Since moving from America to Vietnam over a decade ago, Justin Mott has established himself as one of the most respected photographers in South-East Asia. He has shot for titles such as The New York Times, TIME, Forbes and The Guardian, to name a few. He can also be seen on a small screen near you, as he has reprised his role as the host and resident judge of the hit photography reality series Photo Face-Off. Season 4 just premiered at the end of August; you can catch it every Thursday at 9pm (Singapore time) on the History Channel.
Here, he shares six easy tips to help you take better photos when you head out on your next adventure.
#1 Get up early
The pros tend to wake up early, shoot at sunrise, nap in the afternoon when the light is too harsh, and shoot again at sunset. Even if you’re on vacation, take at least one morning to get out of bed early and go shoot. You’ll be rewarded with magical morning light.
#2 Take the right camera
I have so many cameras, and they’re all for different purposes. For personal travel photography, I prefer to go light, using only one camera body and one lens – usually something equivalent to a 35mm, so that I can shoot both backdrops and portraits. The lighter your gear, the more you can bend, twist, climb and squat to take that perfect shot. Find a camera within your budget that works for you.
#3 Use a friend
Practice your portrait photography on the people you are travelling with. Work on your composition, poses, and exposure settings. This will give you the confidence to photograph strangers, while getting your friends some awesome pictures.
#4 Skip the tourist spots
Sure, go see the major attractions, but don’t make those your main stops. At tourist sites, the locals can get pretty annoyed with people taking their picture – some will want money, while others will shoo you away. For instance, if you’re looking to photograph a market, go to one that’s for the locals, not for the tourists; that way, people won’t be so annoyed with your camera.
#5 Find a local photo club
A great alternative to a normal tour guide is to log on to a local photography forum and try to find someone willing to shoot with you. Better yet, find a photo club and ask to tag along on one of their outings. I fell in love with Hanoi because I joined a fantastic local photo club and they showed me so many beautiful locations that would have taken me years to discover. I don’t normally recommend travelling in packs as you lose a lot of opportunities for candid shots, but you can always go as a group first and then revisit some places alone.
#6 Wander into villages
My best pictures have come from when I wander into a small village and just explore. Talk to people; if you don’t speak the language, then use body language. See if they’re willing to let you take photos of their home and their daily lives.
You can get even more tips and tricks from Justin by visiting his website.