TikTok’s Favorite Photographer Just Taught Us How to Take Better Travel Photos
David Suh shares his tips for refocusing your lens on your inner light to achieve the best travel shots.
David Suh is a portrait photographer, but the Los Angeles–based dynamo is so much more than that. Suh, who started his career as a dancer, is perhaps just as much of a life coach, helping his subjects hone their confidence in front of the camera—a gift that often extends well beyond his portrait sessions. Suh’s posing tips on how to move and position the body within the frame are approachable, comical, and go incredibly viral on social media. And we thought there would be no better person to ask about how to pose in order to take memorable, timeless travel photos on the road.
Taking photographs while traveling is a bit different than shooting in a studio. What are some of the scenarios that make travel portrait photography challenging?
Harsh midday lighting is probably the biggest challenge, since we like to be out and about during our travels. The best remedy for this would be to find shade, but there’s also different qualities of shades. I usually avoid trees as it creates patchy shadows because of the leaves. Places like tunnels and arches, however, create a very constant shadow, along with the fact there’s directional light. Something you can try is being in shade, but having the light hit the back of you, creating this beautiful, ethereal light surrounding you. There are so many more ways to utilize this, so play around.
Selfies can be cringe, but when you’re traveling alone, you don’t have much of a choice. I don’t want to look like an Influencer in the wild. Are there any tools you’d recommend for folks to bring while traveling solo to get great shots?
A better mindset. Obviously, be respectful of the space, people, and culture, but I love practicing taking up more space outside. If you’re in an open, public area, why not be dramatic and take stunning photos? Doing anything foreign in public is going to make you feel like you’re visually screaming to the entire world, but in reality, everyone is going about their day. Grab a phone tripod, start out mellow, try taking up more space if you’re up for it, and have fun!
Scale can also be tricky. How do you highlight something monumental, say the Grand Canyon or Half Dome, while also making sure you don’t look like an ant?
I would play around with getting the camera close to your subject, use the 0.5x lens option if you have one, and squat lower while tilting the phone higher to the subject. This should get them in the frame more without compromising the background.
When we think of crowded national parks and iconic byways like Highway 1, everyone’s competing for the same location. What are some tips for finding “the spot,” and then making yourself look great in said spot?
If it’s a popular spot and your intention is to get that iconic scene, you might be best off simply waiting in line like everybody else. However, if it’s a large area like a national park, there are hidden gems everywhere! Instead of looking for places, I would instead focus on finding beautiful spots of light. Good lighting will make a photo, but a good location won’t!
What are some of the most iconic locations here in the American West that you have on your bucket list for photography and why?
Even though I’ve shot here many times, I feel like there’s so much more to uncover in Malibu. Any sandy desert, like the dunes at San Luis Obispo, is a dream as well.