Snap Away: How to Take Photos While Traveling

So for those of you late to the party, I studied abroad last year. It was a wild party of a time, believe me. But now I can look back on it, thanks to the rough thousands of photos I took over the course of three months. But it's harder than it looks! Here are a few tips I have if you plan to document your travels...
find a utility lens.
I took every photo in Europe with the same Sigma 50-250mm lens. It's giant but works for everything. If I could redo the experience, I would definitely opt for something lighter - heaving that thing around for an entire weekend at a time wasn't pleasant. But don't skimp on qualty, either. Totally worth forking out a lump of cash so you can have better photos. 
make sure you take pictures of yourself in these places (or get your friends to!)
It's not shallow, it's important. They don't have to be the posed photos you constantly see everywhere else. It's as simple as making sure you have your camera out and can hand it off to make sure you have something to document your time. Two of my favorite pictures of myself were taken by my friend Julia, in Bruges and Berlin respectively. Both of them I'm running away from the camera, with the rest of the environment around me. I had no idea either were being taken until she put them up on facebook, and now...I think they document me pretty well. 
take pictures of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. 
This is something I'm learning in everyday life too: just have your camera out! Again, some of my favorites are the ones that I just happened to have my camera up at the right moment. You don't have to come back from wherever you've been with pictures of JUST the sights - take pictures of the cars, the animals, the streets, the local people (respectfully, that is). Then you have a full taste of the city you were in, rather than just all the "important" stuff. 
don't regret taking a few seconds to time/align your shot.
If you're anything like me, you know the feeling of shame when you look up from photographing this really awesome flower to see your friends a block ahead in the distance, glaring at you for making them late to dinner reservations. And yes, to a certain extent I have to acknowledge I am slow at using my camera, but looking back on my photos, I can see the time I spent making sure they were framed properly or not blurry. Don't hesitate to get it right!

know when to put your camera away.
I know this juxtaposes the whole post, but it's just as true as the others. Some places just aren't meant for photos: I felt strange ever having my camera out when I visited Auschwitz, the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, and any other sensitive area throughout Europe. Also, sometimes you just have to revel the place you're visiting. As a writer, I try to take in all the senses of an area, remember it as best I can, and go write it down later. A thousand words is worth the photo.
(Interested in my other travel how-tos? Check out WHERE TO STAY, WHERE TO GO, and HOW TO PACK.)

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