Photojojo’s Ultimate Guide to Road Trip Photography

Road Trip!

You may not have heard about this in the news (it’s kind of one of those underground media stories) but gasoline is getting sort of expensive.

We fear it might put a damper on one of the greatest pastimes ever: road trips!

We at Photojojo love road trips because they’re a photographer’s dream: each new mile is a photo waiting to happen. So we’ve compiled our Ultimate Guide to Road Trip Photography, to inspire you on your next trip!

Gather as many friends as you can for your carpool vacation, and pack the camera gear into your hybrid (or rent one!). It’s time to hit the road!

Photojojo’s Ultimate Guide to Road Trip Photography

Put the Pedal to the Metal

Okay, so gas is pricey. But airlines are overrated, and canoeing your way cross-country just isn’t practical anymore.

Besides, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine won’t be around forever. If you want to see that “Vanishing Heritage” that everybody gets so worked up about, now’s the time. So load up the Family Truckster and get out there!

Getting Ready to Go

Let’s start with the necessities. It may be a little obvious, but they’re all items you’d hate to be on the road without.

  • Camera (silly)
  • Plenty of memory cards
  • Extra batteries and a charger
  • Memory card readers or transfer cables
  • A laptop (if you want to dump your photos from the day’s travels each night)
  • A sturdy and accessible case, maybe even a waterproof one if your trip calls for adventurous detours
  • If your camera is hefty (yeah you, SLR owners) you might want to pack a point and shoot or disposable camera as well, for those particular adventures where you can’t be weighed down.

What To Shoot Along The Way

NEW! Find Weird Stuff to Photograph
Roadside Americais the ultimate resource for finding odd, obscure, & photogenic places.

Create a map of your route before you get on the road and don’t miss a single photo op: Stonehenge(s)! Drive-thru trees! Space acorns! Fuh reals. Space acorns.

Guess Where? Road-Style!
We recently wrote about the “Guess Where” game on our “Games to Play with Your Camera” guide. Take photos as you pass through a town, post your photos to Flickr, and see if the locals from that town can guess where they were taken.

You can play by searching Flickr for the terms “guess where” and the name of the place you’re in. Play as you jump from town to town!

donutTouching Famous Landmarks
Unless we see your hands on it, how do we even know you were there?! Check out this Flickr group of people touching famous landmarks and submit your own.

NEW! Crushing Famous Landmarks
Avoid boring landmark pictures by crushing them beneath your mighty feet.

Get far enough away to make the monument look small enough to hold/prod/stomp on, pose a friend, and shoot. Godzilla’s got nothin’ on you, pal.

Car Gamesgoat
As a kid the only saving grace to being stuck in a car for hours at a time was spotting the license plates from those two outlying buggers, Hawaii and Alaska, to complete your hunt for all 50 state plates. Or seeing the antique mall first while your alphabet game competitor (i.e. bratty little brother) stayed stuck on Q while you zoomed through the rest of the letters.

As adults, we think these games should live on with a photographic twist. Challenge your fellow passengers to a photographic safari!

  • The Animal Game: Take pictures of every critter you see, from your side of the car only. But beware! If you pass a cemetery, your animal count resets to zero. Whoever gets the most animals wins!
  • The State Game: The first person to get pictures of license plates from all 50 states wins.
  • The Alphabet Game: Take pictures of every letter of the alphabet, in order. Last one to Z is a rotten egg!
  • Scavenger Hunt: Make a list of things to photograph before you leave home. Throw in a prize for the first person who completes their list!

Where Did You Stay?
As you voyage into new territory, you’ll probably be landing in an unfamiliar place at night. Whether you’re crashing at a relative’s, in a hotel or on a stranger’s couch, it’s all part of the journey so don’t forget to document it. We really like what Heather Champ did with her time away from home when she created panographies from the headboard of her temporary bed.

Front Page Newsnewspaper
Someday when your kids’ kids are zooming around in solar-powered flying cars, you’ll want to pull out your road trip photos and tell ’em about the good ol’ days, so why not make your trip into a time capsule? Snap a shot of the newspaper’s front page every morning so you can remember what was going on in the world while you were adventuring through it.

Getting Another’s Perspectivedisposable camera
There’s only so much you can see and shoot on your own, so why not give this experiment a try: before you hit the road, pack one or two or ten disposable cameras in self-addressed, pre-posted envelopes. Throughout your travels, leave a camera and envelope with interesting people you meet or maybe even in random places.

Leave a note to drop the camera in the mail when it’s full, then cross your fingers and hope that it’ll eventually find its way back to you.

Time Lapse
We think coasting down the interstate at 70 miles per hour is a great opportunity to hone your time-lapse chops. Read our Ultimate Guide to Time-Lapse Photography, watch this video for inspiration, then get out there and do it!

NEW! Record Your Whole Trip
Tinho Chow’s bike takes pictures of his entire bike ride across America. Set a time-lapse camera on your dashboard and you can do the same.

Don’t Forget About Video!
Rear ViewA vacation on the road just wouldn’t be the same without home videos to torture your friends and family with when you get home. So if you’re traveling with a point and shoot camera that has a video option, don’t forget to use it!

How to Share Along the Way

PostcardsMake Your Own Postcards
Before you head out, read our tutorial on three easy ways to make post cards or stock up on some mailable photo frames. Throughout your route, stop by the nearest drug store chain, pop in your memory card and print out some homemade memorabilia to send back home.

Wireless Sharing
If want to share your trip as you experience it with the folks back home, but their eyes glaze over when you say the words “Flickr” and “feed”, try this. Hook them up with an estarling wireless photo frame before you leave. You can set it up with its very own email address and send photos directly to it from your mobile phone camera, or send a bunch from your landing spot each night. That way your less technologically-inclined kin can have the trip streamed directly to their living room.

Whether you’re using an Eye-Fi Explore card or manually adding location info to your photos on Flickr, geotagging is all the rage, and a great way to uniquely organize your road trip photos.

mapNEW! Plot Your Photos On A Map
Making a photo map of your trip is like a photo album and diary rolled into one.

Eye-Fi Explore cards and GPS trackers record where your photos were taken, or you can map them in Flickr. Pull up “Your Map” (under “Organize”), then drag & drop your pics into place.

What to Do When You Get Home

Make Some Souvenirsflipbook
A road trip just ain’t a road trip without some gifts from your journey. Chances are, however, that those on the receiving end won’t be impressed by your “My **** went to **** and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” t-shirt. So let us suggest some more crafty mementos. How about a flipbook made from the frames of a video you shot with your point and shoot? Or a photo snow globe?

Showing Off Your Memories
You just got home and you’ve got the digital equivalent of that roll of undeveloped film in the junk drawer: a memory card full of bits. Get your pictures out of there and do something spectacular with all those memories.

Why not throw them into a digital slideshow? Or, if you have a soft spot for the old-fashioned photo album, Umbra makes some awesome ones. Better yet, rock it old school: get some photo pages, slap ’em into a three-ring binder, and doodle all over the cover.

Lost and Found
If for some crazy unfortunate reason you lose your camera while on you’re out on the road, you might just find it at Found Cameras and Orphan Photos. Hey, you never know.