10 More Tips to Prepare for a Once In A Lifetime Photo Op

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Wow, Steve’s article is a tough act to follow, especially since many of his ten tips are MY tips as well! But there are even more things you can do to assure yourself that you are well prepared for your once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. There are also some tips that can help you to really enjoy your experience.

So! In no particular order…

Ross Castle by Darren Blackburn on Flickr Creative Commons.

One – Research a nearby photo repair shop. If you’re going to be in one spot for any length of time, figure out where the nearest photo repair shop or retailer is to that location. Things get dropped, lost, stolen (heaven forbid), or just stop working in general. Be prepared for this by having a backup plan in case you have gear issues.

Two – Practice with new gear before you leave. If you have a new lens or new camera, put it through its paces and become familiar with it before you’re faced with your once-in-a-lifetime chance. If you’re renting gear, schedule it to begin a few days before the trip or photo shoot so you have time to get used to it.

Night Colours by Jenni Douglas on Flickr Creative Commons.

Three – Plan for the weather. Inasmuch as possible, have a plan for how, what, where and when you’re going to shoot certain subjects depending on the weather in which you find yourself. If you’re anything like me, you start looking at the weather forecasts a couple of weeks in advance of the trip. That can help, but we all know that in reality conditions can change in an instant. If a day calls for rain, plan your indoor shots. If the light is flat and skies are overcast, create some HDR shots to add contrast. You’re probably going to have to get up VERY early every day to check conditions and have time to plan accordingly, but it’s worth it to get the shots you’re looking for!

Four – Leave some wiggle room in your schedule. Leading in from number three, say you’re traveling along and find a landscape that would look stunning in morning light… except it’s 3:00 in the afternoon! If you have flexibility in your schedule, you can return to the spot to photograph it during the golden hour. It’s also fun to get multiple shots of a location at various times of the day, so if it’s a truly compelling shot make time for it in your schedule.

Todd Huffman's Route Through Europe - Flickr Creative Commons

Five – Learn about any events, festivals, or fairs that coincide with your trip. Whether it be a giant city-wide celebration, a tiny local fair, or a street-side neighborhood art festival, learning about these events ahead of time will enable you to be in the right place, at the right time, to capture the true essence of the culture and inhabitants.

Six through Eight – Keep track of where you’ve been, and what you’ve photographed. Have you ever been reviewing your photos, post-trip, and come across one that made you question, “Now, WHERE was that again?” Here are a few things I do to keep my shots straight, which are especially helpful when I have hundreds – if not a thousand or more – shots to go through and organize:

- When walking into a park, exhibit, or landmark, take a photo of the sign or plaque. That way you’ll know that every photo that follows is of that place. When you change locations, take another shot of a sign. If there is no sign, write the location down on a piece of paper and take a picture of that.
- Have two copies of every map – one that you use for navigation, and one that you can mark up and put notes on. Draw your route on the map in a bright color, and annotate points on the map and the date that you visited those points. That way you can ID the contents of a photo by the date it was taken.
- Number your memory cards (numbering instead of naming makes things less confusing when you re-use the card later). Then keep a notebook for the contents of that card. Something like: “Memory Card #1: 10/12/11, London England, Hyde Park and Westminster Abbey.” If you need to download the photos off of the card, note the photo number sequence in the notebook. For example: “IMG_3015 through IMG_3220″.

Colosseum, Rome by nwhitford on Flickr Creative Commons.

Nine – Talk to the locals. The people who live in the area in which you are only a visitor are a valuable resource for finding truly unique photo opportunities. Through them you’ll find out about little known, out-of-the way landmarks, vistas, and points of interest. They’ll know when and where the flowers bloom, where to hide yourself to get great wildlife shots, or what hill to climb to get a stunning city-scape. So don’t be shy, talk to strangers!

Ten – Pick a day to leave your camera behind. Yes, I said it! Sometimes we photographers get so caught up – even anxious – about getting “the” shot that we forget to look around us, take a deep breath, and enjoy the experience. If we happen across a truly compelling shot that we HAVE TO have, the flexibility that we baked into our schedule (right?) will allow us to go back again another day.

Have you experienced a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity? How did it go, and what did you learn? If you’re preparing for your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, did you find these tips to be helpful? Have you thought of any others? Please share with us in the comments or on our Facebook Page.

Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Ross Castle” by Darren Blackburn on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Night Colours” by Jenni Douglas on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Europe!” by Todd Huffman on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Colosseum, Rome” by nwhitford on Flickr Creative Commons.

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  • http://bc-murray.blogspot.com Corina

    Once you return from the trip, make time to review, edit and print photos. Don’t just keep them on your computer or save them to a disc… display them, either in your home or your site or photo-sharing site.
    Give the camera to someone else in your travel group for some photos – that way you’re in them too.

  • PhotographyTalk

    I especially like “Four – Leave some wiggle room in your schedule” because sometimes I’ll take photos and if I’m not quite getting it right, I’ll stay there for hours and sometimes even be late to work.  I can only imagine if you’re traveling for photography, you need that “wiggle” room.