Get Closer: The Importance of Photographing Details

Peter West Carey December 30, 2013 4

Hello everyone! It’s time for another travel photography tip. In the past, I have given you tips for taking photos of waterfalls, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, and while on an African Safari. Can’t make it to one of those once-in-a-lifetime locations? I have a photo tip that will work for you on your next trip, even if it is just around the corner to the city park.

The idea is simple: give me some details. And by “me,” I mean your viewer. It may seem straight forward and obvious, but I see a lot of photos from trips that miss this concept.

For everyone out there who likes to share their travel photos once they return home, take a moment to consider what you, as a viewer, like to see in a photo. Think of spreads in the likes of National Geographic or other high-end travel magazines or websites. Those sources not only show broad images, encompassing many different subjects (think of a postcard shot of any city you may have visited), but they also get in close and show us the details that make up the postcard.

Think of detail photos as supporting actors. Without a supporting cast, no one would win an Oscar. Likewise, if you are telling a story and are only showing your friends, family, and viewers the postcard shots, you’re not giving them the whole story. Let them see what’s up close.

An important question to remember when taking photos is “how will these be shown?” So often, we take photos and only look for the most dazzling image that will stand by itself. When you are trying to tell a story of a place – perhaps through a blog post or on Facebook – the album you create will contain many images that aren’t stars. That’s where detail shots come in.

The best and simplest piece of advice I can give for bringing in detail photos to support your star photos, is to get closer. If you can’t get physically closer, then zoom in. Way in. I know it sounds overly simple, but it is, which is what makes it easy to do. We are often content to take photos from a standing position at a comfortable distance away from a subject. Maybe because we want to fill the frame with as much of that beautiful pottery stand we saw in Marrakech as we can.

But a photo like that won’t interest your viewers (and you yourself when you view the image ten years from now) as much as a close-in shot where you have to stoop forward or maybe crouch down to get close to the pots.

Presenting a mix of detail shots and grand postcard shots will help your viewers gain a better sense of place. Details alone without context of location can’t do it, but neither can postcard shots alone.

By way of example, let me show you some postcard shots accompanied with detail shots. You be the judge and tell me if they help or hinder the storytelling.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Nepal

Post card shot: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Nepal

Post card shot: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Nepal

Playing with focus, Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Nepal

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Nepal

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Nepal

Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Nepal

Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan

Post card shot: Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan.

Post card shot: Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan

Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan

Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan

Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan

Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan

Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan

Kharchu Dratshang Drupcheen, Jakar, Bhutan

Machu Picchu, Peru

Post card shot: Machu Picchu, Peru.

Post card shot: Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Fes, Morocco

Post card shot: Fes, Morocco

Post card shot: Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Fes, Morocco

Jaipur, India

Post card shot: Sunset from Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur, India

Post card shot: Sunset from Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur, India

Jaipur, India

Jaipur, India

Jaipur, India

Jaipur, India

Jaipur, India

Jaipur, India

4 Comments »

  1. Helen Wenley December 31, 2013 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tip Peter. It is is certainly one that I will implement as I take photographs from now on. I have only recently discovered the joy of taking photos and being able to post them on FB and my blog.

  2. Natascia Russo January 10, 2014 at 2:17 am - Reply

    Great shots! It’s good to see a closer look of different cultures and rituals of people in the world. Thanks for sharing this wonderful pictures.

  3. Rani Mishra February 13, 2014 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Very nice collection of Indian market and tourist places from India. very beautiful

  4. Justine May 20, 2014 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Great advice and great images. I love finding quirky, unusual detail shots. I find it helpful to now use my new Canon DSLR camera on portrait settings to get a great close up effect that my little ‘point and shoot’ camera just can’t quite capture.

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