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It’s easy enough to take stunning travel photos. When you’re abroad, everything seems like a great photo opportunity and even if it’s not, the sheer fact of you being in a new and different place will bring in the Instagram likes. But diverging from the typical touristy travel shots and focusing on a single themed project can enhance your trip like you might never have thought possible.

Focusing your photographic energies on one project will help you become better immersed in the culture of the place you’re visiting. It’ll force you to single in on one aspect of that culture and talk to locals to learn more about your subject. And at the end of your trip, you’ll return home with a complete photography collection, ready for a spread in your favorite travel magazine, rather than a random compilation of the same old shots the rest of the tourists are taking.

So the next time you’re going abroad, or even just to a new state, make your work stand out from the rest of the Instagram pics of the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty and picturesque beaches by trying out one of these seven themed photo projects.

1. Focus on the Food: Everyone loves a good food Insta, and there’s no better time to capture your most appetizing meals than when you’re traveling. Use this as an opportunity to order the wackiest dishes on the menu and experiment with cuisines you would never have thought to try — escargot anyone? Ask your waiter for more info about the food — how it’s cooked, what ingredients are in it — and share those details along with the photos. Take closeup shots of the dishes as well as wide shots of the restaurants and cafes you’re eating in. Pair the photos together to show not only what you’re eating, but where you’re eating it.

2. Focus on the Locals: The best part of traveling is the people you meet along the way. And whether you’re traveling from San Francisco to South Africa, or just to New York, you’re bound to meet some colorful and vibrant locals. You can learn so much about a place just by observing the people who live there. So, while you’re walking around a bustling market or drinking coffee in a crowded cafe, do some people watching and keep an eye out for anyone who seems worthy of a photo opp. Approach them with a smile and ask if you can take their photo. Add another level of interest to the series by asking everyone you meet a question about their lives — Humans of New York style — and pair the quotes with the portraits. If you’re travelling to a place where English isn’t the native language, look up the questions in the appropriate language and practice a few times before hitting the streets. Bring a recorder to make sure you capture everyone’s complete responses. Some people won’t want to have their photos taken, so don’t sweat it when that happens, just move on and find another more willing character!

3. Focus on the Fashion: Focusing on fashion photography is another great way to step out of your comfort zone and chat with some locals. Depending on where you are in the world, the style can be completely different from what you’re used to — and it can make for amazing photo opps. While you’re out exploring, pay attention to what everyone is wearing. See something you like? Go up and ask if you can take their picture! You can also narrow the project down by focusing on one aspect of fashion, whether it be jewelry, shoes, hats or whatever else strikes your fancy.

4. Focus on the Doors: Wherever you are in the world, doors can make for a wonderful photo series. While you’re out exploring, seek out doors of all shapes, colors and sizes. Photograph the doors of banks, apartments, restaurants and cars. By the end of the trip, you’ll have so many door shots, you could fill a wall with all of the photos — and you can! Get the photos printed in a small size and dedicate part of a wall in your room to the series. The huge variety of doors will make for an interesting collage and the perfect memento from your trip.

5. Focus on Yourself: If you read my article on tackling a year-long self portrait project, you probably already know how much I love self portraiture. It’s a great way to experiment with composition, shutter speed and style, and you can take some of the most inspired and creative selfies while you’re traveling. This is an especially great project for anyone traveling solo. It’ll give you some direction and purpose, especially on days when you start to feel lonely. Shoot for at least one self portrait a day, and try to capture something interesting about the place you’re visiting in each shot. Bring a small, portable, lightweight tripod with you that you can fit easily in your backpack.

6. Focus on the Transportation: The popular modes of transportation differ greatly from country to country and city to city. The way people commute around a city gives that city a lot of its flavor and character. Try focusing on how people are getting around — whether that be by car, bike, bus or scooter. Take shots of people on the go — try photographing a group of cyclists riding past with a slow shutter speed to emphasize the movement and sense of urgency — or detail shots of parked cars or scooters. The resulting collection will say a lot about the city you’re visiting and will capture a sense of its culture.

7. Focus on the Architecture: Whether you’re visiting a city with skyscrapers that disappear into the clouds or a small town made up of simple bungalows, architecture is often one of the first things you notice about a place. The next time you travel, focus your camera on the buildings and structures that surround you. Take wide shots from the bottom of skyscrapers to give buildings a neverending feeling. Or, shoot from a high vantage point looking down on an entire cityscape.

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