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Asia through the Lens

| Words by Zoe Crane | , , , ,

Asia is well known for its stunning landscapes, fascinating culture and friendly, smiling locals, all of which make it perfect for incredible travel photography. The following tips and techniques will help you turn your vacation snaps into works of art.

  1. Engage with people

    Engage with peopleSmiling Local in Pingyao, China

    People are what make your travels memorable. Building a relationship with the people around you not only improves your photography, but your whole experience. Your camera can be a great icebreaker too. Even if you don’t share a language, indicate that you’d like to take a photo and have fun with your subject. Smile, be friendly, ask questions and share you’re images with the subjects. Most people love seeing pictures of themselves, especially children.


      Practice by photographing your friends back home

      Try to get on the same level as your subject, if they are sitting, you sit too.

      Take multiple photos (just in case they blink)

  2. Get Closer

    Get CloserDetail captured in Vietnam

    Getting up close and personal is an excellent technique to enhance your photography, whether it is with a local character or a temple wall. Changing your perspective will not only improve your photography, but you'll feel more involved with theexperience. Always be respectful of people and be aware of your surroundings . If getting closer isn't an option, use your zoom. In the words of Robert Capa, “If your photos aren't good enough, then you're not close enough”


      Look for details and then zoom right in on them.

  3. Focus

    FocusNoticed the blurring of the background behind this local lady in Pingyao, China

    If you are using an SLR camera, use depth of field to blur your background and make your subject stand out more. The wider your aperture is (the lower the f-stop number) the less depth of field there is. This means that at a very wide aperture, the foreground will be in focus and the background will be very blurry, which is very useful if the background is busy and detracting from your subject. Of course, if you want the background in focus as well as the foreground, use a narrow aperture (a high f-stop number).


      Try a few photos at different f-stops to play with depth of field.

      If the background is bright, try using the flash to add detail to your subject.

      An interesting effect can be achieved by focusing on the background instead.

  4. Do your research

    Do your research Angkor Wat Sunrise

    If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Do as much research as you can before you leave home. Find the best places to go and things to see, and have a rough plan of what you want to photograph on your travels. This will help you prepare for your big adventure and give you a betterchance of bringing home beautiful images.


      Find inspiring images from the places you want to visit.

      Keep researching when you arrive by talking to locals.

      Don’t rule out spontaneous adventures when you arrive just because they are not on your plan.

  5. Get a local guide

    Get a local guideA Insider Journeys Guide at Datong

    No one knows the area like a local, so for great tips on the very best angle or location for that winning shot, or information on the history and culture of what you are photographing, you can’t go past a local guide. They’ll probably also be able to tell you when sites are less crowded and perhaps even what time the light is best.


      Let your guide know ahead of time that you are interested in photography.

      Tell your guide if you have any specific shots you want to take.

      Don’t forget to include your guide in some of your photos.

  6. Tell a story

    Tell a storyAn establishing shot of the boats on Halong Bay

    Imagine watching a Hollywood blockbuster in which every shot was taken from the same angle. We all love variety, so think of every image like a visual postcard, each telling a different story, from a different perspective. Grab a magazine for tips on how they lay out a story. They will usually have a mixture of wide shots to establish the scene, medium shots to show a subject and a little context, and close-ups to add a layer of beauty in the details.


      Take an establishing shot of the whole scene.

      Photograph your food and signs.

      Look for shapes in your imagery.

      Zoom in and out, try to get up high, or down low, play with different perspectives and angles.

  7. Keep your camera ready.

    Keep your camera readyCapturing the moment – local ladies in Hoi An

    The best moments are often when you’re camera is buried at the bottom of your bag, so get it out and keep it out. Keep charged batteries and extra memory cards in your day pack, so no moments sneak past you. You’re going on a great journey, document it.

      Buy a comfortable bag for your camera, extra batteries at memory cards.

      Don’t bring too much gear. One prime lens and one zoom lens should suffice.

      Every now and then, put your camera down and just enjoy the experience.

  8. Challenge yourself

    Challenge yourselfA creative capture of the cuisine of Laos

    The best way to get better at anything is to practice, so set yourself a challenge each day and tell someone about it to keep you motivated. It doesn’t matter whether it’s capturing a sunrise at the Taj Mahal, a smile on local fisherman after a big catch or just shooting your lunch. Photography isn’t rocket science. With practice, you can be a great photographer.


      Choose a goal that is achievable, but new.

      Look through your photos at the end of the day to see what you achieved.

      Don’t despair if you didn’t get the exact shot you wanted. Every photo is a learning experience.

      Have fun.

  9. Get up early

    Get up earlySunlight shines across a street scene in Phnom Penh

    Some of the best light for photography is when the sun is low on the horizon, at sunrise and sunset. Sunrise is particularly lovely as towns and villages begin to wake up, and most tourists aren’t up yet, so there are fewer crowds.


      Make sure your camera is set up for the lower light levels at this time of day.

      The light is beautiful not only on landscapes, but on people too at this time of day.

  10. Share the experience

    Share the experienceSmiling Local in Pingyao, China

    One of our most shared images – Local Lady in Phnom Penh