One of the hardest aspects of travel photography is making your shots stand out from the plethora of other photographers that have shot the same subject.
When you visit iconic places that have been heavily photographed, you need to find a new angle and develop a style to make your images distinctive.
There are only so many things you can do when you’re taking a picture to make it look different and put your own spin on the location. An obvious way to make your shots look different is to change your shooting angle. The majority of people taking pictures on a smartphone will shoot at eyelevel, so shooting at ground-level or from a higher angle will make your pictures look different.
I always pack a bin liner in my camera bag so I can lay on it when I’m getting a low angle. This is a great way to stop your clothes getting covered in mud. If your camera has a variable angle LCD screen this will make it easier to compose at ground-level. Some travel tripods have the ability to flip the centre column upside down, which adds stability when shooting down low.
Drones have increased in popularity over the years but these aren’t practical to travel with, often requiring a whole case just for the drone and controller. Instead, make the most of accessible high angles around you and shoot down from them. Plane windows and tall buildings all provide unique vantage points that not many people will have shot from.
When shooting from a high vantage point, be sure to have a tight hold of your camera and wear the strap to stop your camera taking a fall. Look for abstract shapes and shadows when shooting from high up. The low sun in the early morning or evening will help cast longer shadows for add extra interest in your pictures.
Changing your focal length is another easy way to give your shots a style. Set yourself the challenge of only using one lens per day and you’ll be forced to think creatively. This may mean shooting portraits with a wide-angle lens or street photography with a telephoto. If travelling with a zoom lens such as a 24-70mm, set it to one focal length and see if you can stay at that focal length, whatever the subject may be. You might be surprised with the outcome.
One of the best ways I found I could make my shots stand out was to shoot with a telephoto lens. I knew that most travel photographers would be travelling light with just one or two lenses, and those people shooting on phones are limited to just a wide-angle view. I found a secondhand Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 pretty cheap online. It's a very old lens, and there’s a little chromatic aberration in its images, but it’s more than sharp enough, portable and has a fast f/2.8 aperture. I’m sure you could find a modern equivalent if you had a bigger budget! This gave me a completely different perspective, and allowed me to capture faraway details such as birds and other wildlife.
Dan Mold is a professional travel and wildlife photographer and a regular contributor to Practical Photography and Digital Photo. He has recently returned from an epic adventure around Asia and Australia. See more of his work here.