Chris Burkard is an award-winning travel and nature photographer, who has amassed over 1.8 million followers on Instagram thanks to his stunning shots of exotic locales around the world. He’s been more or less on the road for 11 years now, after embracing “an urge to create, tell stories, and be in the wild.”
But taking the perfect vacation snap isn’t as easy as travelling to a beautiful spot and pointing and shooting. “It was difficult at first, as is anything that you’re getting into for the first time. I was diligent, I worked crazy hard, long hours, lots of driving, and before long the hard work paid off!” he told INSIDER.
Here are Burkard’s pro-tips on taking the perfect pics while travelling, and growing your Instagram audience while you’re at it.
1. Hold your phone steady
“If you don’t have a tri-pod handy, lean against something sturdy such as a tree so your photo comes out clear.”
2. Consider lighting
“Lighting is key: The right lighting can make a bland subject come alive. The early morning or late evening are best, as things silhouette.”
3. Add a human
“Including a person in the foreground of your landscape shots is a great way to add perspective and a sense of grandeur to the surroundings.”
4. Embrace the mundane
“Even the most mundane travel moments can sometimes make for the best photos.”
5. Find something unique
“When shooting a space — whether it be a restaurant or mountain range — look for what makes a place special, and focus on that. For example, those cute lanterns on a patio could make for a great pic.”
6. Find a style for your Instagrams, and own it
“It’s important to find a style to own and perfect so that your followers know what to expect. I think it’s important to realise that social media is a place to have your own voice. Don’t just use other people’s quotes, write your own. Often people try to describe what people can already see in the image — I prefer to describe the feeling and sensation of being there. I want them to know what it felt like, and smelled like.”
7. Don’t hold onto snaps, post them in real-time
“When I’m on trips I like to post photos in real-time, no matter where I am. Everyone has a smartphone on them today, so as long as you’re in a beautiful or unique setting and have a strong cell signal — like you can with U.S. Cellular’s national coverage — you should be able to capture the moment anywhere.”
8. Look for contrasts
“I really try to focus on contrast and good, unique lighting. That doesn’t always mean bluebird skies, but often storms and turbulent weather.”
9. Think quality, not quantity
“A compelling Instagram shot should be a representation of your best work; there is such an abundance of media in the world that focusing on quality rather than quantity is how you will make your work stand out. Taking your unique perspective, diverse sets of experiences and places, and being able to express them in a beautiful way is what it’s all about.”
10. Look for moments and tell a story.
“If the moment means something to me, then it’s usually going to be a great image. […] Travel photography consists of imagery that showcases the beauty of earth’s landscapes, but also expresses the context in which the photograph was shot. It has always been my goal to share photographs that express a story or a deeper meaning. A compelling photograph should challenge people to jump outside of their comfort zone and be motivated to explore the roads less travelled.”
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