Pictures On My Wall

The non-expert guide to managing travel photographs

A FRIEND heading out on their travels leaves conflicting emotions among those left behind – keen to follow the traveller’s progress and hear a few anecdotes (just a few mind), they know at some point the wanderer will suggest they sit down to see pictures from the trip.

Once upon a time it was prints or slides -my childhood was dotted with nights when my bedroom and its giant blank wall became the venue for a meander through the holiday or, even worse, childhood slides – but now digital cameras mean travellers are free to snap away without worrying how many shots they have left on a film.

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls – One of a myriad of pictures from a day snapping away in the National Park

Not all of us (guilty as charged) have learned to edit our digital stockpile, meaning any session guiding friends and family through a trip contains the oft-repeated phase “yeah, that’s exactly the same thing, only from a slightly different angle. And so’s that…”

Don’t let any of that put you off snapping away freely. Pictures are a wonderful way of preserving the memories – any long afternoon or evening back home spent flicking through your pictures will instantly return you to those magical moments.

If it is ‘a trip of a lifetime’, you want the pictures and memories to last that long. (You won’t see that trip of a lifetime phrase often on this site – it suggests one trip has used up your allocated allowance of travelling, rather than merely being a link in a chain of adventures).

So snap away, preserve those memories, but just remember, just show off the pick of the bunch – nobody wants to see six different shots of the same mountain or fountain, no matter how creative and arty you have been.

And here’s a few tips to help you along the way…

  • Know your kit – No technical jargon, mainly because it is way over my head. Work out your budget and look around for what is available. You’ll be surprised what you can get your hands on, be it from under £100 to much more expensive. When you’ve got it, take it out and use it before you head off, play around with the settings and learn what it can do – better to find out then than after you’ve missed that great shot in the opening few days.
  • Denali Moose
    The disappearing moose – what somebody else managed to shoot

    ABC (Always Be Charged) – Apologies to the person who came up with the ABC line, but this is one learned the hard way. Make sure that battery is not going to give out on you, especially if you are heading somewhere power may be in short supply. Otherwise you may find yourself walking back to your camp one night in Denali NP, Alaska, when a moose strolls across your path, only for your camera to remain totally lifeless in your hand.

  • Keep the camera handy – “Not going to take my camera out today, don’t think there’s much point.” Don’t you believe it, keep it with you – it is safer than leaving it back in a hostel – and in some place you can pull it out quickly. You never know when that moose may appear or what lies round that corner.
  • Caption – How’s your memory? Good enough to remember the name of that building, that mountain, that beautiful beach you spent the afternoon on or that girl you met in that bar? Until you’ve got home? Weeks, months, even years later? Chances are it isn’t and you’ll spend ages trying to remember what that statue was commemorating or that fascinating fact the local guide told you about that town square. Keep notes and caption your pics, then you don’t just have your pictures to look back on, but also the tales behind them.
  • Ming Tombs Info
    The easy way to remember info – Ming Tombs, near Beijing

    Shoot info – You don’t have to remember everything. If something catches your eye to take a picture, look for a sign or plaque explaining what it’s all about and take a picture of it. You can always delete it when you’ve added the caption.

  • Swap shots – If you are travelling with friends or meet people on the way, swap some of your pictures. After all, they are likely to have more pictures of you than you’ve managed to take (and they are likely to be better than selfies).
  • Facebook – The modern equivalent of  showing off your holiday pics, with the added advantage you can share them while still out of the country. Don’t throw them all up, just drip feed them onto your status to make your friends jealous (nobody wants to see every meal you ate). It also saves on the postcards.
  • Look for something different – Chances are you’ll find yourself at an attraction which has people queuing up to take pictures from the same classic spot (think the Taj Mahal from the end of the reflecting pool). By all means join in – cliched it might be, but that spot is famous for a reason – but look for some fresh detail or angle that people haven’t seen before. It’s a challenge, but good things rarely come easy.

    Great Wall of China
    Don’t ignore classic views – but look for fresh angles
  • Back-up/Upload frequently – If you are travelling, you normally have time to kill, be it on or waiting for a plane, bus or train. Use the time wisely – write blogs, catch up on sleep and upload your pictures. If you’ve got space, you don’t have to wipe them from your memory card, but if you load them onto your laptop, an external hard drive and a picture storage account such as Flickr or Picasa, you’ve got added security (Facebook is also useful for that). Little and often means you don’t spend hours waiting for a load of  pictures to upload via a slow internet connection when you could be out taking more shots of whichever stop you’ve reached.
  • Don’t leave camera unattended – Common sense really, if just for the security. But anyone leaving their camera alone on a night out may be surprised what they find when they next check it.

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