Travel Tuesday // Photography Tips with Diana Brennan

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Photographer, friend and fellow Lady Project member, Diana Brennan, had recently posted gorgeous photos of a trip to the Scottish Highlands on her Facebook page, and I was immediately inspired to chat with her about photography and traveling, and get some tips on taking better photos while I travel. On a gorgeous summer night in Providence, we met up to walk around with my camera. After an hour walk, a beer break, and fun travel talk, I left inspired.

Here are my favorite tips that Diana shared with me.

1. Pay attention to the light.

Photography is all about light, but when you’re traveling you have less control over that light. You may not always be at a certain place, when the light is most perfect. Your goal is then to take the best photo at the time you’re there. Remember, it’s about telling us the story of your experience at this place, not necessarily capturing a static image of the site at its most perfect.

DSC_0340 -1The sun was not ideal for this time and place, so she didn't include the sky because the contrast was too much.

2. Don’t forget about composition.

A general rule of thumb for photography is the rule of thirds. Divide your frame into thirds to make the image more balanced. Pay attention to the light and shadows and how all the elements are working together. Rather than just standing there, zooming in and snapping, try moving around. Move yourself closer, instead of zooming in, or change up the angle or perspective. Incorporate more elements, let a stream or a path lead you into the photo to make it more interesting or add people to the image for a sense of scale. Try closing one eye to take away your depth perception and focus on the composition.

DSC_0268 -1 The road is leading the viewer in, and having her husband walking gives a sense of scale and interaction with the scene.

3. Find creative ways to document what you did, not just what you saw.

A trip is a lot more than just the sites that you’re seeing, make an effort to try and capture some of the small moments and details. Take photos of each other eating, or laughing, or writing in your journal. Snap a photo from the view from your beach blanket, or seat on the train.

IMG_2442Diana and her husband ate tons of these cakes on their roadtrip, and this photo brings that moment right back.

4. Don’t be overwhelmed by taking photos of huge monuments.

Lots of our trips involve seeing famous monuments, which can be huge and hard to capture. Rather than trying to get the whole big thing in one photo, try focusing on details. What’s important about this monument? What surprised you about it? Focus in on those elements.

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5. Put your food photos in context. 

Food is a big part of traveling for me, and we’re always taking pictures at the table. Diana reminded me that while it’s about what’s on your plate, it’s also about the ambience of a restaurant and the vibe of the meal you’re having. Top down photos show off shapes, and you can move things around to compose the elements. Take some photos of the restaurant from the view you have in your chair, or of your server. Capture the moment by snapping photos of each other eating or laughing.

IMG_20140915_101546She stood on her chair for this one! Note all the circles.

6. Tell a story with your photos

Try to have the photos that you’re taking give some insight into how you were experiencing the moment. Were you in a car, on foot, walking a long distance? Try to incorporate those elements into how you’re capturing the moment. If you’re traveling with someone else, aim to get them in photos that are less staged. Keeping them conversational when you’re clicking away often helps the person be more relaxed. But don’t shy away from the selfie. You were on this trip and it’s fun to look back and see yourself in this amazing place, feeling happy and relaxed.

IMG_20140915_152811You went on this trip, own it! Their "Hey, we're at a castle!" selfie.

7. Don’t let the documenting take over the experiencing.

Good advice even when you’re not traveling. Be mindful of the moment you’re documenting and notice other things about it. Take your time and let yourself become absorbed in it. Maybe even put your camera away for awhile and stare at the world with your own eyes. Be inspired.

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Thanks so much, Diana, for the great tips and travel talk. If you'd like to find out more about Diana and her work, check out her website.

All photos in this post were taken by Diana in the Scottish Highlands....which is now (obviously) on my travel list!