Once you have learnt the basics about photography it is very easy to get in a routine in terms of what you photograph and how you photograph it, particularly when you are travelling. While travelling we are trying to capture a moment, the people, the culture, the landscape,… and we sometimes forget to try new approaches or ideas.
This post aims to inspire you to try something different next time you are out and about taking photos and to give you some ideas of how you can get inspired to try something new.
1. Go see a travelling exhibition of award winners
In 2015 we happened to be in London when the Sony World Awards exhibition was on at Somerset House. There were so many categories of entrants, from professionals to amateur teenagers, and every possible subject matter you can imagine. We couldn’t help but be inspired by the artists who took photos of similar subject matter to what we do but also by those who ventured into different areas to us.
For example, I am not very good at taking photos of people but after seeing this exhibition I was inspired to make more of an effort to photograph people, with their consent of course, and research about techniques.
This exhibition travels around the world and is run every year. Check out their website to find out more details here.
Who knows, maybe you will be so inspired that you decide to enter yourself next year!
Another great travelling exhibition I have visited a number of times is the World Press Photo exhibition. This showcases the best of the best in the world of professional photojournalism and multimedia storytelling. It also travels all over the world throughout the year so click here to see if it is coming to your home town or a city you are planning to visit.
Perhaps it even provides a good excuse to visit a particular city, though who are we kidding, we don’t need an excuse to travel.
Who better to learn from, than the professionals.
2. Do a photography walking tour
In most major cities you will be able to find photography tours catering to a variety of needs.
Some tours will teach you about photography, they are more like a photography course. Others will take you to the major sites of the city, which is fine if you’ve never been there before and want to get orientated with the city before going off exploring on your own.
And then there are the alternative tours that take you off the beaten path and aim to inspire you to look at the world differently.
On a recent trip to London we discovered a fabulous company called Hairy Goat, not the most obvious name for a photography walking tour but fabulous nonetheless. They run a number of different types of tours, you can check them out here, from mystery tours to night tours. We partook in the mystery tour, which they claim to be different every time.
Corinna from Hairy Goat gave us some great tips in terms of trying to focus on the out of the ordinary or looking at objects from different perspectives. Even though David and I had been to London many times before, Corinna revealed parts of the city that we would never have discovered on our own.
After three hours we both felt like we had learnt loads of new things and felt inspired to go out into the big wide world and try our newly acquired tricks on our own.
3. The Olympus Photography Playground – Day and Night
This is not an exhibition as such, more as the name implies, a playground for you to experiment with a camera in an environment that pushes the boundaries of the imagination, which is on its own a work of art.
Ok, it is also a promotional campaign where you have the chance to play with an Olympus camera. Hey, their subconscious marketing worked with me, I actually bought an Olympus mirrorless within six months of visiting the spectacle!
You are encouraged to explore the incongruous aspects of day and night through the medium of photography.
We had a great night with friends who are also into photography but I think anyone would enjoy this because it is so different. This exhibition seems to only be around Europe but hopefully they will expand and continue to run it every year. Click here to learn more.
The best part of it was that you got to keep the memory card and all of the photos you had taken for free! Plus it was free entry! What more could you ask?
4. Visit a photography gallery or exhibition
Most major cities have a photography gallery or hold photography exhibitions in the major art galleries, you just need to check out the local guides.
When in London we discovered the Getty Images Gallery, I’m sure you’ve heard of Getty images before, probably more linked to stock photography. It is more of a gallery that sells work but you are able to browse what is on offer.
We also checked out a special exhibition at the Modern Tate. Even though this exhibition wasn’t about subjects we would normally photograph, it was still interesting and educational to see techniques used by pioneers of the past.
5. Get out of your photography comfort zone
This really takes someone to either push or challenge you or some serious self-discipline.
Most people have a preference or speciality regarding what they photograph the most. On the photography walking tour we recently took (see point 2) one of the first things our guide asked us what we liked to photograph. It soon became apparent that she then tried to encourage us to do something different.
For me, as I have already mentioned, I don’t feel confident capturing people.
It was a rainy, windy English spring day and our guide suggested I try capturing people with umbrellas. Once I started looking I realised all the colours of the umbrellas, the ones the wind was blowing inside out and the ones with funky designs.
All I needed was someone to point that out to me. I wasn’t overly successful at capturing the moments with umbrellas as I was always distracted by the 101 other interesting things in the surroundings but will definitely work on it the next time I’m out and about in less than ideal weather.
6. Read travel photography books
When I first decided to bite the bullet and invest in a DSLR I wanted to not only learn the basics of digital photography but I wanted to specifically improve my travel photography.
One of the first books I bought was Lonely Planet’s Guide to travel Photography. I found this incredibly inspiring as it is broken into sections about different types of travel photography, different subject matter and different environments.
The first thing I did was read about landscape photography as this is what I enjoyed photographing up to this point, but as I began to peruse the many other chapters I became interested in trying to capture other subjects.
Two Christmases ago David and I, without knowing, bought each other the same santa sack present. Yes we are sad photography geeks.
It was the Lightbox Photography Cards. They are a set of 52 cards, one for each week of the year, and each card is meant to arouse creativity in your photography and encourage you to concentrate on capturing the weekly challenge.
I must admit they have sat on my bedside table for quite some time but every now and then I get them out and have a flick through for motivation.
7. Go out and take photos in all weather
When we did the previously mentioned photography walking tour it rained for a large majority of the time. I have to be honest, if we had not pre-booked the tour I probably would have suggested to David that we go and find a cosy cafe or a museum to visit instead.
I am so glad that we made the effort to battle the elements as I learnt a lot about the surprising effects that are naturally created when it rains. There are the reflections in puddles, the wet streets creating some interesting atmospheres with the light bouncing off the damp pavements and the raindrops that are left can make for some nice macro photography.
Don’t get me wrong, having the perfect blue sky for the quintessential landscape is great but sometimes having it too sunny can create burnt skies that even the best editing software can’t repair. Having tumultuous clouds as your backdrop can really add to a stunning landscape.
My challenge to you here is to brave all sorts of weather and find something positive with each weather condition. Discover how each weather condition can add to your photos.
Well I hope something I have mentioned above has inspired you to try something new or provoked you to do or see things differently next time you take your camera out with you.
One last thing, the best thing to arouse and improve your travel photography is to travel!
Let us know if you have other ways that help inspire your travel photography. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any other questions.
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Loved your post. It is really interesting and very inspirational. My husband and I are amateur photographers not in the same way but we love to take pictures. So your post really talked to me. I will try these lightroom cards! they look like fun and a great way to get challenged! thanks
Thanks so much Christine, glad you liked it. Yes the cards are really good for making you think about different subjects and perspectives. You have inspired me to have another look at them myself. Happy photographing!
Very inspirational post. Having been a press and pr photographer for 25 + years, I thoroughly enjoy the time and freedom now to photograph whatever I want. Your photograph of Brussels has made me think of how lazy I have become at visiting amazing European places that are only a short journey away!
Thanks Gilly. Oh wow, that must be really freeing to be able to photograph for leisure now. You’re right, Europe has so many amazing places to photograph.
A very enlightening post. I love travelling and have fallen into the trap of just taken too many photos with not much thought. Iive the idea of the photography walking tour. Great tips thank you. Sue at Sizzling Towards Sixty.
I know what you mean Sue, it is so easy to take the standard photographs when travelling or trying to reproduce one you’ve seen in a book or online. The photography walking tour really challenged this way of thinking, I would highly recommend it.
Thanks Michelle. I found this inspiring and encouraging. You have taken some stunning photographs of scenes I wouldn’t have thought to take!
Hi Shirley, thanks so much. It makes me happy that you enjoyed it. I hope you took away some thing from it.
Oh this is very usefull post. It also very challenging for me to shoot people – its very hard step from a comfort zone) And shoting in the rain sometimes gives even more interesting pictures than in the sunny day – thats a fact)
I know right Marry! I don’t feel comfortable at all shooting people but it was definitely a good challenge for me. I still have a lot of work to do in this area but I guess practice makes perfect.
Very inspiring and wisely explained! Thanks!
Thanks so much Robert.
There’s nothing like checking out other successful photogs for giving a boost to our own!
This is an on-time post! Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve been getting more serious about my photography and can always use some help.
Courtney | thirty30courtney.com
You are very welcome Courtney. I think no matter what level of a photographer you are, it never hurts to stop and think of ways to do things differently. Good luck!
Interesting post! You give me ideas on how to take more captivating travel pictures. Thanks for writing this!
That’s great Rahmi, glad we could help! Good luck!
Thanks for sharing this!
I think the number 5 is one of the most important challenges for a photographer.
I would add also: go and explore your neighborhoods ! Sometimes we have wonders in our backyard but we are too busy to notice them.
I totally agree Enrico. Excellent suggestion re exploring your own neighbourhood, I think we definitely take our own backyard for granted and miss the little things. Happy photographing!
I know I’m a bit late to the party but I really appreciate these great tips. Also, the style and feel of your blog are fantastic. I don’t know if you are interested in guest posting but I’d love to write something about how to spend a memorable weekend in Toronto. That’s where I’m from. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Thank you so much Jesse! Regarding guest posting, absolutely! Just drop us a line here and let’s talk about it
How many African countries have you travelled too?
Thank you, Samantha!