Sept. 27 is World Tourism Day, an international celebration of the global community and cultural exchange that’s fostered by travel. The official 2022 celebration is being hosted in Bali, Indonesia, with a core theme of rethinking tourism to put people and the planet first. (We love that mindset of sustainability here at Fracture.)
We may not all be able to jet off to Bali to show our support, but we’ve got some photography advice that will make you rethink how you take travel portraits on your next trip abroad.
Portraits are an especially personal way to document your experience. Photographing your family and friends (and yourself!) can transform a scenic photo into a true memento that will be treasured long after you’re back home. So let’s talk tips for capturing the best, wanderlust-inducing travel portraits.
1. Bring a high-performing camera that isn’t cumbersome.
You may not be at the “traveling-with-a-tripod” level of photography seriousness, which is perfectly okay. It’s more important that your camera be a versatile, powerful one that’s easily packable and portable. If you can upgrade from your smartphone, do it. But if it doesn’t fit in your daily bag, you’re going to miss out on travel portraits photo ops and regret the burden of toting all that equipment around.
2. Choose a solid, wide angle lens as your primary travel lens.
For cameras with an interchangeable lens, using a wider angle lens can capture more of your surroundings in a single shot. This comes in handy when you want to include a wide landscape or an expanse of scenery in your portrait’s background. If you have extra space, you can bring along a more traditional portrait lens as well (like a 50mm prime lens). However, a wide angle lens with some zoom will give you more flexibility.
1. Position your subject to emphasize scale.
Include someone in the frame for a more interesting and dramatic shot that shows off how big or small something is. A person walking up steps or standing beside a large structure are great ways to demonstrate scale and distance and make you feel present in the photo.
2. Use blurred backgrounds (sparingly).
Blurring the background is a classic travel portraits technique that highlights the subject of the photo as your focus. A shorter depth of field still looks great when applied to travel photos—especially if you have a particularly colorful or iconic background that provides natural visual interest. Note: Be sure not to take all your portraits like this, or you’ll miss out on the scenic, more distant details.
3. Flip the focus for more interest.
Snapping some shots with a sharp background while your subject is less in focus can make for a fun reversal that’s equally print-worthy.
1. Don’t (always) stare down the camera.
We’re all guilty of smiling straight-on at the camera, but try to resist that habit! It might be out of your comfort zone to strike a pose, but you might surprise yourself if you give it a shot. Travel portraits look much more natural and eye-catching if you turn to the side, lean against something, or look out at the view.
2. Give precise instructions.
As the photographer (even if you’re just your family’s unofficial photographer), get used to giving your subjects instructions to work with. It takes practice to get into those habits when you’re posing for photos. So, it can help to have a prompt or get feedback: “Take a step that way and look back over your shoulder!”
3. Let your subjects move.
Movement almost always gives a photo natural interest. If you’re behind the lens, tell your subject to walk from point A to point B; they’ll think less about where to put their arms as they’re concentrating on taking steps.
And no, it doesn’t have to be on a ledge like this photo—but notice how much it assists in making travel portraits feel more active and alive? This tip also helps establish scale, as mentioned before.
Solo or Couples Portraits
1. Selfies aren’t a bad thing.
Selfies get a bad rap, but they can actually make great travel portraits! You can’t ask the nearest person to take every photo of the two of you.
Plus, we don’t all have Mr. Fantastic arms, so your wide angle lens will be extra important here to make sure your faces aren’t obscuring the background too much.
2. Sit along a scenic overlook.
You know those travel portraits where the person is sitting on the edge of a cliff? It may not be the most original pose in the world, but it’s popular for a reason. It simply looks cool!
If you’re traveling solo, the self-timer will be your best friend for these types of shots, particularly if you find a little nook where you can safely set your camera. It’s not a great option when there are crowds of people—but for quieter landscapes or out in nature, it works fantastically.
3. Consider hiring a local photographer.
This can be worth it if you want a variety of high-quality options from a professional that you can choose from later. Some of these photo sessions are bookable through Airbnb Experiences. Otherwise, you can search for photographers that are local to where you’ll be traveling. They know the area best, and are seasoned at photographing there.
It will only take an hour or two of your day, and you’ll come away with so many print-worthy portraits that include you (and your significant other, if you book a couples session).
With these tips and a creative eye, we guarantee you’ll have a whole album’s worth of amazing print-ready photos from your next trip. Put your best shots on display by printing them on glass for the extra wow factor. (Might we add, the Rajah layout would make the perfect start to a travel-themed Photo Wall!)
With an abundance of beautiful travel portraits, you may find yourself ditching postcards for good. Happy World Tourism Day!