If you’re anything like us, you’ve looked at your old travel photos more times during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever before. We bet you’ve had thoughts like, “Man, if I knew this was going to be my last trip for a while, I would have taken more photos!” Or “I wish these photos hadn’t come out so blurry!
Travel is about to come back in a big way, and we want to make sure you have the perfect photos to show off all your new adventures! Read on for our travel photography tips for travel bloggers and everyday travelers on how to take better pictures.
Before Your Trip
Before you take off, spend some time researching places where you want to take photos. We personally like to use Instagram to learn about places we didn’t previously know about.
If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to have a planned itinerary for your trips, factor in time in your trip that is especially for travel photography. We’ve found that sometimes the best way to do this is take a long “photo walk” with your camera and photo equipment and just see what you find. Make sure you have a memory card that fits in your laptop so you can empty your drive and put the photos on your laptop when your memory card is full!
General Photography Tips
1. Don’t Learn the Rules of Composition
You don’t have to be a photography expert to know how to take good photos, but it would help to know the basic Rules of Composition!
Composition refers to how the photo is set up and what the viewers’ eyes get drawn to first. The Rules of Composition are essential travel photography tips for beginners. Here are 7 of the most important Rules of Composition:
- The Rule Of Thirds: For some beginning photographers, it might seem natural to point your camera directly at the subject and have it appear in the center of the frame. Instead, it will make for a more interesting photo if you mentally separate the scene into thirds going from left to right. Framing your subject in, say, the left third of the photo, instead of right in the middle, will make for better photos.
- Leading Lines: When you are taking a photo, pay attention to leading lines. These are lines in a photo that direct the viewers’ eye to a certain part of the photo. For example, a winding staircase or a train track are both examples of leading lines you can play around with to create interesting photos.
- Reduce Clutter: Make sure to always minimize clutter in your photos. Clutter is anything in the photo that will draw the viewers’ attention away from the main subject of the photo – people in the background, trash on the floor, and so on. Shoot photos in a landscape without clutter whenever possible.
- Contrasting Colors: Shooting images with contrasting colors is a good way to make sure your photo subjects stand out. For example, a yellow church in front of a bright blue sky would be a photo with good contrasting colors. Orchestrate this whenever possible for better photos.
- Creative Framing: Use framing to draw attention to your subject – a person leaning against a door frame, the silhouette of a tree in a window, and so on are all good examples of how you can use creative framing to make a photo more interesting.
- Understand Foreground, Middle Ground, and Background: These are terms to describe parts of a photo. Not all good photos have all 3 of these things, but many good photos have at least two! The foreground is the part of the image that is the closest to the camera, and the background (you already know this one!) is the part of the image that is further away from the camera. The middle ground is anything in between. So, for example, say you have a photo of just a ship in the ocean. It’s fine, but it would be better if you could capture the cool clouds behind the ship (background) and the dog running into the water in front of the ship (foreground).
- Capture the Focal Points: A focal point in a photo is the point of interest that makes the photo more interesting. For example, in the photo described above, the dog would be the focal point.
2. Get to know your camera (and experiment with camera settings)
Every camera is different, so play around with yours to see which settings make for better photos! Before you take your trip and start shooting photos, experiment with your camera’s different modes, shutter speed, and other features. One of our top photography tips is to shoot your travel photos in “manual mode.” Using this feature allows you to manually control the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO of the camera so you can change it for every different landscape and photo.
3. Get creative
Creative photos are obviously more interesting! Don’t be afraid to experiment with photo composition. Try out different angles and varying distances. Switch up the focus of your photos.
4. Make sure your photos tell a story
Get the shots that pull your viewers into your stories. Use emotion, find and freeze moments, and incorporate the human element so your shots resonate with your viewers. Photos that tell a story make for better Instagram photos!
Travel Photography Tips
5. Get Up Early, Stay Out Late
If you don’t like a lot of people in your photos, explore at unusual times to avoid the crowds. Just always remember to stay alert of your surroundings to protect you and your camera equipment against theft!
6. Always Bring Your Camera With You
When you are traveling, you never know when you might come across something photo-worthy. Make sure you always have your camera or a phone to snap photos with. You don’t want to end up reminiscing about your travel moments and say, “Man, I wish I had gotten a picture of that!”
7. Back Up Your Travel Photos
We briefly mentioned making sure you have a memory card that can fit into your laptop. Make sure you have a memory card, laptop, flash drive, and anything else you need to back up your photos once your memory card is full and you have to delete it. We recommend doing this as soon as you get back from a day of traveling. If anything happens and you lose your camera or phone, you will have your photos backed up on another device!
8. Patience Is Everything
Good photography takes time! Especially when you are shooting nature photography, remember to stay patient. You may have to stay at the scene for hours sometimes to get that perfect shot. But it will all be worth it for the great pictures and memories!
9. Get Images No One Else Has
Sure, anyone can get a picture of famous tourist attractions that you see all over guidebooks. But what about your more unique photos that you won’t commonly see anywhere? We encourage you to get off the beaten tourist path and get unique photos of your destinations. Chat to the local people, learn the language, try the cuisine, learn about their customs. Just please make sure to always ask for permission before taking a photo of someone!
10. Learn How to Edit Photos Well
You know those gorgeous images you see in blog posts that look like a professional photographer took and edited them? You can get blog images just like that, too! You don’t even need to be a skilled photo editor. There’s apps to do that for you! Adobe Lightroom and Snapseed are two of our favorite photo editing apps to make your travel photography look professional.
Aside from using the apps, don’t be afraid to play around with the brightness, saturation and exposure levels of each photo. This is an easy way to edit your photos that are “just OK” and make them extra Instagram worthy!
11. Never Stop Learning
Just because you are home from your trip doesn’t mean you need to stop taking pictures! Take photography classes, download photography tutorials, join photography Facebook groups. Take a walk around your neighborhood with your camera, practice your newfound photography tricks and see if you can get any good photos.
12. Don’t Forget Why You Travel
Lastly, we hope you are able to get some amazing travel photos for your travel blog or your friends back home, but we also hope you don’t get so caught up in photography you forget to stop and notice what is around you. Let yourself be immersed in a moment sometimes. Don’t forget why you love to travel so much! Travel photography should enhance your trips, not take away from them!
Do you want more travel photography tips and tricks? Check out our travel photography workshop we had last year with renowned photographer Albert Brunsting! Learn how to take beautiful travel photos from a pro! Happy travels!