Hosteling

Personalize Your Travel Photography

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Posted on / by Alex Berger

Even the most experienced travel photographers make a simple mistake. It has nothing to do with the quality of the photos they take, is independent of the quality of their camera, and has little to do with composition. I’m not talking about how to take stunning shots of the local people, natural beauty or architectural flare you encounter.  I’m talking about the photos that will never make it into the photo gallery you share with friends and family at the end of your trip.  I’m talking about photos of near strangers which offer an entirely different opportunity.

Building A Global Community

I’ve got the travel bug.  There’s no denying it.  If I don’t manage a trip every 8 months or so I get antsy. Very antsy. One of my favorite things about traveling is the people I’ve met over the years.  Just today I chatted with a friend from Sweden on Facebook, reflected on time spent in Spain when I saw an update from another friend, and wished yet another friend I made while on the road Happy Birthday.  That’s a pretty incredible opportunity for a guy sitting behind a computer in arid Scottsdale, Arizona.

What I’ve come to realize is that we now have an incredible tool to not only keep in contact, but to help each other record part of our experience. The catch is, we have to remember to snap a few extra photos along the way. Those photos help cement our friendship, build comradery and offer a wonderful way to remember amazing moments that bring memories back to life.

The Power of Facebook

Facebook has been an amazing tool for travelers.  It’s an easy way to connect, share media, and keep in contact.  It’s also a huge tool among hostelers and backpackers.  Even though the majority of its market share is tied to English speaking countries, the site has become the default service social network for travelers.  Spend more than a week hosteling and you’re almost guaranteed to end up with a Facebook profile.  Love it or hate it, there’s no question that Facebook offers a much better tool for keeping in contact than e-mail.  It also provides a fantastic tool for sharing photos. No small task when it takes weeks, if not months for travelers to get to a computer where they can upload, sort, and tag their shots.

The Social Photo

What is the social photo?  It’s an opportunity for travelers – near strangers – to help each other document their trip.  As you meet people on your tour, in hostels or at random start snapping photos of them as you would a travel companion or life long friend. Not just photos of them posing as we’re all inclined to do, but photos of them experiencing the adventure.  Supplement these shots with social shots during fun events and outings and do your best to make sure they’re flattering.

Let me be clear. I’m not encouraging you to be that weird guy with 50 photos of that attractive girl from the hostels cleavage. I’m also not encouraging you to snap 50 photos of people you don’t know.  I am encouraging you to snap a few shots here and a few shots there that not only help document your trip – but can really be a wonderful discovery that helps your new found friends document their own.

These shots are of course, worthless if you don’t share them – so make a concerted effort to not only connect on Facebook with fellow travelers, but to also upload your photos and tag them! It’s a delightful surprise to have fun shots from past trips appear on Facebook months after your original trip has wound down.

So get out there and make sure to fire off a few extra photos next time!

As always, I value your comments!  Have a favorite photo that someone took of you on the road?  Feel free to share it in the comments below!

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

14 Comments

  • MrAnathema
    December 4, 2009

    Couldn't agree with you more. I try and take “extra” photos where ever I go; not just the tourist places and the “mandatory” photo op's. Some of the most cherished pictures I've taken are of my friends and travel companion's caught in the moment, so to say. The photographs take on a life of their own, they are the color commentary to the play by play of your travel-log.

    Reply
  • Got Passport
    December 4, 2009

    I can so relate to you about the itchy feet and getting antsy! We all have that travel bug and we just know it eh? We love using FB also to share photos.

    Recently on a trip to Mexico, both of our cameras broke and I took that as an opportunity to make new friends! They took pictures for us and then emailed them to us. It makes for a great blog if I ever get to it! Great post!

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    December 4, 2009

    Absolutely! It's amazing how the most obscure and seemingly least promising photo can convey a definitive experience better than anything else out there.

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    December 4, 2009

    Great story! Though talk about a rough run of luck with both cameras down! Thanks for reading and posting!

    Reply
  • Beth Whitman
    December 5, 2009

    The ability to share photos and videos with friends and “friends” through social networking has been an interesting phenomenon. We have access to so much info about the world and to be able to share that is definitely a good thing.

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    December 5, 2009

    Hi Beth! Thanks for the post. It definitely is, it's also a fundamental part of human nature to like to see images of ourselves doing things we love. That's part of why I think this third type of photo style and dynamic has such a powerful influence in re-affirming friendships.

    Reply
  • Jack
    December 7, 2009

    I love the idea to make sure to help others document their journeys by sharing your photos and making them discoverable. There's a real good idea for a 'back end' system across photo sharing sites here 🙂

    Another way would of course be to make up some business cards with your flickr id and hand them out to people you take photos of…!

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    December 7, 2009

    Hi Jack, Thanks for the comment! Great point – Twitter and flickr will definitely be making an appearance on my next travel card!

    It's definitely a pay it forward type of thing, but when it works out it's really incredible. The shots travel friends have taken of me often end up being some of the most engaging, off beat, expressive shots of myself I have.

    Reply
  • Christine
    December 9, 2009

    I love this idea. With FB, taking pictures and taking fellow travelers you've met is a wonderful way to stay connected and share memorable experiences. I also like that you mentioned it as being a way to connect and interact with other travelers. It can be a good tool for a solo traveler to meet people.

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    December 9, 2009

    Howdy Christine! It really is, my preferred form of travel is solo travel/backpacking hosteling – and the few times i've done this on previous trips it has really worked out well. Will definitely be doing a lot more of it on all my upcoming trips!

    Reply
  • Christine
    December 9, 2009

    I love this idea. With FB, taking pictures and taking fellow travelers you've met is a wonderful way to stay connected and share memorable experiences. I also like that you mentioned it as being a way to connect and interact with other travelers. It can be a good tool for a solo traveler to meet people.

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    December 10, 2009

    Howdy Christine! It really is, my preferred form of travel is solo travel/backpacking hosteling – and the few times i've done this on previous trips it has really worked out well. Will definitely be doing a lot more of it on all my upcoming trips!

    Reply
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