The essence of a travel photographer's job is to capture life as it happens. More times than not, as life tends to happen in front of our eyes, we are too worried about getting the perfect shot. By the time the shot presents itself and we recognize it and press the shutter button, it has passed away forever.
So the question is: How can you capture what you want before it's gone?
Answer: Burst mode!
Shooting more of less yields better results
When you want to capture your subject as he goes about his day, there's a way to get the best shot possible: Shoot a bunch of shots so that you will have more photos to choose from.
Check your camera: Most DSLR cameras have a setting for continuous shooting. This setting is often called “burst mode.” Sports photographers use it all the time; that's how they get the perfect shot of an athlete in action. When you learn to use it, you'll increase your chances of capturing the best image possible, eliminating blinks, the stray person or car entering into your picture, and other fails. You will be pleased to discover that your travel photography has immediately improved.
Another feature to use with Burst Mode
Another feature available with most DSLR cameras is “Object Tracking”. Object Tracking allows your subject to move through the frame but still be in focus. When this option is in use and you focus on your subject, the camera will continue to follow it through the frame and keep it in focus. I shoot with a Sony a77; its SLT technology allows for continuous focusing, but most DSLRs can focus rather quickly.
Learn proper panning techniques and you will capture many more images of your subject in focus. The combination of shooting a ton of shots of your subject, while tracking it across the frame, will give you fabulous results that will show in your final result.
The “con” of burst mode: Extra work in post-production
Okay, with every good idea there is a con to it, and in this case it is in post-production. With burst mode, you've captured a lot more photos of each subject, which means that now you have managed to capture 800 images instead of 50. (Okay, I am over-exaggerating, but you get the point.)
Here is what I recommend to solve the problem: Sometime during your day, you will sit down to a meal. After shooting the heck out of your delicious-looking food, eat a few bites, then review your shots from the day and delete the ones that are obviously nasty. This will not only allow you to weed out the worst ones right away, it will also create more room on your memory card. It will also mean you'll only need to go through good ones later on, when you take a closer look in Lightroom or whatever post-production software you use.
The second “con”: write speed
This is very important and cannot be overlooked. When shooting in burst mode, the camera can only capture a certain amount of data before it needs to write the images to the memory card. That means that you will only be able to take a limited amount of shots at a time.
There's nothing like being all prepared, you start shooting … but – whoops – you had started too early and now the camera is writing to memory. Just as the camera is ready again, the shot is gone and the frustration begins. Don’t put that on your camera, put it on the lack of practice.
So now what?
So what is your first step? Get out there and shoot! Practice shooting in burst mode to become familiar with your camera's write speed.
As usual, set your ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Then shoot your subject as the action is happening. Start with a moving car or children at play in a nearby park. Practice panning and pay special attention to your camera's burst mode/write timing. Before you know it, both will become second nature. After you are comfortable with your new-found skills, take them on the road to a small town in Europe or a quaint village in the Ecuadorian Andes.
I once read, in an article about taking photos at night, that you should know your camera in the dark. I think that is so important to travel photographers: Know your camera. Once using its features become routine, you won’t miss those shots you dream about taking.
What other photo tips would you like me to cover? Please share them below.