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4 Tips for Finding Your Photography Muse in a New City

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The plane has landed and you find yourself in a new place – a new city, a new country or maybe even a new continent. Your camera is charged and ready, lenses are wiped clean and you set off in search of amazing images. How to make the most out of a destination you have never visited before? Here are 4 tips on finding your own photographic Muse in a new city.

There are several approaches to travel photography. One suggests doing some research beforehand, planning itineraries and looking through the images of others for inspiration. This research can be helpful and save time once you get there. However, in this article I would like to share my own experience with a different approach, one that involves seeking inspiration from the city itself and by way you first see it.

1. Take time to absorb with your eyes before shooting

When I arrive to a new place, whether it is for a long stay or just for a night, I rarely start shooting right after I have set foot on the ground, although I still take my camera with me. Taking time first to see is invaluable for a better understanding of the situation, to see and appreciate the light, the space itself and for ‘feeling’ the place. Watch the people, smell the air, notice the light. Absorb the place to the fullest and you will be capable of transmitting that special atmosphere in your images. Think of what your first impressions of the place are and what surprises you the most.

View from the rooftop of a hotel in Essaouira, Morocco
A warm wind from the ocean and a rooftop view made me fall in love with Essaouira, Morocco.

2. Adapt camera settings to your vision

After you have ‘inhaled’ the ambiance of the place and set your mind on certain things you want to photograph, think of how you are going to do it. Watch the direction and quality of light, think of the settings on your camera that would work best to convey your ideas. Will it be the overall scene or details, portraits or still life, colour or black-and-white? Is it best to do it now or to come back later, at a different time of day? The story is in your head, now it’s time to find the best way to express it with the help of your trusty camera. Remember the key question: what is my picture about? Let it be your starting point and a guiding light.

Jemaa el-Fnaa square and its carriages in Marrakech
Carriages in Jemaa el-Fnaa square, Marrakesh, at 6 am, still empty, covered in fog and the pink sunrise peeking through.

3. Be ready: expect the unexpected

At this point, some planning will help. Check the layout of the place, identify landmarks you want to see the most, but do not overcharge your day. I usually plan to discover one or two landmarks per day (I call it my “obligatory cultural program”) and spend the rest of the time wandering around with my camera in search of the unexpected. When planning your day, choose the earliest hours possible to avoid crowds and to get softer light. Early morning is a magical time when the city is yours – this is when you see the life of the locals and may even feel like one of them. 

football by the mosque in Sousse, Tunisia
Kids playing football by the mosque in Sousse, Tunisia, immediately attracted my attention.

4. Take photos of special little moments

Even if you have already taken some great images of the famous and not-so-famous landmarks, remember the little things. It can be your first cup of coffee or tea made the local way or a cat you meet every day at your door, or maybe the colour of the soil under your feet… These will be your very special memories and later you’ll be glad you captured them.

Three friends, three henna painted hands
Three friends, three henna painted hands – a very special memory!

Keeping your eyes open and your mind ready for experiencing new things will help you meet your Muse and follow your inspiration in any new place you find yourself with your camera. Share your inspirational travel images with us!

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.