Leading travel photographer Lucie Debelkova’s top tips on how you can take your best ever holiday pictures this summer.
Lucie Debelkova is a travel photographer originally from Prague, a city which she says is ‘one of the most beautiful in the world but, as I’m sure we all do, I took its beauties for granted and tried to find more beauties around the world.’
It’s to photography’s benefit that Lucie decided to travel the world, as one look through her portfolio will attest.
Having visited over 80 countries with her camera in tow, and having lived in four different countries around the world, Lucie is certainly accustomed to travel.
‘My first trips took me to places where ancient civilizations left their mark, such as India, Egypt and the Middle East. I’ve since travelled far and wide, including Mongolia, New Zealand and Alaska. I slowly got used to travelling the world and now, thanks to this experience, I manage to find a home in all the places in the world that I visit.’
At first these travels weren’t exclusively for photography. However, over time Debelkova started to take the photo side of her travels a lot more seriously.
‘Wherever I went I always had a camera in hand, taking snapshots to document my experiences and explorations. Gradually, a shift occurred and curiosity crept in: How can I more fully capture the essence of feeling and being alive and engaged in the larger world?
‘Through this simple question I’ve begun to acquire a knowledge concerning the art and process of making photographs. For me, photography is a great self learning process with no borders. It should be far more than the simple act of recording a lasting memory.’
Now based in Kuwait, Lucie’s work naturally has a focus in the Middle East region, including Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar. However, her work extends far beyond the region, with her advice for improving your travel photography relevant to anywhere in the world.
To see more of Lucie’s work, visit www.luciedebelkova.com
How to shoot great holiday pictures: proper preparation
I always complete any research that I plan to do well in advance of arriving because when you get there, there is never enough time. The last thing you want to be doing is planning where you’re going to be shooting rather than being out in the field.
This is especially true of a short photo trip and you have to be efficient with your time. I normally have a good search on the internet and check on sites such as Flickr, Alamy and Google Earth to get a visual feel for the location. Although, if I’m planning on covering a larger area, referencing travel agents and guides is a good option.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: use filters
While there are a lot of elements of photography that can be corrected in post-production after the shot, shadow and highlight detail are some of the most difficult.
For this reason, shooting against the sun is a situation whereby you really need a filter to maintain information in one or the other. A graduated neutral density filter is perfect for this as it allows you to expose for the foreground while maintaining detail in the sky.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: scout before twilight
This is hardly groundbreaking advice but it’s important to reiterate that it should be taken seriously.
I normally walk around a city or landscape in advance of shooting and look for the angles I’d like to capture when the light is right.
Another piece of advice is to always look up – search for a possible interesting viewpoint on a restaurant or hotel terrace, for example.
Twilight is my favourite part of the day and I love taking photos in the rapidly changing light in the hours during dusk and dawn.
Regardless of whether there is a blue sky or if it’s raining, the photo opportunities are there, it just might mean you have to take an umbrella!
Every city is different with regards to night lighting and the like, so be sure to do even more research as to timings of when they turn these on and off and so on.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: incorporate people into landscapes
When viewing a travel photograph, it’s sometimes difficult to gather a sense of scale from an image.
For this reason, I try to incorporate people into my images wherever possible to help articulate the scale.
If there’s nobody available then you could always be your own model using the self timer; or simply incorporating any known object to the image can convey a sense of scale.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: don’t be afraid to ask
You’ll be surprised by just how many people will give you permission if you simply ask – whether it be taking candid street photography
or requesting permission to shoot from a hotel roof, you’ll find that people are often obliging.
At the end of the day, what is the worst that can happen? You’ll end up in the same place you were before you started!
How to shoot great holiday pictures: keep your images clean and clear
Quite often people try to include too much in their photos, with the message getting lost in translation, so to speak.
To avoid this, I choose strong but simple scenes and try and concentrate on one particular image rather than taking a whole host.
Often people are overwhelmed and try to take as many photos as possible – this is fine in a digital world but when reviewing your images you should think: ‘Why did I take that? What was I trying to communicate in that image?’ Try to get everything right in the camera.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: make the most of the light
The best light for photography is just after sunrise and just before sunset.
Spend the rest of the day scouting out locations and thinking about where will be good to shoot, decide on a location and then get set for the right light.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: be ready to give 250%
To really get the best images, you’re going to have to put some effort in. You’ll have to get up very early having had little sleep, stand in the cold or the heat, or worse the rain if you’re restricted by time.
Mosquitoes love dusk and dawn so they’ll be your company Hiking back from a location in darkness is also common. Despite all of this, once you get that stunning image it’ll all be worth it.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: invest in a Smartphone
My iPhone has been my saviour on many occasions thanks to its great apps. I have a host of them that help me with my photography, including GPS, Sunset/Sunrise and Moonset/Moonrise times and tide information.
One app in particular is TPE – it shows exact the sunrise and sunset location at any given point on a Google Earth map. Also, if you invest in a local SIM card with a 3G allowance, you’ll avoid racking up a costly phone bill.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: timing
Nothing can spoil the travel experience more than visiting a destination at a time of year when it’s not as you would expect. For example, try to visit Canada in its wonderful autumn colours or beautiful white snow-covered landscape, as opposed to late spring when everything is grey and dark – a mistake I made.
The same can be said of the rainy season in Asia, while good research will turn up pearls such as when there is Monsoon season in Oman (south) and it turns the normally dry desert into green wonderland.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: get a tripod
Wherever you are in the world, you’ll need a tripod at some point, and probably more often than not.
It doesn’t have to be an especially heavy or expensive tripod, and often a small travel tripod will suffice. If you don’t have one you can always use a bag or suchlike as a support, but it really is best to invest in one.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: get out there
No photo has ever taken itself, so be sure to always have your camera with you and get out there even if the weather is bad. The worst storm can turn into the most amazing sunset, while the heavy rain can produce the most amazing rainbow.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: vary your subjects
Don’t just concentrate on one subject when shooting travel photography. It’s one of the most challenging areas owing to the subjects it entails, but don’t be afraid to try your hand at all of those.
Get a nice mix between landscape, portrait and street photography and you can’t go wrong.
How to shoot great holiday pictures: practice
As with any other discipline, practice makes perfect. Be sure to get out shooting ahead of any trip to be prepared for being out in the field. Photography, as with any other discipline, has its learning curve and there is no better preparation for travel photography than being able to capture your own environment in a great way.
Author: Lucie Debelkova