Sunday, June 19, 2016

How to Take Great Pictures in Tourist-Infested Areas

I'm back from yet another trip, which this time took me to Santorini, Greece (among other places). I'm sure many of you know that Santorini is a very popular destination for tourists of all kinds - and particularly popular for weddings, hence there is a photographic element here.

But today I won't be talking about wedding pictures in Santorini. Rather, using Santorini as an example, we will talk about tackling a very annoying issue that I'm sure many of you have faced: How to take inspiring, original pictures in areas full of tourists.

Picture this: You have finally arrived at your dream destination (having spent a substantial amount of money to get there). You're eager to go out there and take photos of the wonderful landscape (or monuments). Only, as you discover, there are tourists everywhere! It's one of those "expectations vs reality" things. It all looks so great on the Internet or books, how on earth do those photographers manage it?

Today I'll share with you some of my secrets - based on my experience both as a photographer and as a world traveler - that can allow you to take great pics in such locations. As they say, a photo is worth a thousand words, so I'll try to show you how to take pictures like this:

Everybody... everybody... everybody wants to be a cat!

instead of this:

Great, another bunch of asses.

Tip 1: Pick your Location
At first, this might sound peculiar. I mean, if you want to be in Santorini, if you want to take those lovely sunset pictures you've seen online and on ads, you should be in those tourist-infested places (like Oia), squeezed together with untold others, right?
You see, when visiting a place, you really need to get out of the mindset that you have to be at a particular location in order to get "that" shot. In Santorini's case, sunsets are connected with Oia (for those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's a little village on the north-west of the island). As a result, every little street (not to mention the cliffs overlooking the sunset) of the village are jam-packed with tourists at least a couple of hours before sunset.
The solution?
Go somewhere else - like Imerovigli, just outside the capital Fira - and enjoy a peaceful and quiet sunset with a glass of wine, and almost no tourists around:

While the rest of the tourists are sweating, getting frustrated, I was enjoying myself somewhere else with the same (or better) view.

Of course, picking a location brings us to...

Tip 2: Take Initiative, Don't Rely on Guided Tours.
If your plan is either to enjoy your vacation or to take great photos, the very first thing you need to do is to get off the beaten track. Research the place you're visiting, find out about opportunities not shown on guides. Original photos come from original plans. If you're moved around like a sheep, taking photos while standing next to hordes of other tourists, you'll get the pics everyone else is taking.

Tip 3: Pick Your Time
Picking your location is crucial, but picking the right time is also crucial. Once again, it has to do with doing things other people don't. If all other tourists visit the village of Oia at sunset, would there be anything interesting to see if you went at noon? Here's the answer:

Lovely houses in Oia - and not ONE tourist around!

Tip 4: Realize There Are more Pictures than just the Stereotypical Ones
When you think of photography in Yosemite, you think of Ansel Adams - and for a good reason. That doesn't mean there aren't countless other great photos waiting to be taken there. The same is the case everywhere. Santorini is known for its white-blue houses, its churches with the blue domes, its seas and rocks. Well, you don't really think these exist only in one small area in Fira, where all the tourists are packed, do you? There are great photos everywhere around you. More still, there are great photos conveying the aesthetics of the place without being stereotypical.

A different angle of the first photo. It screams "Santorini" in every possible way.

Tip 5: Learn to Frame and to Crop
Last but not least, a tip that you should apply to all kinds of photos, but especially when you want to avoid tourists or other unwanted elements in your frame. Learn to frame and to crop. This means, don't be afraid to leave areas out (and include plenty of empty space) if it means it will improve your composition.

Perhaps we could finish this article with a little exercise for you. Examining the next photo, how would you crop it to increase its added value?

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