Getting Started in Travel Photography - Part 2

After almost a month with my Fuji XT30 I’ve learned so much. I’ve found some amazing resources, had some amazing practice opportunities and generated some amazing photos.

This is the second installment in a series on taking better travel photographs from our travel tips blog. If you have not read the first installment, you can check it out here.

First off, let’s set the record on exactly what I purchased and the setup I’m now working with.

Fuji X-T30 Camera Kit | B&H Photography | Travel Photography | Flashpacker Co
Camera: Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera
Lens: XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens
Memory Card: 64GB SanDisk Memory Card
Protection: Ruggard Compact Holster Camera Bag
Accessories: 52mm UV Filter & Cleaning Kit

This setup came highly recommended from a local professional photographer as a perfect fit for my needs because of its compact size, versatility in varying conditions, video capabilities and beginner-friendly setup.

So with that out of the way, here is some initial advice that I followed to start shooting photos like this one in under a week!

Taking Better Travel Photography | Cruise Sunset | Fuji X-T30 | Flashpacker Co

Step 1

Setup your camera. Don’t assume your camera will come out of the box ready to use. If you wait until the last minute before your trip you might not have everything you need. Something may be faulty or missing from the delivery package, or you may need some assistance or time to get things right.

Youtube is your friend. Google something like “Setting up new [Camera Brand and Model].” There are tons of tutorials from professional photographers and they can give some great suggestions on mandatory setup, some best practice settings and their advice on the best way to make sure you’re ready to shoot.

Here is one video I relied on heavily to get my X-T30 initialized.

Step 2

Shoot some pictures in full Auto. Learn how your camera reacts to a couple scenarios on its own. Make sure you know how to see your results. Make sure you can get the photos off your camera and onto your computer/phone wherever you’d like them. Sometimes it’s hard to really see the detail of your shots on the small built-in display. So make sure you can get the photos on and off easily so that when you’re shooting your practice shots later, you can get a good look at how the changes you’re making on the camera are affecting your images.

Step 3

Learn something about how photography and cameras actually work. Do you know what ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed are? I didn’t. Well I sort of knew what shutter speed was, but I’d never even heard of ISO or Aperture. They sound super complicated, but again, Youtube is your friend. Spend an hour or so just learning these 3 basics. Here are a few videos I thought were particularly helpful in developing my understanding of photography basics:

"Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, & Light Explained..." - Tony & Chelsea Northrup
This was a great beginner video for me. This video breaks down each of the main variables in photography explaining their importance to the photography taken and providing examples through a controlled setup. I even tried replicating this setup, largely failing, but learning a ton along the way.

Photography Basics Experiment | Flashpacker Co

Camera Basics - Peter McKinnon

After I had a more fundamental understanding of the basics, this video was a great refresher to review right before heading out. 

Step 4

Shoot on manual mode. If you’re always shooting in Auto you’re going to be limited to what your camera considers to be the best shot. You won’t be able to execute certain effects like intentional streaking or blur, you won’t be able to control the focus range and you won’t be able to produce the exact image you want.

You also don’t need to shoot in full manual all of the time controlling every variable of the camera. I’ve found that executing the shot I really want often only requires that I specify one of the major variables (Shutter, ISO or Aperture). This is called a “priority” mode (for example, “aperture priority”). This allows you to easily achieve the effect you want by defining the key variable and then allowing the camera to automatically adjust the other settings for the best picture. I’ll provide more detail about my settings and how I’m adjusting them to achieve certain effects or shoot in specific environments in a future post.

Step 5

Practice. My first shots in manual mode were not pretty....but I continued to review the videos, take shots and compare, improving each time. I took the camera out to a couple of locations to practice. Here are some of my results.

 Getting Started in Travel Photography1 | Flashpacker Co This is one of the first photos I took outside of my apartment with the new camera. I intentionally made it up and out before the sun to attempt to shoot the sunrise and see how I would do. This picture was on full auto.
Getting Started in Travel Photography2 Wanting to learn and experiment I switched the camera over to full manual mode and took about 10 of these almost completely black photos. I had just randomly selected a shutter speed and aperture to start from those settings were just way too dark in the environment for the ISO to overcome.
Getting Started in Travel Photography3 After spending the better part of 15 minutes just taking 100s of photos and dialing things in through trial and error, I was able to capture this awesome picture of the pond behind where we live! This was on full manual with settings; F: 3.5, Shutter: 1/250 ISO: 200.

This was a great practice session that really helped my understanding of the camera, how to operate it and how to dial in the settings. BUT it took me forever to get the photos I wanted and when traveling you don't want to spend all of your time getting that one picture. I knew I would need more practice....

Improving Your Travel Photography

Now that you know the basics you can keep improving your travel photography with Part 3. In this post I break down the most important variables to taking great pictures and how to control them so you can create incredible shots. Learn  how to manage shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and priority modes to take your travel photography to the next level.

About the Author

Stephen Gary | Flashpacker Co Stephen Gary is the co-founder of Flashpacker Co. He’s been a digital nomad for the past 5 years traveling all across the globe exploring new cities, languages and new passions. Find more from him over on our travel blog.
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