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Candid Travel Photography

Candid Travel Photography

What is travel photography?

At some point in our lives, we have probably all taken a travel photo. Whether going on holiday and capturing the ambience of a new city, or traveling for work and documenting the journey along the way. Travel photography is all about snapping the mood of a place, its people, and even its culture.

So why would we want to take candid travel photography images? Well, there are a few reasons. If you’re hoping to capture subjects in the moment as they engage in everyday life then bringing a camera into the mix can severely jar the results. Some feel self-conscious when being photographed and may either start posing awkwardly or feel the need to remove themselves from the scenario. Other times, it may just be a case of wanting to capture a fleeting moment before there’s time to raise the camera to the eye to frame the scene carefully. Either way, let’s take a look at how we can take candid travel photography.

How do we take photos candidly?

The key here is to avoid raising suspicion from subjects. Not that we need to be secretive as such, but it’s about finding a way to get decent, reliable results whilst shooting in a comfortable, relaxed posture instead of, say, setting up a tripod or taking photos from all angles to find the best composition.

candid photography

We’re keen to emphasize that at no point should you be illegally photographing subjects. This depends on which territory, region, and indeed which country you’re photographing in. Some places allow photography of any subject from public land, while others are more restrictive. Be aware of the local laws in your chosen area. So when you’ve got the location and legality out of the way, let’s take a look at how to make the magic happen.

Camera shooting techniques

The first big no-no when it comes to shooting candid travel photography is setting up a tripod. This is a surefire way to raise suspicion and is often seen by non-photographers as a ‘professional’ move. That’s because most casual shooters don’t invest, or don’t use, a tripod when taking pictures. 

Raising the camera to the eye to shoot through the viewfinder is slightly more acceptable but may still raise some concern from subjects. This posture is a typical photography stance and it’s quite clear to almost anyone that you’re taking a photograph. While you may need it to compose certain scenes, you should only do this very quickly with camera settings all ready to go before getting the snap.

travel photography

The best techniques rely on the camera positioned lower than the head. For example, holding the camera at chest level or lower down by the hips. The firearm-inspired line ‘shooting from the hip’ visually describes this technique well here. It means the action is less conspicuous but it also means that it’s far less accurate as you can’t necessarily guarantee where you’re aiming (unless you have a lot of practice). But cameras have one advantage over most firearms, and that’s the rear screen.

When shooting candidly a rear tilting or vari-angle flip-out screen is incredibly useful in this scenario because we can shoot from the chest or hip and look down at the screen to ensure good composition. But the camera can also be triggered from a distance using the MIOPS Flex as a remote control camera trigger.

If photographing a moving subject such as a pedestrian, cyclist, or vehicle then practice moving the camera with the speed of the subject. This ensures the subject is likely to remain more in focus than keeping the camera stationary during exposure. That technique can be exploited further with some specific camera settings you can see below.

travel photography techniques

Scenes where there’s a lot of hustle and bustle can be fun to capture in a timelapse. This involves setting up the camera on a tripod or other solid surface and taking multiple images over time to convert into a timelapse video where moving subjects like clouds, traffic, or crowds on the street are sped up, exaggerating movement.

Some cameras have built-in timelapse features and whilst they are improving they can present mixed results. Instead, we recommend using the MIOPS Flex to record timelapses. It has multiple advanced timelapse modes and can even help capture the holy grail of timelapse recording — moving from day to night and vise versa. Capturing timelapses through twilight is difficult because of changing light levels and the need for ramped exposure settings, but the MIOPS Flex can help shoot this with ease.

Camera settings for candid travel photography

Camera settings for candid travel photography

Chances are, you won’t just be shooting candid travel photos during the day but into the night as well. The lower light levels mean a change of camera settings is crucial. Aim to shoot with a narrow aperture wherever possible, such as f/11 or f/16, as this will maximize the depth of field in an image, making it more likely you’ll capture the subject sharply. But when moving into darker conditions it’s necessary to open up the aperture wide.

To compensate for this lack of light it’s important to slow down the shutter speed. Slower shutter speeds introduce movement blur (whether from the subject or the camera) much more easily which can blur the subject. However, using this to our advantage we can pan with a moving subject to keep the subject sharp and in focus with only the background blurring. Use this technique on passing vehicle or cyclists for dynamic effects.

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Of course, capturing detail in all areas of a scene, from bright highlights to dark shadows, can create a more pleasing photograph, but sometimes this is difficult in high contrast scenarios. Perhaps the overhead sun is beating down on buildings casting dark black recessions in stonework? Luckily, the MIOPS Flex has a high dynamic range (HDR) mode and works by taking multiple photos of the same scene using different exposure settings and then composites them together into one HDR photograph, taking only seconds to display a full preview. That means no more guesswork and lengthy post-processing. The best thing is, it can even operate as a remote control, acting as a portable camera trigger to take HDR images when away from the camera.

Blog Credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer, educator and writer. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and works with many high profile international clients. Further information can be found in his website www.jasonpb.com.

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