levelled it by eye on the day. I used Split Toning to add some teal to the shadows and some light orange/slight tan to the highlights. I also dropped the blacks giving the image a very subtle cinematic look.
10.) Shallow Depth Of Field
Use a wide aperture to create a shallow DOF to highlight something in the frame.
The image above is f3.5 1/125. It was a particularly dull, over cast day in Barcelona when I visited so there wasn’t a super great amount of light to worry about flooding into my camera which could cause over exposure. But if it had been a bright summers day, I definitely would have had to increase the speed of the shutter to above 1/250.