Whether you are taking pictures to show off to your friends or family, or if your blogging like me, taking your travel photography to the next level is sure to impress. Here are some tips to take better travel photographs.
Travel photography leaves an impression. Years after you return from a trip, don’t you want to be able to recall those precious memories with great photos? Of course. But why not make them memorable and stellar?!
Take better travel photographs
The only way to be a better photographer is to take pictures, lots and lots of pictures.
Looking back at some of my earliest attempts, I shake my head, embarrassed. But that’s okay. You’ve got to laugh at yourself, right?
For me, photography goes hand in hand with travelling. Not everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about the glory of freezing time, but I find that it brings me to places that I may not have otherwise gone to, and allows me to slow down and appreciate different aspects going on at those postcard places.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years for taking better travel photos:
It’s not about gear
I repeat. It’s not about what electronics you have. Seriously. Whether you have an iPhone or a full frame DSLR, it’s how you use it that is key.
I love my Canon 60D, but I also loved my Canon t1i and my silly point and shoot before it. Some days I would rather leave my camera at home, and I stick my iPhone in my purse.
If anything, invest in lenses. Over the years, I have worked with many lenses, each one with a particular use. In my humble opinion, the lenses are a huge portion of what makes photography so great.
Be patient and become a morning person
Most travel photographers know about the golden hours, the time around sunrise and sunset where the light is so magical, but that also applies for when to shoot in touristy places.
First thing in the morning can be a splendid time to get to your destination, as the crowd will be thinner.
People in photographs is OKAY. In fact, people can make landscape photos more interesting and give it a scale. However, having hundreds of people scattered in a photo can make it lack definition. By getting to a location in the early morning hours can give you some brief moments alone to take it all in… your camera.
If you can’t be somewhere in the morning, then be patient. After the crowd take their postcard shot, there usually is a moment to snap your own. Just be respectful and be patient, but know you won’t always get “that” shot.
Let your photos tell a story
I am a huge fan of buildings. (Why are they so beautiful?) But when I look back on travel photos, I don’t want them to be all of the buildings. They don’t tell a story.
By including people, it can tell a story. Let your photos either spark or answer the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why.
This is a hard one, I love taking portraits of people in my day job, but a lot of the time, I realize this isn’t telling a story.
If you’re brave enough to ask a stranger for a photograph (and you totally should), then get them doing their thing. Photograph them selling their wares, doing their job, spinning in circles.
I also use the five W’s as a way to make a mental shot list. Who is important here? What are they doing? When is it (for this I mean, the light)? Where am I? Why is this important?
The key to take better travel photographs is to evaluate your scene and document it, which brings me to my next tip.
Go wide, go low, get up high and get close
Try a different angle. Get wide and take in your surroundings, is there something that catches your eye? Use that at a focal point for a wide angle shot of your surroundings.
Get in close. See the light reflects a certain way? What does it look like closer up?
Get down on the ground. Photos taken from the ground up can be a fantastic way to show the power of a particular place.
Get up high. I’m a huge fan of heights. Taken from above, photos can show the scale of some places.
Look the other way. Postcard shots are great for a reason, but by looking around you, you may spot another golden opportunity, while everyone is looking the opposite way.
The main tip to take better travel photographs is to change it up and look at something from varying angles.
Composition is something that comes with practice. Think of the rule of thirds, framing, leading lines, and repetition as tools to take better travel photographs.
The rule of thirds is a huge one. Visualise a tic tac toe board on your photograph. Does your focal point line up with the intersections of the horizontal and vertical lines? Great!
Here’s one for landscapes: put your horizon about 1/3 from the top or bottom of your image. Instantly better!
Framing iconic landmarks with other buildings, trees, people, etc. can make an iconic shot look more unique. Look around for things to frame your shot with.
Leading lines can help the viewer’s eyes be drawn into your photograph. It can be as simple as actual lines, like those on a roadway, or more complex like a row of people. Experimenting with angles can help you find leading lines.
Repetition, like a row of oranges or multiple surfboards, can please the eye. Look for patterns or objects that create symmetry.
Also, part of this is where to crop when it comes to taking images of people. The main rule with this is to crop at joints. What I mean is when you’re taking a photo of someone, but you don’t want their whole body in the photograph, “cut” them off at joints, like elbows, knees, waist, etc. Our brains can usually fill in the rest.
Another tip to take better travel photographs is knowing when to break the “rules.” Throw them out the window, if you want, but do it with purpose, such as symmetry.
Don’t be bummed by crappy weather
The sun doesn’t shine every day, much to the chagrin of tourists. However, weather can play a huge role in taking defining photos. Think of how beautiful snow looks or how big white puffy clouds make the sky dramatic or how the rain is making everyone hurried and wet. Life doesn’t stop when the sun is hidden and neither should your photographs.
Just be sure to protect your gear!
I take hundreds of photos, thousands even. But I don’t share all of them. I am picky when it comes to the ones I like. But my photos are stronger that way.
If I shared everything, I wouldn’t be able to hold the viewer’s attention for very long. I mean who wanted to see 80 images of a tortoise eating a cabbage. I mean I do, but that’s why I took them. In reality, I probably won’t use any except to send to my co-worker with a great pun. (The tortoise came out of his shell, but he still has a lot of emotional cabbage! HAHA)
Anyway, edit down your selection, and then do it again.
The actual process of editing your photos is subjective. I like sharp focus, vibrant colours and a slightly over-exposed look. Other may like muted tones.
Editing photos can be simple, like using VSCO, or more complicated like Adobe Photoshop. Whatever you prefer, don’t go overboard.
Read up and be inspired
Along with practicing by doing, read up on how to take better travel photos. Two of my favourites are Read this if you want to take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll, a simplified guide to photography and Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography.
Get inspired by reading blogs and searching Pinterest. When you see an interesting photo, take a moment to decipher how the photographer took that image. It can help you when you hit the road for some good old fashion photography fun.
What was your favourite travel photograph you’ve ever taken?
Inspired? Pin it: