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A Travel Photographer Shares His Tips For Getting The Best Vacation Shots
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you want to make sure that it’s saying the right thing. This is especially true on vacation when you might only have one shot to capture that perfect pic which elicits multiple fire emojis on the ‘gram.
After all, you don’t want to travel thousands of miles only to return unsatisfied with the fruits of your photography labor.
To assist our readers in their quest to document their trips, Travel Noire enlisted the help of travel photographer Shamar Marcus. Marcus’s road to photography started with a drone from his aunt as a gift for helping out one summer. His first love was aviation, and he had his sights set on becoming a pilot. But the drone unlocked a new creative path.
“Any chance I got, I was just flying the drone and shooting pictures, and eventually I was like, I could monetize this and make it into a business,” shared Marcus from his home in St. Lucia. “A few months down the line that’s when I started actually taking it seriously because it was like a hobby. Then, that hobby turned into a job. A part-time job that became a full time job.”
Eight years later, that one-time hobby has now taken him to 30 countries shooting for multiple travelers and brands. He’s opening up the vault to share some tips and tricks for novice photographers who want to create some photo magic while on vacay.
Right off the bat, Marcus makes it very clear that you don’t need a ton of expensive gear to get some quality shots. A smartphone is more than enough.
“Using the smartphone is downplayed, but honestly with smartphones nowadays the cameras are so amazing. There are times I would literally prefer to use my phone than use my camera. For example, on iPhone, the portrait mode is so amazing, and you can shoot some really amazing shots with it.”
Before taking your photos, it’s helpful to plan the composition. Marcus advises visualizing concepts and deciding on elements like symmetry and alignment for positioning your shot. Not everyone has a naturally creative eye though. A quick perusal through Instagram hashtags for photo inspo can remedy that.
“Look into a hashtag like Havana, Cuba, and then you can find inspiration. You don’t have to copy the exact same thing they do, but it’s a good place to get inspiration. And it’s a good place to kind of get a mood board or a storyboard. You can even get your shot locations and shot lists from just watching what others have done, and you can get an idea of what to expect when you get there. It’s less work when you actually get there.”
Some good natural light will never lead you astray on your journey to Insta-worthy greatness. But you have to know how to use it to your advantage. Well-exposed photos begin with the sun at the photographer’s back.
“You want the light to be on your subject. You’d have to move around to try and adjust yourself best to see how it looks, but that’s the way you want it to be. Sometimes you can have it the opposite way. Those do make nice pictures. If the light is behind the person, they get that kind of orangey glow behind them, which can be really beautiful as well. But then you have to lift your shadows and your blacks a bit.”
Every country has at least one high profile attraction that everyone wants to be seen at. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to get an uncrowded pic. Marcus has a couple of workarounds.
“Find out what’s the best time to go to that spot. What is the least busy time? Sometimes if it’s waking up at 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM to get that shot, do it. My friend would just Photoshop everybody out. There could be 1,000,001 persons in the background, and she would literally just edit everyone out. If you’re advanced, you can go that route.”
He also recommends waiting until others are done in your desired spot if you have the time to wait.
As a solo traveler, sometimes a selfie just doesn’t cut it. And carrying a tripod might be cumbersome or inconvenient to set up at certain spots. Don’t be afraid to ask a fellow traveler for assistance and reciprocate the favor.
“If I want to take a picture I’ll do all the settings, and then I just say, all you have to do is click this button, and you’re a pro. That’s it. And then sometimes a good thing to do is get pictures of both of us. So it’s a mutual benefit. They would take a picture, and you would take a picture. So everyone has their best interests at heart.”
Of course, capturing the perfect photo is only half the battle. A good edit can really take your photography to the next level. But if you’re new to photo editing, making these adjustments might be a bit intimidating. That’s where presets come in. Applying these premade settings is a quick way to get a great edit. But Marcus wants users to be mindful of a couple of factors. The first being location.
“If there’s a local preset creator in The Bahamas with a sunny, turquoise, blue water kind of vibe and I go somewhere that’s maybe a forest or desert, that’s two different settings in different seasons. So what works in one place would not necessarily work for the other place. You really have to make sure the presets that you’re using are in a similar environment to where you will be shooting.”
Marcus’s presets are set in multiple locations like the Bahamas, Cuba, Europe, North America, St. Lucia, and South Africa.
Getting a preset to accurately reflect darker skin tones can also be tricky. Marcus suggests purchasing presets from Black sellers who are more likely to have mastered editing photos without producing overly orange and red skin tones.
Follow Shamar Marcus on Instagram for some photo inspiration around the globe and see more of his work here.
Related: Black Travel Photographers You Need To Know & Follow