Our modern lifestyle wouldn’t be possible without transportation. People and products are constantly moving. We eat food that grows on a different continent, we commute to work, we drive the children to school, we spend the holidays abroad. Transportation is the key to our everyday life. Its flow is a challenging subject for photographers. Transportation combines a form of technology, movement, and purpose. It gives us many features to work with, but it also requires technical skills and storytelling. Otherwise, the result will be an ordinary image like many others which doesn’t impress anybody.
Different Style of Photographing Transportation
Depending on your style, interests, and photographic approach, transportation can be subject for travel photography, street photography, documentary photography, commercial photography, and even fashion photography. From expensive cars and yachts to bicycles and public transportation, you have a wide range of vehicles to choose from. You may want to focus on technological achievements, like super fast trains, or on social issues, like the importance of cycle rickshaws in Asian society. Or you may want to focus on cargo trucks, airplanes, or shipping companies. Any subject is good as long as you choose what message you want to convey and which is the best perspective. Any subject needs research and motivation.
Even in commercial photography, where all you want is to exhibit the best features of a product, storytelling makes a difference. For street and documentary photography, it is an essential feature. Transportation is a flow of people and merchandise, which defines a way of life. In some Asian countries, there are floating markets, where people sell and buy their food from boats. For them, transportation makes the difference between life and death. For other people, transportation means a chance to get to the hospital in time. There is a story behind every image. Study the works of famous photographers and watch carefully their compositions. An image that never leaves your mind is a balanced one. You have a subject in focus, but you also have other elements that support its story. Sometimes a small detail changes entirely the meaning of an image. Even street snapshots benefit from a careful composition and an eye looking for stories.
Learn to Photograph Moving Subjects
Transportation is all about movement. Learn to photograph moving subjects and practice as much as possible. Use a very short exposure (a fast shutter speed) to avoid blurring. Also, use a small ISO and a short focal length lens. As always, rules are made to be broken. For artistic purposes, you are allowed to have blurred subjects. It’s a form of expressing speed. Another technique for having a sharp subject, but the blurred background, is panning. Panning means following the subject with the camera while taking the picture. It usually requires a tripod for alignment and stabilization.
Wide Angles versus Details
Every photographer decides for oneself if the composition needs a wide-angle or a narrow one. Transportation is a vast theme and can be interpreted in various ways. Sometimes a logo is more efficient than an entire parking area. Usually, the best advice is to photograph a subject using different perspectives and lenses. Take general pictures as well as details. Put your subject in context, but also concentrate on a small feature that makes a difference. You may want to use black and white photographs or enhance the colors with filters. You may want to include people or merchandise to show us the aim of that image. Or you may simply want to show the power of technological discovery.
Photographing transportation is a way of studying people’s life. It has a major social component and for that matter, it requires storytelling skills. It is also challenging from a technical point of view, because it means photographing moving items, in natural light, and uncertain conditions. But photographing transportation brings you close to what being a photographer means: to care. If you don’t care about the subject you photograph there are small changes of delivering a good image. Your personality as a photographer should always precede your portfolio.