As a devotee of Instagram, I know how it usually is when it comes to travel photography. We snap a million great photos, eagerly post a few to social media to share with our followers, and then we let it drop, except for the occasional Throwback Thursday.
Your photos can do so much more for you!
Travel can be one of the most rewarding experiences we can treat ourselves to. Learning about other cultures and ways of life can humble you, expand your mind and heart, and make you appreciate both the things you have at home and the things you don’t.
If you leave your photos only on social media, you’re missing out. Your home’s walls, shelves, and niches all deserve to showcase your travel memories and provide you that daily opportunity to reconnect with great experiences.
1. Select the Best
It’s easy to come home with thousands of photos and feel a little daunted at the prospect of going through them all. But because you don’t know what you have until you’ve looked through every one of your photos, it’s a crucial step.
My biggest recommendation is to make an archive of all your photos. This archive is meant to be a backup should you delete something and change your mind or if you have an editing snafu that leaves you with a low-resolution copy of something you want to print at poster size.
Once you’ve made an archive, make a second copy of all your photos. This is your working copy and here’s where you’ll make active use of that delete button. Be ruthless and scale it back to nothing but your best images, even when you’re having a hard time choosing. If it’s flawed and you can’t fix it through skillful cropping or editing, to the trash with it.
The goal here is to transform the unmanageable thousands of images to a select grouping that highlight the best experiences of your travels. It’s impossible to nail down an exact number, but you might only “keep” 10% of the photos you took.
2. Print Your Photos!
This is not just the part-time photolab tech in me speaking here, but why don’t people print their photos anymore? Trust me, all of those photos look a million times better printed on photo paper.
A million times!
Get thee to a photolab and print some of your photos! You can start by printing everything in a 4×6″ size, but really, go for different sizes and aspect ratios. A solid mix of print sizes will better prepare you for my next tip…
3. Hang a Gallery Wall
Once you have all of your photos printed, it’s time to celebrate. There are a multitude of ways to hang a gallery wall, but my favourite is to free-flow, mixing and matching frame sizes and layouts to make a “cloud” of frames. This leaves room for the wall to grow and change, just like real life.
Feel free to mix in other items here. Before I shared my space with my husband, I had my trowel in there, along with a smattering of two-dimensional knick-knacks that were important to me. Now, our gallery wall reflects both of us, with some of his photos mixed in with mine (the monkey and koi fish are both by him, Stephen Lemmer).
There are different tactics to take with these walls, one could be just a selection of your very best photos from various travels and experiences, another would be a “wall of achievement” – the things you’ve set out to accomplish and succeeded.
4. Curate Vignettes
Of course, not all souvenirs are two-dimensional and maybe you don’t want to hang them directly on your wall. A vignette that shows a treasured memory paired with a few topical souvenirs can make for a really beautiful and interesting visual.
Here, I’ve framed one of the photographs I took on a trip to Jordan & Turkey, along with some ceramics made at a local pottery just outside of Amman. The similar colour families compliment each other, and as almost all designers say, odd numbers are magic.
5. Relate the Images to Your Experience
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the best words are your own. Before I started journaling, a lot of my photographs became a little meaningless after awhile. I have a notoriously terrible memory, so unless I write something down, the thoughts are gone.
Now, I know when we post to social media, we often have a couple lines of text to describe the photos, but really, what’s a couple of lines on a screen compared to a few paragraphs in your own handwriting? Besides, I don’t know about you, but I don’t always fully explain the meaning of a photograph online. I like to keep some things to myself. In a journal, I can fully explore and retain a memory, tying together the image with the words.
One of the best purchases I’ve made has been of a tiny portable printer. My first one was a Polaroid Pogo Printer, which made delightful business-card sized stickers. The resolution of the images left something to be desired, but it got the job done. I was able to record my thoughts with the associated images while I was on the road. In recent years, I switched for an Instax Share Mini Printer, which boats a much richer image, though there is the downside of having to cart around film. I do that anyway, but I could see how it might be a drawback for some people.
So there you have my favourite tips for getting the most out of your travel photographs. In the end, the most important takeaway is that you should do something with your pictures, instead of just letting them hang around digitally.
And really, this doesn’t just apply to travel photos! All of your photos deserve some love, whether taken at home or abroad. Surround yourself with your favourite memories and experiences and it will spur you on to go make more.
If you have a favourite way of celebrating your photos, feel free to share in the comments!