Preparing for Your Photography Trip to the Salt Flats
A little bit of preparation can go a long way, if one of your primary motives for visiting the spectacular Salar de Uyuni is photography and taking some stunning landscape photos.
Having an idea of some of the sights around the salt flats that you’d be interested in shooting is a big priority.
Rest assured, the landscapes do the heavy hauling here, and chances are your photos will turn out amazing. Most Uyuni tours hit many fantastic photo spots. But if you’re a perfectionist, or a serious hobbyist, check some of our tips and our checklist to get the best photos you can shoot.
Check Uyuni Hashtags
The Uyuni salt flats are all over social media, and for good reason!
Before going, get some ideas of perspectives and pictures you’d like to take. There are a few different styles of photography frequented in Uyuni, each with their best place to find good examples.
- For general images, and things to see around Uyuni, check Pinterest pins.
- For Uyuni perspective photos, check Instagram hashtags.
- For high quality landscape photos, check 500px or flickr.
What Camera should I take to Uyuni?
You don’t need a top-of-the-line camera to take stunning images at the Salar de Uyuni. It doesn’t even have to be a DSLR. Film even works wonders under the right conditions.
The most important thing to check for on your camera is some degree of manual controls, and some degree of exposure bracketing/compensation in your camera.
Unfortunately, the bright white of the salt flats can confuse some of your camera’s automatic settings–particularly exposure and white balance detection. so these are good features to have on your camera to combat that.
Best Props for Uyuni Perspective Photos
Taking a little bit of time can really lead to great results, and hilarious perspective photos.
Before your trip, consider bringing any sort of memento that’s unique to your country or hometown. Anything handheld tends to do pretty well, and is about the size you’d be looking for to make a good perspective image.
When in town, check the stores for the latest and greatest props. One common prop that does well in perspective photos that is all over stores in Uyuni is toy dinosaurs. Toy llamas are also abundant and make for culturally relevant inclusions into photos.
The night before your tour, consider saving things like wine or beer bottles for props, or other things you might throw away, like pringle cans. All are common, and generally effective, props you can use in perspective photos.
If you’ve forgotten, are already traveling, or are a last-minute planner, don’t forget that you can use some of the props that already come on the tour. Think frying pans, backpacks, and even the 4×4 itself!
Photography Tours At The Salar de Uyuni
Most typical tours will take you to plenty and plenty of photo-worthy places. Most of the times, the issue will be just spending enough time in each place to get the variety of shots that you’d like.
Remember, this terrain can be really rough on vehicles, so don’t be surprised if you have to skip a few sights because you break down.
If you’re looking for anything very specialized, consider looking for a one day tour, a private tour, a sunset/evening tour, or some combination of those.
As always, most tour providers will take you wherever you’d like on a private tour, provided you are prepared to pay for the daily cost of the whole vehicle even if you can’t fill it with other tourists.
Camera Settings for Altiplano Photography
For images of the salt flat, you will want to be sure that you’ve got both a wide lens and a telephoto lens.
A wide lens will allow you to fill the frame with the bright white of the salt flats and add perspective to the size of the location. Similarly, it will give you the latitude to include as much of the scenery as possible into one image.
However, just shooting with a wide lens can mean that your images will be a lot of white salt flat. A telephoto lens can help narrow your frame and bring out some of the more specific details of the scenery, without the white of the salt flats dominating every photo.
On sunny days, the altiplano can be bright and the salt flats can be blinding. Having a graduated neutral density filter helps to balance a bright sky with landscape images.
Taking a grey card or having another grey to meter off of is also very helpful for white balance.
Camera Settings for Perspective Photos
If you have manual settings on your camera, use them.
It’s important to have a wide depth of field, so that both the people in your background and the props in your foreground are in-focus. If you open your aperture too much, then you will have a shallow depth of field and one or the other will probably blur, depending on your focus.
Remember, a higher f-stop number means a deeper depth of field.
Sometimes, depending on the conditions, you may need to decrease your shutter speed to let in enough light if your aperture is small. You can typically hand-hold your camera for perspective photos if you’re at or above 1/50s or 1/100s–anything slower, and you will need a tripod or a gorillapod.
For landscape photos, you can set your camera down and use your timer. However, on the salt flats, having any salt on the ground of your image can “normalize” the photo–you won’t get the skewed perspective that you’re looking for.
Most of the times, it’s easier to start by setting up your scene first and then framing the shot with your camera. The angles can be a little tricky to adjust to, and it’s more difficult to direct the people n your background into the potentially small frame.
Most of the time, you want the sun to be behind you, or at worst, to the side of you. There is already a lot of light reflecting off of the bright salt flats, you don’t want to have even more by shooting towards the sun.
Finally, keep in mind that you can’t take perspective photos everywhere on the Salar. Some areas have salt piles for mining and others don’t give the appropriate angle. Most tours will spend some time at a spot specifically designed to provide a great background for perspective photos.
Camera Settings for Evening Photos and Astro Photography
Getting good images of the salt flats is a decidedly advanced version of photography.
Whereas general altiplano photos could use a camera with manual settings, a tripod, and an experienced hand, astro photography at the salt flats requires them.
You will again need a wide-angle lens for your camera. It should also be a fast lens if you’re looking to capture the milky way or other galaxies. You will also need a tripod on which to set your camera.
Capturing stars and Uyuni at night also require you to use longer shutter speeds, at least 20 to 30 seconds for bright views of the sky in most cases.
Salar de Uyuni Photo Checklists
Before your tour checklist:
- Consider purchasing extra camera batteries and memory cards
- Charge your batteries and wipe your memory cards
- Collect your perspective photo props
- Practice a few photos of the dark night sky
Ask before your tour:
- Where you’ll be stopping for photos of the salt flats
- What time of the day you’ll be there
- How long you’ll be staying at the salt flats to take pictures
Can’t-miss perspective photos:
- Kicking, dropping, or stomping on someone
- Cooking, frying and/or eating someone
- Dinosaur, creature and/or llama attack
- Pouring out of beer/wine bottle
- Use a second camera for a giant camera photoshoot
- Blowing somebody away (literally!)
Any we missed? Send your your ideas view our contact form, or tag us on Twitter!