Indian woman with goats near the Taj Mahal (Shutterstock)
Article Words : Paul Harris | 02 September

How to make your travel photos unique

Paul Harris, pro photographer and judge of Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year, shares his secrets for capturing one-of-a-kind snaps

Most of us have a few 'travel icons' on our wish-list – Taj Mahal, Petra, Machu Picchu, Eiffel Tower – but how can you get a unique photo of these over-snapped spots?

It remains one of the most challenging tasks in travel photography: how to shed new light and give new meaning to a subject that most of us have seen countless times in magazines, brochures or in the flesh.

Professional photographer Paul Harris reveals his tips for creating a unique shot...

Feeling inspired? Don't forget to enter Wanderlust's Travel Photo of the Year competition!

1. Expand your brief

Go beyond recognisable architecture and the physical natural world. Think about the essence of a place and what draws your focus. What scene, event or gesture will instantly communicate where we are? The swirling movement of pilgrims worshipping a deity, or extreme elements at work on the landscape, for example.

2. Harness the power of light

All photographers need to pay attention to light levels, not just those taking photos of landscapes. We have seen the picture postcard, middle-of-the-day shots too many times. Make time at dawn and dusk to add magical light and (it may seem obvious) check which direction the subject faces. Don’t forget that even extreme conditions like thick fog or lightning will often add value to your image.

Statue of woman at the Trocadero looking at the Eiffel Tower (Shutterstock)
Statue of woman at the Trocadero looking at the Eiffel Tower (Shutterstock)

3. Location, location, location

For every famous photographic location, man-made or natural, there are very well known positions from which to document them. Break away from these crowded spots and seek a new viewpoint, a new angle and a new creative interpretation. Engage knowledgeable locals to help in your quest.

4. Take time to research

Give yourself more time to look around your location and consider how you are going to optimise its potential. Is the foreground interesting enough or too messy? Are colours too distracting? Will the image and composition really express how you feel about it? That extra time taken to research and study your icon before you go and during your time on location will pay dividends.

5. Three technical tips:

1. Consider the use of a tripod for greater depth of field, keeping your ISO down and experimenting with slower shutter speeds.

2. Switch to the Manual Exposure, and adjust the white balance and ISO settings on your camera to maximise control.

3. Shoot and view your image in black and white. By removing colour at this stage, an icon can show its ‘true colours’. If shooting in RAW format, colour can always be returned in post processing.

Feeling inspired? Don't forget to enter Wanderlust's Travel Photo of the Year competition!

Main image: Indian woman with goats near the Taj Mahal (Shutterstock)