Monthly Travel Photography Tips from Steve Davey

Each month, we'll be publishing a new photography tip from professional photographer & author Steve Davey. 

Steve Davey is the author of Footprint Travel Photography 2e - the second edition of his guide to travelling with a camera. Steve also leads photography tours to some of the most exotic and photogenic parts of the world. More details on

Watch this space - we'll be adding a new tip each month!

Tip 06: Fill the frame with detail for a dramatic or abstract picture

Goldfish for sale in a street market, Hong Kong

To get a more dramatic picture, try filling the frame with detail. Whether you are photographing a stall full of bright red chillies, or in this case a collection of goldfish for sale at a street market in Hong Kong, then try moving in close so that the subject takes up the whole picture. Depending on the subject then this can be used to accentuate patterns and symmetry and also can help to create a picture that is abstract. If you are photographing something straight on, like this shot, then you should be able to keep the whole subject in focus; if you are photographing something at an angle, then place the focus point carefully as you will only be able to keep a part of the image in focus. The rest will be outside of the depth of field and will be blurred.


Tip 05: Fill in shadows by using your flash

Alpaca, Machu Picchu, Peru

You don't need to be photographing a person to use fill-in flash. If you are photographing anything which is backlit, that is lit by light coming from behind, then you can use flash to quite literally fill in the shadows. The technique is relatively simple. Simply switch on your flash, and it should fire automatically. If not then there might be a forced flash setting. To get a better result try reducing the exposure compensation on the flash so that it is less powerful. If you set the flash exposure compensation to -1 stop then the fill light will look more natural.


Tip 04: Crop your picture to preserve bold shapes

Ice floating in a Fjord, Spitsbergen, Svalbard Archipelago

Be careful where you place the edge of the frame, and always make sure to crop on something. It is worth getting into the habit of just glancing around the edge of the frame before you take a picture - especially if you are photographing something relatively static such as a landscape. If there are any bold shapes such as the cloud and the floating ice in this picture, then try to crop the picture so that these shapes are preserved. Not only is this a great rule of thumb to help you decide about your composition, it will make your cropping appear more deliberate!


Tip 03: Direct movement into the frame for more balance

Leather tanneries in Fez, Morocco

Always direct any movement in your picture into the frame, not out of it. This will have the effect of leaving more space in front of the subject, making the picture more balanced. Good composition will generally mean that the subject is biased to one side of the frame: simply get into the habit of doing this away from the direction of movement to create the required space.


Tip 02: Shoot from a higher viewpoint to remove a cluttered skyline

Sculpture outside of the Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain

If you shoot from a higher viewpoint looking down onto your subject, not only will you create a more unique view, but you can cut out a distracting skyline. This can make your picture less cluttered and allow you to concentrate on a simpler composition. This image was taken from a pedestrian walkway on the side of a road-bridge, but even a bench or a low wall can allow you to shoot from above, so always keep an eye out for things to climb on!


Tip 01: Move your subject to the side of the frame to show the background

Pilgrim at the Sonepur Mela elephant festival, India

When you are taking a portrait, don't just dump your subject in the centre of the frame. If you compose with them towards the edge of the picture then you can include a significant background. This can give them a context and helps to say more about them than just what their face looks like! Make sure that you tell the camera to focus on the subject. The best way to do this is to move the focus sensor over their face. If you use a wide aperture (a low number like f5.6) then the background will be pleasingly out of focus so that it isn't distracting.

The second edition of Travel Photography is available from our online shop now.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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