10 Travel Fashion Photography Tips That I Learned From Spending A Month In Europe
Who’s planning a vacation in the next 3 months? Who’s planning a weekend getaway in the next month? I hope you’ve answered “Me!” or “Yes, I am!” because you deserve it. Who’s planning on capitalizing on that time spent away to get some really great travel or outfit shots? Assuming you’re part of my targeted audience for this blog I’m going to guess your answer is also “Me!” or “Yes, I am!”. This is all great news because I think I can help you.
Julia and I are always on the go and we love to capture these moments while we are traveling. We love to travel because we can tell stories through our pictures and Julia’s writing. While the beauty of these places we’ve visited is undeniable it’s not the easiest to capture. I’ve included some great tips based on the learning experiences that we’ve had traveling. Most of the advice is about how to put yourself in the best situation to succeed at taking beautiful pictures. I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips and apps that you use to help you take great pictures when you travel.
Life is full of unknown variables. If there is one piece of advice that I think everyone should take is to over-plan your day. You always have the option to skip some of your plans. But when you only plan one thing and for some reason that doesn’t work out you might be screwed. We’ve found it’s helpful to have a backup plan in case things go wrong. An example was in Zurich, we found out that every single store in the city is closed on Sundays so we reformulated our day to explore parts of the city that had restaurants open and other activities to do. Another part of over-planning is knowing what the weather is going to do and to have a plan in case it rains or snows or if it is excruciatingly hot or cold. You should also keep track of when the lighting will be best. It was harder to take pictures during the end of our trip when daylight savings came into effect and sunset was around 4:30pm.
2. Create Pinterest Boards
Before going on your trip I recommend that you find some inspiration to help you figure out what you want to see and do while you are traveling. I created private Pinterest boards for each of the cities that we visited. I just made my London board from our Europe Trip available for you to view. I spent about 30-90 minutes searching Pinterest and travel websites to Pin pictures for each city we visited. When pinning each image I’d also recommend that you put your own custom notes such as the location or details on why you pinned that picture. This helps inform you when you are planning out all of your days. Checkout my London board which includes all of our pictures from our London trip.
3. Save locations on Google Maps
In a past lifetime I was definitely an explorer. I’m obsessed with Google Maps. That period of time when Apple launched their own Maps and Google Maps wasn’t released until months later was a hellacious period for me. I’m surprised the nickname TomTom has never stuck for me. OK you get the point. When researching where to go when visiting a new city make sure to save these locations as you go. Make a point to save some restaurants as well (I’d recommend both lunch and dinner spots). On the mobile app, Google Maps has a more recent feature in which you can search nearby. This takes popular places and factors in your saved locations to find you places close to you that it thinks you will like. I started using this feature later in our trip and I’m regretting I didn’t utilize it earlier. We directly found a couple restaurants and cafes through the app and indirectly found some more after it helped us recognize streets where there were heavy concentrations of places it thought we would be interested in.
4. Create Custom Maps on Google Maps
Want to pack the most into your trip? After you have figured out everything you want to see on your trip, I recommend you create your own Custom Maps using mapsengine.google.com. Checkout the map that I created for this day in London (Map and GMG Blogpost).
5. Save Maps for Offline
If you are going international and don’t have a data plan or don’t want to consume the little data that you do have make sure to use a cool feature on Google Maps called Save for Offline. All you have to do is put in the address or area you know you’re going to be in, then scroll down to the bottom to find Save for Offline. The Map will save while GPS (which is separate from your data plan) will track your current whereabouts. Even with our new T-Mobile International Plan this was still helpful in cities with really slow 3G or E network speeds.
6. Take advantage of the light when you can
Weather is a huge factor in photography. Sometimes it feels like the weather gods are against you. When you are ready to shoot, the weather takes a turn for the worse and when you just arrive in a city, feeling a little gross and tired, somehow the weather never gets better than that moment. It’s amazing how this happens and it plagued us almost our entire trip. So my recommendation is to try and squeeze in those moments where the weather and the light are fantastic because that might be your only opportunity, especially for short trips.
7. Shoot early in the mornings
This tip is really helpful for shooting in generally crowded areas, when you are pressed for time later in the day and where the sunrise works better than the sunset because of the direction you are facing.
8. Just take the picture
When we first arrived in Europe I had 3 empty memory cards and I was willing to use them. Not only was I taking pictures of outfits but I was taking pictures of every interesting building, sign or anything else that caught my eye. This made it very easy for Julia to incorporate more into each blogpost to help her tell her story. As our trip carried on free space on our memory cards was harder to find and weeks of traveling had raised my standards for what I was willing to take a picture of. Looking back I wish I would have continued taking all of those pictures because if I were to reflect on our trip solely through the pictures we had, it would feel like our days were longer earlier in the trip. I know that it just feels that way because I didn’t take as many pictures but if 1 for every 50 I take turns out good then that’s still worth the effort. I’d advise you to bring your computer or a bunch of memory cards and make sure to capture as many moments as possible. Weeks or months later when you are looking through your pictures you’ll thank me. Here’s a picture that I took during the end of our trip that was one where I told myself, “Just take the picture”. The area was super crowded and we were trying to walk to find a place to take outfit shots so I tried my best to get a picture of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin with as few people as possible.
9. Be specific when asking the concierge for help
I’m not going to lie, we stayed in some amazing hotels on our trip. The typical clientele of these hotels are people with a lot of money that often lack creativity when they are traveling. Frankly, I’d get bored spending my travel time going to fancy restaurants, museums and shopping. Yet this is what they do and concierges at fancy hotels around the world have been trained to recommend these types of places. If that’s what you are looking for then great but if you have something specific you are looking for make sure to ask for it. “We are looking for somewhere we could go for drinks” will often yield inferior suggestions to “We are looking for a cute restaurant or cafe in the neighborhood that might have a view where we could get a glass of wine and maybe grab a small bite to eat”. I’d even suggest rehearsing or writing down exactly what you are going to say to them before walking up. We’ve received way too many recommendations that were made in good spirit but they just didn’t match what we actually wanted.
10. Ask the right person to take a picture of you and be bossy
Everyone has been in this situation, you are in a really cool spot and you want someone to take your picture because a selfie is just not going to cut it. You spend your time nervously searching the crowd for the right person to ask, if you are with a friend or significant other you whisper or murmur to each other: “what about this guy? or “this lady right here?”. You finally find someone that looks nice and it turns out they have no idea what they are doing, most often (if they even know how to use a phone camera) they think what’s behind you is the most important thing so you are often way to the side of the picture. After trying 2-4 times you give up on this person, say thanks and then dismiss them. Depending on your frustration level and your desire to get the picture you’ll give up completely or start this search all over again. Here are a couple of tips that I have found helpful to get the shot you want: 1. Find a couple that you can tell wants to have their picture taken too. It’s an added bonus if one of those people carries a DSLR. Offer to take their picture if they will take your picture in return. I’ve found that these people are super patient if you are looking for someone to take 5 or more pictures. 2. Make sure to profile-While older men and women are generally very kind they are the least technology savvy and I’d venture to guess they aren’t on Instagram. I’ve found that their first picture is terrible and their second picture doesn’t improve after giving them additional instruction. This lack of improvement and the fact that you picked them for their sweetness means that you cut the ties right there. If you can’t find a couple that’s looking to have their picture taken too then go with Teenagers and Twenty Somethings that look like they know what they are doing. They might be impatient and in a hurry but if they can get off 3-5 shots you probably have decent odds one of those photos will work. 3. Be bossy-It might feel unnatural to be bossy when you are asking for a favor from a stranger but I believe the end justifies the means. Isn’t it better for the person to know that you love the picture they took for you? I think it’s a bigger waste of their time if you stop someone ask them to take a couple of pictures and then never post those pictures because you don’t like them. Before the very first picture tell them in normal terms how want the picture to look. With each picture they take give them little things they can improve such as, ‘Tap on our face first”, “Could you back up one step?”, “Could you get more of us and less of the background?. Good communication is key.
This picture below was taken by a couple that we met on our train trip to Füssen. We ran into them on this bridge and guess what? They had a DSLR. We offered to take each others pictures and even though we were all shaking from our fear of heights (and the scary-ass wobbly planks on the bridge) we got a great picture because we asked them to take about 10 of us.
Bonus Tip- Have Fun, Take a Break You’re On Vacation
If for some reason you find yourself frustrated or stressed that things just don’t feel like they are going your way my advice is to take a step back. I think frustration sets in sometimes when we travel because we often don’t have the luxury of continuously returning to our hotel room to figure out what to do next or to change something with an outfit, such as not wearing warm enough clothes. We think that once we leave the hotel our day should be packed with exciting activities, spanning from breakfast until past dinnertime, but they often don’t go as planned. The best way I’ve found to take a step back is to go find a seat, grab a drink (I like tea or alcohol since caffeine adds to my stress level) or a bite to eat. Anything that will give you the time to reflect on the fact that you are on a trip and at worst you walked around in a foreign land for an entire day. Even if you don’t have the pictures to show for it, that’s not a reason for having a bad time. After you’ve taken your break reevaluate how you want the rest of the day to work, make a plan and then execute. One last piece of advice, when reforming your plan add an extra 1 or 2 things that might be in the same area, this will give you something else to do and it will better justify the transportation expense.