The following 20 must-know travel photography tips will help you capture plenty of beautiful, professional-looking photos on your next vacation!
Capturing great photos while traveling is a skill that can only be honed with great patience and practice. Great photos unify one’s knowledge of composition, preparation, and an understanding of your camera. However, the most effective elements in taking eye-catching images are creativity and putting your personality into your craft. Here are 20 tips that can help you refine your travel photography skills to capture memories for a lifetime.
1.) Know Your Camera
Knowing the finer points of your camera is extremely important when it comes to capturing great travel photos. If you have a brand new camera, take some time before you depart to learn the ins and outs of how to use it. Understanding the various settings and doing some low-stakes photoshoots at home can make all the difference once you’re on the road.
2.) Scout Photo Locations
It’s a vast advantage to figure out where you want to shoot before you leave home. Doing so will not only save you time on the road, but it will also be essential in capturing some great shots. Make sure to document the following:
- The address of each location
- The distance from your hotel, and
- A quick note about what to expect at each location.
3.) Pack Light for Great Travel Photos
Packing light for travel photography means having a good idea of the equipment you’ll use and making the most of each piece. It may seem enticing to bring many lens choices and all of your gadgets. However, in reality, you’ll only use a few key pieces of gear. Also, lugging around extra heavy equipment is never fun.
4.) Choose the Right Lenses for Your Travel Photos
Before you depart on your adventure, take a moment to consider the kind of situations in which you’ll be shooting. Will you be taking a lot of landscape shots? Will you need to take detailed shots from afar? Or are you more interested in street scenery?
Knowing the style of photos you want to take is essential in choosing the right lenses for your trip. Doing so will also save you from lugging around tons of lenses that you’ll never use.
5.) Shoot in the Correct Mode for Great Travel Photos
Using the icon modes on your camera may seem easy. However, in reality, shooting in modes such as sports, portraits, and landscape will limit your creativity. Instead, shoot in modes such as Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual. Aperture priority mode is likely the most common of the modes for professional travel photographers. This automatically sets the shutter speed and allows you to focus solely on the ISO and f-stop. With that in mind, play around with the modes and see which one is most intuitive to you.
6.) Don’t Overbook Yourself
As with traveling in general, you don’t want to overbook yourself. Make sure to give yourself some extra time in locations where you will want to get great shots. Make sure to account for lighting fluctuations, weather conditions, and the timing of sunrise and sunset.
7.) Bring a Tripod and Intervalometer
Traveling with a compact tripod and intervalometer are key when it comes to capturing photos with movement, night scenery, and getting yourself in the shots. You’ll have full control of the frame as well as how often and how many shots are captured without ever touching your camera.
8.) Get Up Before Sunrise for Prime Travel Photos
Sunrise is arguably the best time for photography. Waking up early will give you great light, and you’ll likely have your choice of location. However, if you’re not a morning person, be sure to give yourself lots of time to get up and out the door.
9.) Plan Your Dinners Around Sunset
This is typically a busier time of day, especially compared to sunrise. However, this will give you some beautiful shots with superb lighting. Look up when the golden hour will be in your location and have your spot picked out and ready ahead of time. If you’re worried about crowds, make sure to research some off-the-radar locations.
10. Think Outside the Box for your Travel Photos
Just because you’ve done your research about the best locations around your destination doesn’t mean you have to stick to the status quo. Be creative with your photos. Shoot from unique vantage points. Experiment with depth of field and lighting.
11.) Be Considerate of Locals and Private Property
Before you venture out on any travel shoots, think about how your presence and photography ideas may affect locals and their property. If a shooting location is on private property, always ask permission before you begin. The same goes for people. While it may be legal to take photos of people on the street, it’s best to ask first if you want a specific shot of a person.
12.) Back-Up Your Travel Photos
Having a system to back-up and file your photos is super important. Make it a point to back-up your photos every night after you’re done shooting for the day. Make separate folders on your computer for each of your trips and then back them up on an external hard drive. You don’t want to risk an entire trip’s worth of photos just because of a corrupt card or a damaged hard drive!
13.) Experiment with Different Angles
This is possibly one of the easiest things you can do to capture intriguing images. The vast majority of photos are captured at eye level. However, you can make your photos more interesting by simply getting high up or down low. To make this happen, all you need to do is find different vantage points. You can do this by getting down on your belly and shooting upwards or seeking out a birds-eye view via a drone if you’re looking for a unique image. Above all else, make sure to find and make use of guiding lines to draw the viewer’s attention to the focal point of your photos.
14.) Allow for Spontaneity
Planning out your travel photography locations in advance is a great way to secure some great shots. However, leaving room for unplanned adventures and photos will keep your photography fresh and unique. Furthermore, experimenting with your techniques and keeping your schedule (and shots) spontaneous will make taking photos fun and will keep your trip stress-free.
15.) Learn How to Edit Your Travel Photos
Most photographers are constantly looking to take their photography to the next level and make them look as professional as possible. Learning how to edit your photos the right way will be a total game-changer in this department. There are countless programs out there that you can use to edit your photos. No matter which program you end up using, make sure you do the following:
- Keep your horizon lines straight
- Balance your colors and exposure
- Assess your composition
16.) Choose Hotels Based on Location
As we mentioned earlier, make a note of the addresses of each of the top photography locations that you wish to visit. This will allow you to map out each of them. The easiest way to visit all of your locations in the shortest amount of time is to book a centrally-located hotel.
17.) Get Local Tips
Doing a little research to find the photography hot spots is a great idea. However, asking the locals once you’ve reached your destination is even better. It will give you a perspective that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Locals typically know the most photogenic spots in the hometown and will often give you tips on how to avoid the crowds.
18.) Compose Your Shot
There are no hard and fast “rules” when it comes to composing your photos. However, there are a few key elements that you may want to consider. One such element is the rule of thirds:
- Give your photos a focal point of interest
- Consider symmetry
- Creat foreground interest
- Use guiding lines
19.) Add a Human Element to Your Travel Photography
Whether you include yourself in shots or take photos of other people in the area, adding a human element will keep your photos personal and relatable. Furthermore, there are few things worse than getting home and realizing that you don’t have any photos of you on your trip.
20.) Be Patient
Waiting for the weather to clear, crowds to scatter and for the perfect conditions can make all the difference. Remember that the best photos take time and that they’re almost always worth the wait!