Tourist Photography!

by William Lulow

I have written before about how tourists are different from professional photographers who can visit a location for a week or a month or more just to get a specific image that they are after. Casual tourists don’t have that luxury. They are in and out of a place quickly. So, how can the ordinary tourist come back with some spectacular images? One answer I have come up with is to “look for the light.” Since light is the most important element in almost every image, finding opportunities to capture unusual lighting conditions is the tourist photographer’s main job.

So, what makes unusual lighting conditions? One of the main things is BACKLIGHT. Light from behind a subject creates interesting highlights and make it stand out from the background and give it some importance. On a recent trip to Denver, I found these rushes in a downtown park late in the afternoon. Using my hat as a lens shade, I captured this image:


The sunlight makes the rushes really stand out. When I travel, I am always looking for lighting situations where there is some kind of highlight on my subject. Here’s another example:


In this case, the light illuminated both the water and the shoreline which made both stand out from their respective backgrounds.

Another thing I look for are reflections. Reflections always add an interesting element to almost any composition. Here is an example:


The reflections in this image add more height to the image and create interest. All of the above shots were images that I saw while traveling. I didn’t have a lot of time to sit and wait for optimal lighting conditions. But compelling images can still be made if you know what to look for as you pass by a scene.


This is an image for which I purposely added the reflections by having the parking lot watered down by the hotel staff!

Another element that the tourist photographer can easily capture is a dramatic location. Most of these have been captured already in most parts of the world, but whenever you arrive as a tourist, you are confronted by a new set of lighting and composition elements.

ArubaClouds2(c) This image was crying out to be captured in Black&White. It was shot with a red filter over the lens to highten the contrast between the blue sky and white clouds. The tourist photographer has these tools to work with.

The tools in the tourist photographer’s arsenal are:

  • Unusual lighting situations
  • Filters to increase the contrast between subjects and backgrounds
  • Reflections
  • Backlight situations
  • Unusual camera positions
  • Framing the scene with a foreground

Utilize these tools and your images will look more like those of the pros!