travel blog 7: photographing memories

1 Feb
This travel blog series is written by friend and I as a means of sharing our advice and experience from our trip to Europe this summer. Blogs discussing research and planningtravelling with friendsbooking flightsbooking hotels/hostels, and packing lists, and daybag packing have been posted already and future blogs will discuss what to do before you leave, London, Paris, Nice (and surrounding area), and more! We hope you find this series interesting and useful. Comments are welcome and appreciated (especially given today’s subject matter)!
I love going through our trip photos and laughing at all of the memories captured in the photos (as well as the hundreds of bad photos that were taken). For our entire 3 week trip, we took 1450 photos which isn’t actually that much once you go through them all and only take out the good ones. I have a folder for all of the photos as well as a folder with the “showcase” photos to show off to people when they ask about my trip or to post to Facebook. I did a lot of weeding and would say there are only 400 photos that I think are worthy of other people seeing. The rest of the photos are blurry, unflattering, or poorly positioned and can’t be helped by any photo editing software.I’m not a very good photographer but I tried my best to compose my shots thoughtfully (as requested credit goes to Paul C. for reminding me of this word). I didn’t want to bore my friends and family back home with picture after picture of landmarks and scenery. Boooorrring.

The gear I brought with me:
  • Canon Rebel XS – purchased during Boxing Week two years ago
  • 18-55mm lens
  • Camera case (Lowepro Apex 110AW) – Purchased for $35 I think. It’s a small case and a good size for the DSLR. No room for another lens though.
  • SD card and camera connector
  • Battery charger
  • Gorillapod (borrowed from A’s sister). See post here on my discussion on self-photography products.

My suggestions for what to do before you go:

  • Make sure everything is in working order! If your battery is dying, I would consider buying another one because nothing is worse that having a dead battery halfway through the day.
  • Read some travel photography books. I took one out from the library and flipped through it for some of their suggestions.
  • Read the manual or guide book for your camera. I was able to find a Dummies for Canon Rebel e-book for my specific camera model and it was really helpful. I didn’t know a lot about  my camera and the book really helped. You have to read it with your camera in front of you so you can actually try the things in the book.
  • Take practice photos. I really wish I had done this. I understood the technique and button functions on my camera but it’s different to figure it out in your house as opposed to a busy tourist destination with people everywhere. It sounds kind of lame but if you really want to take good photos from the beginning, go touristing in your city and get a feel for the camera. There is a clear progression in photo quality in my photos over the trip period where my London photos aren’t that great.
  • Make sure your friend (if traveling with one) knows how to use the camera too. Having a travel companion is great because you can take pictures of each other but it doesn’t really work that well if you’re both not familiar with the camera and settings. I take the blame for the large number of bad photos of me for the first few days of the trip. I forgot to place emphasis on the fact that the camera is on manual focus so the “red dot needs to be on my face and not the person behind me”, haha. Lesson learned!

Photography on the go:

  • Dress decently. Yes, we were on vacation (and are slightly vain) but it was worth putting in the effort to dress nicely for all our photo-ops. Especially for the big shots like those in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Seriously. Black tights with this outfit…I am too embarrassed to show off this pic even though I’m at Platform 9 3/4!!

  • Beware of wardrobe malfunctions. A gust of wind might puff up your blouse and make you look pregnant. Also, beware of that money belt! There are a ton of pictures of me with the money belt bump visible under my shirt.
  • Most of the time I kept my camera in my day bag but if we were walking around in a big touristy area I would hang the camera strap across my body and hold onto it while walking. This kept it more secure from thieves and was easy to access for quick shots.

My personal photo tips:

  • I really like close up photos with the blurry background. I forgot the technical term for this. Depth of focus? Anyways, it’s nice for portrait shots when you have a landmark in the background. When taking these photos, try to time it so no one is in the background during the shot. It sounds like a no-brainer but it’s easy to forget and easy to ruin a photo this way.


not good

not good

better - we waited like a minute for the people behind me to walk by and this makes for a much nicer photo

  • Know that you can usually fix your photos with photo editing software especially when it comes to white balance, contrast, shadows, and over/under exposure. You can’t fix blurriness or out of focus faces so concentrate on focusing on your subjects.
  • Take photos from an interesting angle. I have several shots that I really like because of the angle I took it at. We were in the Queen’s House in Greenwich and there was a big tulip staircase. I looked up from the bottom and thought it would make a really cool photo. Snapped it and it’s one of my fave shots.
  • Have a signature pose (if you want). My friend’s signature pose was jumping. I got pretty good at taking jumping pics. Someone on Facebook had a really cool pose where he did headstands in front of scenic views and landmarks. We’re not talented enough to do that, haha. And by signature pose, I do not mean doing the peace sign.

Keeping your photos safe:

  • I read horror stories of people losing all of their photos when their camera was stolen or damaged. I’m not sure why I didn’t have a plan before going on the trip but I recommend that you do. I brought along my iPad and purchased an Apple camera connection kit at the airport when we were leaving London. You can buy these online for cheaper like this link here or go the Apple route. This was really useful for copying photos from the Camera to my iPad and then to Dropbox. Dropbox uploading took a long time though so I would have to leave it going on for a few hours at night. By the end of the trip, I just copied the photos to the iPad and left it there. I had a copy on my camera card and the iPad just in case. If both went missing then it wouldn’t be good…

Editing your photos:

  • For those who’ve read my iPad app blog, I raved about Snapseed which I love for photo editing. It is so easy to use and the photos turn out great. You might be able to find this for free by checking AppShopper (I blogged about this too) every few days. They also came out with a Mac app which I purchased for $19.99. It has the same functionality of the iPad app but the photo quality is the same. I found with the iPad app, the photo quality was compressed to fit on to the iPad.


One Response to “travel blog 7: photographing memories”

  1. kiran February 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I very much enjoyed this one. Good suggestions.

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