Tag Archives: photography

Read This Post and Take Better Photos

When you put in the time, effort, and money to travel somewhere, it’s only natural to want to take better photos and document the experience in order to relive it down the road (and—let’s be honest—it’s fun to show off a little on Instagram). But not all photos are created equal. Here’s how to preserve memories in a high-quality way and make your photos stand out from the pack.

Embrace the “rule of thirds”

This classic photography maxim maintains that the most aesthetically pleasing photos are derived by splitting an image into nine equally sized squares and then positioning the subject(s) of the photo where any two lines cross each other. Check out these great examples to understand how you can use this guideline for virtually any photo.

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Incorporate people, places, and things

This great tip from the Independent Traveler can be applied anywhere, whether you’re eating local in Oahu or braving the cold at an ice hotel. The concept is simple: Just make sure most of the photos you take incorporate a person, a place of interest, and a unique object. This will make your photos much more dynamic, more interesting, and more memorable than yet another beige shot of the family in front of the Eiffel Tower. Your best friend doing a cartwheel beside a red umbrella in front of Paris’ Musée du Vin? Perfect.  

Pay attention to lighting

Don’t take photos facing directly into the sun—your picture will be mostly shadow (no matter how gorgeous the view looked in real life). In general, try to avoid taking pictures between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., since the midday sun casts a harsh light on everything and creates pesky shadows. You’ll find the best light in the morning and around sunset. In general, pay attention to where light is coming from and stage your shot accordingly. And don’t be afraid of bad weather—even rainy or overcast days can produce amazing photos.

Stage the foreground, midground, and background

Well-known travel writer Nomadic Matt has a strategy for avoiding the disappointment of realizing that your picture of a stunning mountain or city skyline doesn’t look nearly as impressive as the scene did in real life. The solution? Creating a sense of scale. Try to incorporate items into the foreground, midground, and background of the shot so that it appears three-dimensional. For example, try using a colorful bus as foreground for a shot of an unusual building.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 12.59.51 PMTake great selfies

Yes, there is an art to selfie-taking. Especially when traveling, the best selfies  ncorporate things that are specific to the place where you’re taking the photo (e.g. the waves at Miami Beach), feature place-based activities (e.g. climbing the Matterhorn), and experiment with different angles. Try tilting your head, angling your shoulders toward or away from the camera, or focusing on a body part other than your face (like your tired feet after a long day of exploring).

Do some research

Before traveling anywhere, do some research online to learn a bit about the region’s culture, landscape, and iconic sites so you can start thinking about the photos you’d like to take. Take things a step further by doing an image search of those locales so you can see how other people have photographed them and develop your own unique take.

Include local signage

Incorporate local store signs, newspapers, street signs, or signage at farmers’ markets into your photos to instantly convey a sense of place. Bonus points for funny (mis-)translations.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 12.59.08 PMLearn your camera’s shortcuts

Any traveler knows that amazing or unexpected experiences can happen in an instant. Be prepared to capture any moment by keeping your camera handy and knowing its photo shortcuts (or knowing your phone’s camera shortcuts).

Don’t get caught up in evaluation

Digital cameras and smartphones make it all too easy to start critiquing photos the moment they’re taken, which can cause you to miss a great shot. Avoid the temptation to peek and stay focused on the moment you’re trying to capture. There’ll be time to evaluate the photos back at the hotel.

Ask permission

It can be tempting to sneak pictures of locals because they convey an immediate sense of place. But remember that you’re looking at human beings, and being a respectful tourist is important. Before taking anyone’s photo, make sure you have his or her permission to do so. Then offer thanks (and maybe even compensation) for their willingness to help out.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind while hunting for travel photo ops? Stay open-minded and adventurous. If you want an unusual or exciting photo, it helps to do unusual or exciting things. Go exploring, try new foods or activities, and step off the beaten (tourist) path. If you’re doing amazing things, amazing photos will follow. Be sure to share your stellar photography by tagging #hipmunk on Instagram. We can’t wait to see it!  


Where Not to Take a Selfie

Last month, a 66-year-old Japanese tourist was taking a selfie at the Taj Mahal when he tripped down a flight of stairs and died from the resulting injuries. At least 12 people have died so far this year while attempting to take selfies. Of course, it’s not the picture itself that kills, but the dangerous behavior surrounding it. As “extreme selfies” become more popular, too many people are taking unnecessary risks to achieve the perfect picture. The problem has become so acute in Russia that the Interior Ministry has initiated a publicity campaign to educate the public about selfie safety. Here are the situations to avoid, taken from lessons learned the hard way.

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There are two main dangers where trains are concerned: The force of the train itself and the live wires surrounding the track. Three students in Agra, India were attempting to take selfies with an oncoming train in January when they were run over and killed. Several deaths and injuries have also resulted from accidental contact with live wires in pursuit of “ultimate selfies.”

Moving Vehicles

It should seem like common sense, but anything that distracts from operating a moving vehicle should be avoided, selfies included. In April 2014, a woman crashed into a recycling truck and died on Interstate 85 in North Carolina minutes after posting selfies and a status to Facebook. And in May of the same year, a pilot was so distracted by texting and taking selfies that he lost control of the plane and crashed, killing himself and a passenger.

Cliffs and Ledges

It’s better to look down at the ground than at a phone screen when exploring high elevation sites. In August 2014, a Polish couple in Portugal reportedly crossed a safety barrier to take a selfie off the Cabo da Roca cliffs. They fell and tragically died, leaving their two young children behind. And just last week, a teenager died while orchestrating a selfie from the top of a nine-story building. He had already posted many such “extreme” pictures of himself.

Dangerous Animals

The primary danger with wild and potentially dangerous animals is turning our backs to them. This August, a young man died while attempting a selfie during the running of the bulls in Villaseca de la Sagra, Spain. At Yellowstone National Park, a woman thankfully survived being flipped over by a bison with whom she was attempting to take a photo. Waterton Canyon park in Denver had to close down because so many people were taking selfies with wild bears.

Guns and Weapons

A surprising number of people have accidentally shot themselves while posing for selfies with loaded guns pointed at their heads. A teenager in Houston died in September while taking selfies with a gun he had found with his cousin earlier that day. In January, two Russian teenagers pulled the pin from a grenade so that they could take a picture with it. The grenade exploded and the teenagers died. The phone and the selfie itself somehow survived the explosion, however, perhaps as a reminder for the rest of us to exercise our common sense and prioritize safety over social media fame.