Using a slow-shutter speed can create drama (Steve Watkins)
List Words : Steve Watkins | 27 July

5 essential tips for better travel photos

Travel photographer and author of the bestselling BBC book 'Unforgettable Things To Do Before You Die' Steve Watkins reveals how to improve your photographs on your next trip

1. Get closer than anyone else

If you want the viewer to feel like they were really there, then get as close as you possibly can to the action! Don’t be put off if there are no other travellers getting in as close as you – this type of photography does require pushing beyond your comfort zone.

Fit a wide-angle lens (one in the 16-24mm range is a good choice) and set a reasonably fast shutter speed.

2. Enlist a model

When trying to capture action, elements of the scene are often out of your control. If possible, recruit travel companions or a guide as a model, so you can set the scene up exactly as you envision it.

Make sure you give clear instructions to the model as to where you want them to be and what they need to do. And be prepared to reward them afterwards for their efforts!

3. Pan the camera

Add a creative edge to action images by selecting a slow shutter speed and then ‘panning’ the camera to follow the subject as it goes past you. The correct shutter speed will depend on how quickly the subject is moving.

Set up the camera beforehand and pre-focus on a point at a similar distance to where you expect the subject to be when you take the shot. Then switch the autofocus off, if you can. Start to track the subject before it gets to you and then swivel smoothly at the hips as it passes, trying to keep the subject in the same part of the viewfinder throughout the movement.

4. Lengthen your exposures

Longer exposures can add mood and a dynamic feel to an image by blurring motion. Experiment with different shutter speeds: it’s not always desirable to lose all the detail by having too long an exposure.

The final effect is also, of course, determined by how fast the subject is moving; you will need a longer exposure to blur a meandering river than a plunging waterfall, for instance.

5. Be patient

The saying ‘good things come to those who wait’ is a central tenet of travel photography. If you find a scene with potential then allow plenty of time for the action to unfold. This is especially true with wildlife.

Steve Watkins is a travel photographer and author of the bestselling BBC book Unforgettable Things To Do Before You Die. He runs regular London photography workshops for all skill levels with the Travellers' Tales agency – see

These top five tips have been taken from the current issue of Take Better Travel Photos. Order your copy online or pick up a copy in WH Smiths now.

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