How to take the best travel photos

Going on holiday means great fun but also great responsibility… when it comes to taking photos. If you’re reading these you’re probably the kind of person that the whole family is relying on as the official photographer of the group. Or maybe you’re a first-timer looking to improve at snapping visual memories on holiday. In any case, here are some useful tips for you to succeed in making the most of your travel photography:

Do it for yourself.

If all you can think about is what your Instagram followers and workmates will say about the photo you’re taking, you need to rethink who these photos are really for. You’re on holiday, relax, take the photos you feel like with the people you want. Make them personal! In a few years, you’ll be the one looking at them and cherishing those memories.

Research your destination.

We all agree that it’s nice to go somewhere without knowing what you’re going to do step by step and let the destination unravel before your eyes. But it’s worth doing a bit of research beforehand. Get to know the history, main cultural sites and facts about customs and locals of your holiday destination – otherwise you could miss important details. Know what you’re photographing and learn a few words in the native language of your destination when asking locals for a portrait or for tips. You’ll find yourself far more inspired when you know the history of a place and more aware of what you should be looking out for when hunting for holiday snaps.

Meet the locals

Getting to know the locals should be a top priority as they might tell you where the hidden gems are.This brings us to another point we discussed above. If you learn about the history of a place, it’s much easier to communicate with its inhabitants.

Some of the best portraits you can take during a trip are those of the locals. You can either take a few street-style snapshots or go for classical portraits with people wearing traditional costumes but you always have to remember that people are the ones who bring a place to life.

Be spontaneous

Sometimes, the best photos are the less planned ones. So make sure to keep your camera at hand or to keep your phone charged, depending on which medium you’re planning on using. When photographing friends, don’t give them time to pose – you want to capture them in the moment, free of pretense or embellishment.

Learn the basics

Whether you’re using a professional camera, a pocket one or an iPhone,it’s worth getting to grips with the less glamorous side of the photography: the technical one. Familiarize yourself with the meaning of words such as shutter speed, exposure, aperture and ISO. Check out this guide from Lifehacker for your first foray into the world of manual photography. On your next holiday, try switching to manual mode and you’ll quickly find out how much difference each of the settings can make.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Have you ever found a weird mosaic cobblestone that you stop yourself from taking a photo of because you’re not sure it’s “photogenic” enough? Or maybe you’ve come across a beautiful landscape but are actually more interested in the statue in front of it? Don’t be ashamed to experiment!

Framing and composition

So far we’ve been telling you to take photos with your heart more than with your mind. But now we have to go back to basics and acknowledge the importance of… geometry.

As soon as you lay eyes on a potential subject, be it a landscape, a portrait or just general cityscape, you should start thinking about framing. This means you have to do your best to make the photo look aesthetically balanced by taking into consideration the shapes, composition and aiming for a pleasing geometry.

Do not be afraid to try more angles until you find the one you that meets your expectations.

Looking for a challenge? Try taking a photo which adheres to the golden ratio!

Learn a bit of photo manipulation

OK, so you took a photo you like, but you’re not quite happy with some details – it could be too dark outside, or the sun may have overexposed the shot. You may sometimes need to work a bit after the magic has happened. Download software and play with the settings until you achieve what you want. You can get a free trial with Photoshop, one of the most powerful and professional photo editing tools, which is also very beginner-friendly. Though it’s tempting, try not to go overboard with altering the original photo as you still want it looking natural.

Cultural Guide to Reykjavik

When the Norseman Ingolfur Arnarson arrived in Iceland in AD 870, he became the country’s first settler. Arnarson picked what is now Reykjavik to be his home and it isn’t difficult to see why! When you arrive in the beautiful Icelandic capital, be careful that the charm of the place doesn’t make you want to put down roots! Reykjavik’s Viking past is still remembered in its museums, sculptures and re-enactments, but the city has culture beyond what the Norse seafarers brought with them.

The coastal capital has a thumping music scene and has turned out many famous artists, including Bjork and Sigur Ros. There are plenty of galleries to wander in, great buildings to admire and a large sculpture collection.  Whilst Arnarson might have been content to travel around on a horse, nowadays, to explore to your heart’s content, you should rent a car in Reykjavik with easyCar.

 

Art

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The Vikings specialised in arts such as wood, stone and metal working, but to see remnants of their creations you’ll need to visit one of the island’s museums as Reykjavik’s galleries take more of a contemporary view. The National Gallery of Iceland houses a wide selection of artworks by Icelandic artists produced in the 19th Century or after. The is no permanent collection so whenever you return to Reykjavik (we know its pull will too much for you to resist) you’ll get a different experience. For some eclectic, international flavour peruse the walls of i8 Gallery. If you seek the bohemian and unconventional, head to Kling and Bang, the fun newcomer on the Icelandic arts scene. In past years, Reykjavik embraced the street art movement and you can find colourful, lively offerings on buildings all over the city. Now that the city has begun to take a sterner view on unauthorised offerings, more murals have started to appear created on request by building owners. See Reykjavik’s upmarket graffiti on one of the city’s walking tours.

 

Museums

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If tales of daring Viking do are completely up your alley then you won’t be disappointed in Reykjavik’s museums. The Saga Museum offers a walk through of early Icelandic history, complete with an audio guide and waxwork figures scenes of the key events. Save some energy for the photo opportunity at the end where you can try on replica Viking costumes and wield some dummy weaponry.  For something a bit classier with a few more artefacts, try Skogar Folk Museum which is a two hour drive from the capital. The highlights include a large Icelandic fishing boat and the turf covered traditional houses and public buildings that have been reconstructed on the site. If you are at the folk museum be sure to cross over to the Museum of Transport opposite to learn about how the islanders have developed vehicles and communication methods to help them overcome the elements.

For a comprehensive tour through Icelandic history, spend a day at the National Museum of Iceland. Start on the ground floor in medieval times and work your way upwards to household items from the modern day. Of course no trip would be complete without a visit to the weird, wonderful and frankly quite shocking Icelandic Phallological Museum. This tiny museum has the world’s largest collection of animal penises (but who says size matters!) including fifty-five whale penises and one human one.

 

Sculpture

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The influence of Iceland’s Viking settlers has certainly not be lost on Reykjavik’s modern sculptors. Looking out over the Atlantic Ocean on Reykjavik’s peninsula is Jon Gunnar Arnason’s Sun Voyager, a strange seafaring sculpture that resembles both a Viking longship and a whale. Arnason’s structure is an ode to the sun which sets and rises behind the artwork, throwing beautiful light over the water. Reykjavik’s most famous sculpture is Ásmundur Sveinsson, whose former workshop has been converted into a museum for his work. The Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum reflects the artist’s strong interest in Viking culture, sagas and mythology. His pieces often depict people labouring over old-fashioned tasks or resemble characters from traditional stories.

 

Architecture

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The beautiful honeycomb structure of the Harpa concert hall is unmissable as you walk along the seafront, which is a good job as missing it is something you definitely you do not want to do! Home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and The Icelandic Opera, Harpa is a concert hall with a difference. The building is an architectural wonder inside and out, with numerous coloured glass panels that light up at night (the scale of which can be marvelled at once within). Another striking building when viewed at night is Hallgrímskirkja. Shaped to look like the basalt pillars found in Icelandic coastal cliffs, the church has a tower that can be climbed for stunning views over Reykjavik’s coloured buildings. When the light fades, the church is illuminated from beneath by spotlights sending its crinkle-cut exterior into relief.

 

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