Photography is always a touchy issue when one travels abroad—the perfect medium for taking photos and actually enjoying a vacation is what one should strive for. How can you go about discreetly taking photos, documenting your visit? The better question is: how can you enjoy yourself while shooting? Well, I can recommend a few things:
1. Travel photography is a lot like street photography.
Relax, and let the moment come to you. You have no control over, let alone a good understanding, of your surroundings. This isn’t a studio. Let the local people be. That way you’ll get the most natural expressions. Understand that, while you’re on vacation and having a good time, they’re going about their normal lives and might be working; be considerate. That being said, don’t be afraid to take a photo.
2. A smaller camera is a better camera (especially when you’re abroad!).
This probably isn’t the first time you heard this, but anything as simple as a point and shoot in most cases is fine. While many advocate for the use of a rangefinder in street (and thus travel) photography, the many times I go abroad, I simply take along my Leica X1—a simple and intuitive point and shoot that has been glorified with the Leica name. For those that are less snobby than I am and prefer a cheaper option, the new generation of mirrorless cameras are inching closer and closer to DSLR domain. Optimal image quality is second to you enjoying your trip. When you see something interesting, document it and put your camera away. Nobody wants to have a large black camera pointed at them, especially not by a stranger. If your camera runs out of battery, who cares? Relax. Besides, as you’ve heard too many times by now, the best camera is the one you have with you. Travel light.
3. Understand that your usable yield will be especially (and painfully) low.
Remember, you are travelling first and foremost to rest and enjoy the new environment. Your unfamiliarity with your surroundings and local customs may perturb you initially, but don’t let that get in the way of taking photos. And, if the setting doesn’t cooperate, don’t worry. Just forget about your camera and enjoy the nuances and differences of the new location.
4. Composition is especially key when you’re walking around.
Under the assumption that your megapixel count won’t be above 16, I’d recommend that you pay particular attention to the way you set up your shots. Make use of those megapixels! I’ve never been an advocate of “getting it right in camera,” but cropping isn’t always an option when you’re images don’t have many pixels to begin with. That being said, 10+ megapixels is easily more than enough to make sizable prints with. You won’t lose on image quality. Rather, you’ll simply cut down on post processing time.