How To Be Happy With Your Travel Photography

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our guest post series on photography. Learn more here

By Ian Wong | Digital Darkroom

Photography helps us remember. It’s a selective form of reminiscing.

Someone once told me that the most boring thing in the world is looking at someone else’s travel photos. Everyone has memories of being trapped at a dinner table with your least favourite aunt, being forced to scroll through their photo albums or iPhone, seeing the most poorly composed holiday photos imaginable.

So why is that that images which might mean so much to your aunt mean so little to you? And in this age of social media when you take photographs and put them online—who are you shooting for?

Over the past three weeks, we went to a Russian wedding, to France to try some wine, and to Switzerland for just a travel. We didn’t shoot much—Anne shot some stuff for our wine company, I was driving around, posted a few pictures on Instagram, shot a few rolls of film, but I didn’t get that many fantastic shots I was very happy with. At the end of our trip, I look back and, you know what, I kind of think that’s all right.

Sometimes in an image, everything is perfect—the composition is right, the lighting is good. But there’s no spark.

Sometimes in an image, everything is perfect—the composition is right, the lighting is good. But there’s no spark. There’s no love. So how do you fix that? Especially in this age of social media. We think about the audience. Right now when I shoot, I shoot some photos for Facebook, for friends. I used to shoot more serious photos for Flickr (but that’s long been neglected) and then ever since working at Digital Rev, I started posting more on Instagram.

Having an audience on Instagram can be pretty awesome because, as a creative person, half of you wants to keep your work personally to yourself so no one ever criticizes it; but you also want to share it. Art is never developed in isolation, so it’s great when you can post it. You can get feedback. You can learn from others and that’s the great thing about posting and having an audience that is public.

Before we shared everything to the public—like, back in like early 2000s—we used to use MySpace or Xanga. We’d post like tons of pictures in blog form on Tumblr, just for friends. And I kept that all throughout like these last ten years. I really actually loved taking pictures of funny moments just for the small audience. When my friends look at my Instagram, it’s usually more boring but then, that kind of satisfies one outlet for me. The private stuff, the weird stuff, that’s for another audience. So when you separate those shots into different categories, you can go, oh I didn’t get the perfect, beautiful landscape, but hey, I found a funny moment with friends, so I’ll just chuck it “over here”.

Being happy with yourself does help with being happy with your photography because if you’re always stressing yourself out—of course, we still need to improve—you will end up being nowhere. Knowing your audience, separating those two, really helps with that.

For each of these different audiences, you can have your own projects and when you’re traveling, it’s great to define and divide your time into these different projects. It allows you to keep experimenting. Everyone has their own style, which is great—you should always develop some things that you like seeing and something you like shooting. And when experimenting, you can use these different audiences to explore different sides of things. So for example, street photography, or candid photography and funny moments, those can be for friends. And then you have landscapes and the serious stuff—that’s for the public, for Instagram.

Beijing, 2011
Mamiya 6, Kodak Portra 400 VC
Kyoto, 2013
Mamiya 6, Kodak Tri-X 400
Interlaken, 2017
Mamiya 6, Kodak Ektar 100

When we were traveling this time, we had some stuff which was just work video, but we always squeezed in time for own personal photography. Anne’s always shooting. I’m always shooting. I’ve also been exploring a lot of drone photography, which is super fun for me—it’s completely new most the time. I sometimes forget to even take photos. Just flying around, exploring these amazing places with a completely different point of view, it’s just really good fun. It helps you get stay creative.

Something that keeps coming up over and over again nowadays is the issue of authenticity. What images are real? Which ones are fake? What emotions are being manufactured, and what idea of ourselves do we want to show to the public?

This is always relevant for travel photos where everyone wants to look like they’re having a great time. But it doesn’t make any sense to pretend to yourself that your life or a moment in your life was better than it actually was. There’s no need to put a filter to salvage sunset when it’s actually cloudy. There’s no need to look like you’re having fun, when you actually bored out of your mind.

Photography helps us remember. It’s a selective form of reminiscing. Sometimes the holiday can be so bad or are so good but in five years—which passes by faster you can think—often all those negative memories fade away because they weren’t captured on film.

At the end, all you’re left with are just pictures of you and your best friends.

Interlaken, 2017
Mamiya 6, Kodak Ektar 100
Interlaken, 2017
Mamiya 6, Kodak Ektar 100
Interlaken, 2017
Mamiya 6, Kodak Ektar 100

This blog post is adapted original video.

Travel equipment for hire on Gaifong:
Aerial Photography Drones
Photography Lenses
Camera Bodies

About Digital Darkroom
Digital Darkroom is an ode to film photography. With this project, Anne and I are seeking to go back to the roots of why we were drawn towards this craft in the first place, and what compels us to keep coming back

About Gaifong
Gaifong is an online platform where you can rent photography gear, drones, and other equipment to and from fellow creatives.  Available in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and selected markets. 

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