First thing first, I am no expert. Though, for the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to different parts of the globe and share the experience as I go along via photos. As a long time dreamer of travelling and being fascinated by the different cultures, I’ve been teaching myself how to capture better travel photos to effectively transcend the feeling, the energy and the passion behind it.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few ways on how to be better at this. Here are 17 tips for taking better travel photos.
1. Pack the Essential Travel Gears
You can’t go to school without your books, pens, pencils if you mean business. It’s the same here, you can’t go to work without your tools. Have an idea in mind on what you’d like to capture and how you’d like to capture it and pack the essential travel gears for that. Whilst it is good to have a goal in mind, be open-minded. Play with ideas, play with the lightning and let it be fun.
For me personally, I always make sure to pack a Mefoto lightweight tripod for solo travelling, extra camera batteries and a GoPro for underwater activities.
2. Tell A Story
When I think about travel photography the core part of it is that it should be telling a story. When you are capturing an image, think about how you’d like your viewers feel; the feeling you’d want to transcend through that photo. Your goal should be to encapsulate the soul of the location or the scene in subject. Whenever I take photos, I want that emotion to be passed on to my audience. Though, keep it simple!
3. Learn Composition To Better Frame Your Photos
Aforementioned, I am no expert what so ever, but over the years I’ve learned a few things that will help travel photos look and feel more profound. I try to get rid of the obvious. One of the ways to do that is to learn photo composition. I personally frame photos so they are more than just as. I’ll give you a practical example of this; beach locations.
I’ll be a little transparent here. For me, taking photos on the beach can be a little difficult. Since the sea is so flat, it’s usually really hard standing head-on at a 90° angle and trying to get that killer shot that will show up the scenery. As clear as the water is and as white as the sand is… capturing images like these will only show you mostly skies. I call these empty shots.
Instead, go higher or go lower… or as I like to do it. I frame it. I am usually framing it with a palm tree, plants etc.
4. Get Up Early To Beat the Tourists
When it comes on to travel photography, having an empty location to work with is almost like having an empty canvas for painters. Whenever people aren’t the subject of your photography, but rather the location itself, you need to make it a task to beat the tourists.
Having fewer people around gives you more room to play around with an idea and to try different angles. Whilst people are required to tell the story in some locations, in other locations, it works better being ‘people free’. The idea is to be there at first light. During my trip in Germany, I was up at first light to visit Romerberg. This was the outcome before the tourists.
5. Always Take Your Camera With You
Generally, photography means being in the right place at the right time. Whenever that time arrives, you want to make sure you are fully equipped. I take my camera everywhere. I am always looking out for that unplanned shot as this on of an erupting Volcano in Guatemala.
6. Be Prepared for Changing Weather Conditions
I’ve always thought that having rainy days, for example, means I cannot take the photos I intend to. False! Rainy days or cloudy days actually allow stunning photos. The lightning is usually better than harsh midday sunlight.
7. Learn How To Use Your Camera
Before you embark on a travel journey, learn how to use your camera. One of the biggest no-no is having a camera and not knowing the key functions to use it to its fullest potential. Say for example you are travelling with a DSLR, be sure to know how to switch up and use the different settings. Travelling around with A DSLR can be futile if it is being treated as a regular point and shoot camera. Know your tools!
8. Try Candid Photos
Try to be flexible with your photos, especially the ones where you are one of the subjects. Nothing captures the true essence of travel photography more than images that are not staged. Taking photos with yourself in the frame — have fun, be flexible and be sincere.
9. Be Driven and Determined
Getting the shot you set out to get for the day might take some time to achieve. Be driven, be determined. Also, be prepared be out from early morning until latenight. This shot below was taken approximately 2 am of an erupting volcano in Antigua, Guatemala. This for me is the definition of being driven and determined.
You can read about the experience here: Hiking The Fire Volcano
10. Research Your Location
Research your travel destination beforehand. Guidebooks, blogs, Pinterest and Instagram are brilliant places to start your research. It gives you ideas of what the location looks like first-hand, thus giving you ideas on where to capture the best images, or where to find the best angles.
This gives you more time to spend on a location; trying to capture the essence rather than spending time trying to find the spots in the first place. Though researching your location beforehand saves time, I strongly recommend you scout out the area on your own to put your personal spin to it.
11. Avoid the Shot Everyone Else Is Taking
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve been to a location and dozens of travellers are lined up, with their cameras out, capturing the same exact image just as everyone else. That same shot right there, avoid it!
Step away from a photo option like this and be creative. In this instance, I try to look at the different angles. For me, I am usually thinking of positioning my camera from a lower or higher angle… or even to avoid the shot altogether. Also, repositioning yourself, walking around the site will give you a new perspective. Your goal is to sort of reconstruct a new impression of the place.
11. Shoot in RAW
I cannot stress this anymore. Shooting in RAW mode does wonder for your photography. It allows you to literally set the mood to your photos when it comes on to the editing process. You can enhance colours, depth of field, lightning. I always shoot in RAW and I am never going back.
12. Photograph the “Little Things”
When I started taking photos of my travels, I use to only focus on well-known destinations and locations that would be recognized within seconds. I have now grown to be more creative and have learned ways to take notice of thing little things.
Taking photos of the “little things” does not only make them seem bigger in life, it also helps to tell the story.
13. Back Up Your Photos
This is photography 101, back up your photos. This is as crucial as it gets. When my laptop decided to shut down without any warning and the Apple technicians mentioned that a complete wipe of the system would be conducted, my external hard drive saved the day.
I back my photos up in several places. A few places online (Dropbox, Gooogle Drive) and also on external hard drives. If you do nothing else, be sure to back up the RAW files.
14. Set Aside Days To Shoot
When you are travelling it is important to set aside days in which you just focus on photography, while the other days are set to focus on enjoying the moment and being present.
Set aside photography days as work days so you can really focus on getting the shot your heart desires. It takes time, energy and patience. Set aside these days so you can get the time to truly live in the moment and experience life itself.
15. An Eye for Details
The moment you set out, look around and pay attention to the details. Details help to bring a photo alive. I’ll give you a very practical example. Let’s go with the beach example again. Whenever I am trying to capture photos on the beach, I love for it to be partly cloudy; it creates a contract. Let’s state the obvious; the sea is blue. On a perfectly sunny day, that would be blue on blue, blue skies, blue sea.
For many, a relatively perfect beach day would be sunny blue skies, for me, it’s a little different, I like for it to be a little cloudy. Pay attention to the details, so much so as how the clouds are moving in the skies.
16. Fill the Entire Frame
Try to put as much as possible in the frame to fully create a story. You want help your viewers live in the moment as well. Try to avoid taking photos where it 3/4’s skies and the remaining 1/4 with the subject. Instead, try to fill the frame with mostly the subject.
In some cases capturing mostly skies make sense; in the instance of a sunset or some drastic could moments. Otherwise, focus on the subject to create an entire scenery and fill up that frame.
17. Learn to Improvise.
If you are a solo traveller, learning to improvise will be the art of creating better travel photos. Aforementioned, pack the essentials, but in this case be sure to pack your tripod. No tripod? You can use a pile of books or any other object that has a flat surface to rest your camera.
If you’re on the outdoors, use your daypack. Position it in a way where your camera will be steady and to an angle that suits you. Use a timer! No timer? Set your camera to a 10-second countdown and run back into the frame.
I have done this countless times. Works like a charm.
Taken with a tripod and timer!