Tips for Taking Documentary Style Travel Photos

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#1 – Be present in the moment

Being present in every moment of every day is a life lesson we all can benefit from. It doesn’t just apply to travel photography. Great moments happen every day around us that are worth documenting not just for our clients but also for ourselves so that we can live a richer, fuller life.

Tips for Taking Documentary Style Travel Photos

People watching is a great exercise in training your eye to really catch that which is unusual and unique to a place – these boys in the market in Jaipur were observing me just as much as I was observing them!

By training your mind to really live life in the moment and not worry about all the other distractions will also help you really “see” what is around you. More often than not, you likely travel with a very tight agenda and timeline. No sooner than you get to your destination, you are already mentally prepared to move on to the next stop. Instead, try and plan a single excursion for a day and really focus on learning and experiencing that place or activity before moving on.

#2 – Be observant of your surroundings

Life is happening all around you all the time. People interacting with each other, people interacting with nature, nature putting on a grand show during sunrise, sunset, or even during a thunderstorm. But don’t wait for some preconceived notion of the perfect moment to take your camera out and take a photo.

At the same time, don’t see the world simply through your viewfinder. Observe the scene, anticipate the shot that you really want to get and be ready to take the shot. Don’t just fire away at every situation only to get home to realize that you completed missed the moment and hence missed the shot as well.

Tips for Taking Documentary Style Travel Photos

I once found myself in the middle of a village festival/ritual when I was traveling in India. I had no idea what was going on but knew I had to document this. Luckily a female photographer was somewhat of a rarity in this village and I was given a special seat in the middle of all the action (without a word spoken amongst me and these women)! It was fascinating to see and experience.

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