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Photography Tips for Tour Operators

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Capturing amazing moments is a growing part of a tour operator’s responsibilities, but without much practice it can be an overwhelming addition to the job. Recognizing great photo opportunities requires a keen eye which isn’t always easy when on tour. We’re here to help you on your photography journey by sharing some fundamental photography tips for tour operators wanting to capture that next great shot. 

Man taking photo of sunset

Always Bring a Camera

Whether you’re sporting the latest professional camera or have a smartphone in your back pocket, it’s good practice to ensure that you’re always equipped with a camera whether you’re out guiding a tour group or you finally have some time off to yourself. Sometimes the greatest photos are the result of an unplanned, spontaneous occurrence and the last thing you want is to be unprepared when the moment strikes. Don’t forget your charger!

Always bring a camera

Use Your Smartphone’s Full Potential

Don’t feel like you’re at a disadvantage if you’re shooting on an iPhone, Android, or other smartphone. It all depends on how you use it. Smartphones are amazing tools equipped with powerful cameras and other cutting-edge technology. Learn about your smartphone by playing around with settings like the AE/AF (auto-exposure/auto-focus) lock. Pair these capabilities with the additional control you get from free photo editing apps like Snapseed (Apple, Google) or Adobe Lightroom or professional-level video recording apps like FiLMiC Pro and you’ve got yourself a production powerhouse to rival even the most experienced travel photographers.

Plan for the Shoot

While we mentioned earlier that spontaneity and luck play a large role in capturing great photos, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan ahead for your shoot. Use your tour itinerary to map out your photo opportunities ahead of time by creating a shot list. Reviewing your route with the sole purpose of identifying and scouting out locations for great photos can make a huge difference.

Wake up early and stay out late

Be Both The Early-Bird and the Night-Owl

Sometimes lighting can make all the difference when it comes to photography. Taking the exact same photo during the day and then again either at sunrise or sunset can produce vastly varying results. Use the soft, peaceful morning light before you start your day or the warm glow of the evening as you wind down to take some photos. You’ll literally see the world in a different light. 

Experiment With Composition and Perspective

If the destinations on your tour are locations frequented by travellers and tourists, you’re going to want to get creative with your photography, or risk taking photos that look similar, if not identical to everyone else’s. That’s not to say that they aren’t good photos, they’re just less likely to stand out on social media. 

Think outside of the box and experiment with the composition or perspective of your photo. Impress your audience with a unique view of an otherwise well-known subject matter. Take a shot from a lower/higher angle. Try capturing a photo with something else in the foreground/background. Maybe test out a completely different vantage point or distance. Don’t be afraid to zoom in or out, but be aware that this can often diminish photo quality on smartphones.

Experiment with composition and perspectives

Learn the “Rule of Thirds”

The rule of thirds is a general guideline for composing photographs that suggests dividing a photo into three equal parts both horizontally and vertically. Some photography apps will help with this by displaying a grid on your screen that consists of two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. The purpose of the rule of thirds is to improve your photo composition by helping you frame your photograph with specific attention to the gridlines and their intersections. Following the rule of thirds helps photographers remember to keep each section of their photo as interesting as possible.  

Practice Framing

We’re not talking about picture frames. Framing in photography is the technique of using elements within your scene to block certain parts of your photo and to create a ‘frame’ around others. Using framing in your photos helps to draw focus to your subject and adds an interesting and unique aspect to your travel photography.

Tell A Story

There’s a story behind almost every photo, the trick is learning how to convey it. As a tour operator, what do you want to tell your audience about your tours? Take a photo of a waterfall, for example. Was it a long arduous trek through water and mud to get there? Were there animals along the way? How’s it feel to be at the base of the waterfall?

Storytelling in photography can be accomplished through a series of photos or even a single, carefully planned photograph. Whether it’s muddy boots in the background as a guest sits next to the waterfall, or a glimpse of the unfortunate sunburn you now have on your face, try including certain details in your photo that will help you convey the story you wish to tell.

Be Patient

In most cases, there’s no rushing good photography. When you have a day to yourself to dedicate to photography, take your time and wait for the perfect moment, the right angle, or for better lighting before snapping a photo. Being patient can be difficult, but the possibility of leaving with a better shot is worth the time and discipline that it takes. 

Learn About Photography and Search for References

Last, but not least, learn as much as you can. There’s so much more to explore with travel photography. Travel books and magazines and social media are fantastic places to search for references and new ideas for your photos. Check out the top posts under #travel and #travelphotography on Instagram for some inspiration.

One of the best ways to learn is to practice. Go out there and experiment, make mistakes, take some great photos, and take some bad ones. It’s all in the process. To ensure that people see your amazing photos, it’s also important to learn how to create share-worthy photos on social media. As you build your portfolio with these photography tips for tour operators, look at these free photo sources for ideas or to help fill in any gaps in your collection. 

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