Shutterbugs need to fly (for some reason I always picture a ladybug). Sitting at home and taking pics of your cat can only entertain you so far and if you’re not hoping to become a professional photog then you really want pictures you will be happy to frame and throw on your wall (and let’s face it unless there’s some really amazing light your ‘Apple in Repose’ is not making it up there).
I have three cameras – a manual 35mm Sony (I think), a Casio 500, and a Nikon CoolpixP90. The Nikon has an incredible zoom which is mostly why I bought it, however, the light meter is pretty awful. My Casio is pocket-sized and takes the best night photos. My Sony is somewhere in my closet, I haven’t tried to use 35mm since finishing my art courses in undergrad. I’d suggest finding a pocket-sized, high pixel/resolution, with at least a 10x zoom for traveling. Also I am quite fond of those play settings like “party time” and “dusk”. I wish you could rename them since half are actually perfect aperture/f-stop readings for scenarios the company didn’t think of. Also buy at least 1 extra battery and 3 memory cards. Instead of buying one 16MB SD card I buy multiples so I can leave them in the hostel while I’m out. This way if I decide to go whale-watching and the boat tips I don’t lose all of my photos (also theft blah blah blah).
Automatic cameras are nice while traveling because you can literally snap a photo while running passed a church. You probably won’t be alone and should you have 3 seconds to snap a picture of the Louvre while you run to a tour bus, make it count. There is a limit to how much people will wait for you if you’re not with photo-friends, I generally got around this by doing the run-point-shoot method, getting behind and then sprinting, or suggesting a meeting place. This is good because your friends will have varied interests and while you weren’t particularly interested in cutting your trip to the Taj Mahal short to take a few pictures of a local market those pictures might be awesome to the point of iconic.
That being said, there are a lot of “iconic” pictures floating around my friend’s photo albums so don’t skip the Taj Mahal just because “everyone takes pictures of that”. They all take pictures cause it’s awesome!
If it is dark, and you’re lost, and there are very few people around put away the camera. This happens at least once a trip and even though most of your anxiety is cause by your unfamiliarity with the area it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Before You Go
Break out your camera and head to the local church, park, or parade. This will help you find all the right settings for direct sunlight, candle-lit churches, running water, and flood-lit buildings. It used to be that you’d take 100 pictures and get home and found out you’d been at the wrong aperture the entire time, film ruined. Now, you know immediately and spend twenty mins. finding the right one.
Accept that some pictures won’t come out and that some memories will not be remembered any better because of a picture.