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Travel Adviser

Photography tips for the traveler

By Marnie Hunter
Late afternoon light adds a nice glow to this photo of the Heian Jingu Shrine's gardens in Kyoto, Japan.



(CNN) -- Is that the Eiffel Tower shooting out of your spouse's head? And what was it about that tiny person in the distance that was so interesting to you?

Sometimes the post-vacation rush to get the photos printed or downloaded ends in disappointment. Like most skills, taking good travel photographs takes time and practice.

"If people work slower and concentrate on going out to make a photograph, they will be happier with their images," said photographer Arlene Collins, who teaches at the International Center of Photography and the Parsons School of Design in New York.

Collins, who also leads international travel photography workshops, advises travelers to practice using their equipment before setting out for their destination. "A lot of people take their cameras out at the last moment and they have no idea if everything is working."

Kodak's Web site recommends shooting a 12-exposure roll of film and having it processed before you go. With digital cameras, make sure your files are transfering and printing without problems. Kodak also suggests consulting guide books and making a list of sites you would like to shoot.

In terms of equipment, travel light. Collins suggests taking a camera you're comfortable using, one lens and one flash.

Make sure you take enough memory cards if you're using a digital camera, and something to download the images onto, if you want to free up more space. Set your camera to the desired print size, if that option is available, or consult the user manual to determine the best resolution for your final output.

Lighting conditions

Once you've arrived and identified a subject, "work the scene" by taking multiple shots from different angles and perspectives, Collins advises. Also, consider the light and keep the sun behind you.

Sometimes getting the shot you want is worth returning to the spot when the light is nicer, said Robert Caputo, author of "National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Travel."

"If there's something you really want to get a nice picture of, make time. Say 'OK, today at 8 in the morning or 4 in the afternoon I'm going to go to that place and work it over, try to get a really good picture of it,' " he said.

Early morning and late-afternoon light is not as harsh as it is in the middle of the day. Caputo also urges travelers not to shy away from taking pictures when the weather is not as fine.

"Inclement weather often makes for really good pictures because it's dramatic," he said.

Collins enjoys taking photos at night and urges travelers to experiment in different light situations.

Composing a shot

Moving in close can give a simple subject more impact.

Many images lack interest because the photographer was too far away from the subject.

"People tend to not really think about the relative size of what their main subject is," Caputo said.

"We have this saying in photography, 'get close and then get closer.' "

Collins suggests steering away from a long lens, if you have a choice. A shorter lens requires the photographer to have more interaction with the subject.

Even if you're photographing a person and you don't speak the local language, having some communication often results in a more interesting photo, Collins said.

The "bullseye" effect, or positioning the subject right in the center of the frame, is another common compositional problem, Caputo said.

Apply what's known as the rule of thirds by moving the main subject a third of the way into the frame. "Think of your frame as a grid," Collins said. "Instead of cutting the frame in half, think of cutting the frame in thirds."

"The last rule is going to be to break all the rules," she said.

"The great photographers know the rules, but they also know how and when to break them."

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