6 UNTOLD TIPS FOR BETTER TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY / by Amr Tahtawi

I’ve read many lists online giving “traveling photographer tips” that didn’t appear to be written by real practicing traveling photographers for passionate, aspiring travellers and photographers. Here’s some personal tips learned from my 6 years of travel experience on the road. I hope they work for you: 

1- Experience life itself, first!

Shot by my partner Bassi Hamid while scouting Spanish coast of Malaga.

Shot by my partner Bassi Hamid while scouting Spanish coast of Malaga.

It's a common misuse of our artistic skills as traveling photographers to just start firing the shutter once you've reached a new destination instead of experiencing it in the first place, understanding it and enjoying it. One way to help you kill this habit is to Scout any given location for a better, fresh angles and moods that gives your photographs a unique, fresh look and feel.

2- Connect and make new friends as a person, not as a camera

Photographing people in far away foreign countries brings some challenges, tension, language barriers, and unfamiliar customs. But when you’re abroad, it’s most important just as at home to gain trust of others and this will allow you to photograph Local people rather than tourists as they really are in their shops, favorite hangouts, and even their homes. Always emit a positive vibe and approach your subjects not as a camera but as a person - Let your smiling face be the first thing they see and ask permission to shoot when you feel it’s right.

It's always a good idea to Learn a few complimentary words like "beautiful", "wonderful" and "Thank you" to help people feel comfortable and look natural in front of a camera.

3- Shoot in "Themes"

"Downtown Cairo" is a series of themed shots i took for Cairo's amazing downtown architecture. Click on thumbnails above for the full story behind each shot

"Themes" will improve your story-telling skill through the lens and help you focus on what interest you as a traveling photographer and you won’t feel overwhelmed by wanting to capture it all at once.

Themes can be created daily with a fresh one everyday or per the whole trip duration and you can change it anytime. So, if you are shooting architectural beauty in Andalusia and the perfect street portrait came up, shoot that too. My point is that when you discover a new place, it’s impossible to absorb everything in a few days and that's where "Themes" help.

4- Travel Light

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If it's a country you're visiting for the first time with no photo plans in mind, never pack everything you "think" you need. Take only the essentials, two lenses: 1 zoom + 1 prime lens or 1 wide + 1 zoom. This extremely comes handy if you plan to do some hiking or trekking and it help you focus and live the moment more than you think.

5- Keep it Natural

One of the most influential and inspiring photographers of all time, Henri Cartier Bresson never used flash in his photographs. A practice he saw “impolite…like going to a concert with a pistol in your hand” learn how to use the beauty of natural light and enjoy it before you jump to buy that latest expensive flash.

6- Don’t stop Traveling

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A good travel photographer must keep his/her portfolio alive. Keep on traveling, and you don’t have to travel far away for “good” travel photography. Try to bring the beauty of your own local town. Travel to the other side of your city or attend the next music/Art festival to keep your craft and imagination fresh.