Whether you are a traveler extraordinaire who hopes to take better travel photos, you want to explore the world of posting on social media, you are a mom who snaps pictures of her family wherever you go, OR you want to UP your photography game, learning a few of the basics will help to improve the quality of your photographs.
Let’s get started.
Simple Tips to Take Better Travel Photos
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Here are a few simple tips to follow as you are traveling and hoping to take better travel photos—especially when you visit sites that are popular and everyone else wants to visit at the same time as you!
Avoid Visiting Popular Sites at Popular Times
Maybe this isn’t the “popular” answer, but it is the obvious one.
To avoid visiting popular attractions at the busiest times, this tip might mean waking up early in the morning before crowds gather or visiting a popular site in the early evening when crowds begin to thin.
Not a morning person? Sometimes sacrifices have to be made to capture the best pic and take better travel photos!
Other busy times you may wish to avoid visiting popular sites:
- During holidays
- In the high season
- On a local holiday
- Around noon
- On the weekend
That being said, sometimes you just have to go with flow and recognize that your shots might be full of 500 of your “new” best friends!
Avoid Crowds and Tour Groups if Possible
One of simplyjolayne’s golden rules for dining while traveling is to wander about five blocks away from the main tourist area and crowded dining options to find out-of-the-way restaurants where the locals might pop in for lunch or dinner.
The same can be said for taking pictures. If you find that the main tourist areas are completely overrun with tourists and tour groups following a guide holding a brightly colored selfie stick, wander away from the crowds and discover the photos that show local life, Friday morning markets, and beautiful architecture.
You will be amazed at your ability to take better travel photos when you can slow down and enjoy the scene in front of you.
Have you ever looked at a photo on Instagram and wondered, “How did they manage to take a picture without any other tourists in it? When I was there it was so crowded I could hardly keep track of my family!”
Patience, my friend. Patience.
…And having your camera ready to go the moment the last tourist walks out of your frame. That’s another idea for learning to take better travel photos.
Again, patience may not reward you with a tourist-free shot. Sometimes you just have to be okay with that.
Have Your Camera Settings Dialed In and Act Fast
Having patience leads to this tip: As you are waiting for a photo opportunity, make sure that you have all of your camera settings ready to go. Take a few test pictures while the crowds are milling if needed so you know that your shot will be perfect. Adjust for light, change angles, or zoom in.
Act fast once your frame clears.
This spot in front of of the General Sherman tree in the Sequoia National Park in California is often besieged with tourists wanting a memento in front of the giant sequoia tree and the sign.
To capture a “tourist-free” photo of the tree, be ready for the break in the crowd and snap away. You may only have two seconds. Again, have your settings ready to go so that you know the shot will turn out the way you want.
Have Your Smart Phone Ready To Go as a Back up
This may take a little fancy handwork, but have your camera open on your phone and easy to reach if you are switching between a DSLR. If you find you just can’t get the lighting right or need to shoot from a higher angle to take better travel photos, use your phone’s camera.
Don’t be afraid to use your phone for pictures.
Cameras on newer phones offer sophisticated and advanced technology for even the hobby photographer.
Edit Your Photos Later
Edit, edit, edit.
There are free apps for your phone or even desktop options such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom where you can crop and remove people from your photo. A little bit of magic to help you take better travel photos.
If you have never used the Adobe products, there is a learning curve associated with those programs.
Stand So People in the Background are Hidden from View
Sometimes it will be simply impossible to wait for all of the people to clear from your shot to take an amazing travel photo.
If you can, place your subject (you, a family member, friend, or travel partner) strategically in front of people in the distance.
Voila! It looks as though the street is empty.
Take Day Trips to Less Popular Destinations to Take Better Travel Photos
The touristy experiences in the bigger cities, such as Rome and Venice and Paris, are great so you can say, “I’ve been there!”, but sometimes getting outside of the city and away from the crowds is awesome.
Day trips to smaller, out-of-the-way towns and villages, such as Orvieto in Italy or Riquewihr in France, can be just as magical and picturesque.
Simply Ask People to Move
You will find that most people will move when they see you waiting with a camera in hand to take a picture.
Sometimes you’ll just have to ask people to move and they are happy to do it. Other times, there’s no rushing some people and they are going to stand in that spot for as long as they want. Dang it! (If this is the case, you can go back to the “be patient” point, you can change your angle, you can try again later, or you can just move along.)
Use the Crowd in Your Shot to Take Better Travel Photos
Recognize that sometimes you just aren’t going to get the “tourist-free” shot of your dreams.
For example, the Piazzale degli Uffizi in Florence outside of the Uffizi Museum is often overcrowded with tourists. You may wish to have all of the tourists move out of the way for you to capture the amazing architecture in the foreground and the buildings in the background, but sometimes wishes don’t come true.
Take the picture anyway.
Composition Rules to Follow to Take Better Travel Photos
If you are a new photographer and are feeling a little overwhelmed as you learn to master your camera and take better travel photos, take heart. It takes a lot of practice. The amazing thing about digital cameras is that you can take as many photos as you like, delete as many photos as you don’t like, and continue learning each time you venture out with your camera to take better travel photos.
Following a few rules of composition will enhance your photos.
Consider the Light
Use natural light as much as possible in your photographs. Natural light generally refers to any light created by the sun (or the moon).
While it would be nice to say, “Avoid the sun at midday,” sometimes you just can’t as you are traveling. What can you do in such a situation?
- Use a lens hood
- Try to find shade
- Make a point to come back to the spot in early morning or early evening
- Have your subject turn their back to the camera
- Take advantage of the shadows cast by your subject and be creative
- Shoot from a different angle
Good lighting is essential to your photographs when you are trying to take better travel photos.
Quick Tip * Do you ever wonder where the ideal position is to have your subject stand in relation to the sun? Have them stand so that when you as the photographer are facing them, you see their shadow between you and them.
Use the Rule of Thirds To Take Better Travel Photos
Imagine that your screen (view finder) is divided into a grid of 9 equal sections when you frame your shot. For the most dynamic and natural photos, move your subject away from the center of the photo and place them along one of those vertical lines or where the points intersect.
You can turn ON the “GRID” option in your camera app or camera settings to visually see the grid as you take pictures. After practice, you will naturally begin to use the Rule of Thirds in your photos and take better travel photos.
Now, this is not to say NEVER CENTER YOUR PHOTOS! There is a time for centering your subject when you wish to create symmetry but to generally achieve a more natural-looking photo, learn to use the Rule of Thirds.
Try Not to Have Things Sprouting Out Of Your Subject’s Head
If you look at the composition of your photo and notice that there is a flagpole or a sign or an architectural feature that extends smack above your subject’s head, have them move a little to the left or the right.
Use Natural Frames
Framing is a compositional technique in photography that draws the viewer’s eye to the most important feature in your photo and creates a frame around the subject. Using frames adds more dimension to your photo.
You can achieve this framing technique using windows and doors, an arched entryway, trees and bushes, a tunnel…even an umbrella.
Once you start finding objects that can create a framing effect, you’ll begin to see them everywhere.
Find Leading Lines as You Compose Your Photo
Using leading lines to take better travel photos is where you basically use lines from a feature in your photo to direct the viewer’s eye toward the main story, subject, or intent within the photo. Leading lines moves the attention from one element to another.
Examples of leading lines:
- Railroad tracks
- An aisle in a church
- Architectural feature
- The surf
Shoot from a Creative Angle
The effort to take better travel photos may simply mean taking a picture from a different perspective. This may involve shooting up from a lower angle or looking down from a higher vantage point.
Move away from always trying to see your subject eye to eye. Crouch down to a child’s level, stand on your tip toes, or hold your phone above the crowd to capture a new perspective.
If your children are playing at a play park, try standing under them as they climb the structure or above them as they as play below.
Try to Capture a Reflection
Some of the coolest photos come from capturing a reflection of your desired subject.
Did you know that some photographers travel with a water bottle for this very purpose? They create a puddle on the ground in front of an architectural tourist site and take a shot of the reflection in the water.
You can also look for reflections after a rain shower, in a river or body of water, or even in a pair of reflective sunglasses.
Focus on the Eyes
Think back to the Rule of Thirds compositional tip. An important point when photographing people is to make sure that the subject’s eye that is closest to you is on one of those points. That is where you camera focus should be as well.
Focusing on the eyes ensures that the viewer engages with the eyes, after all “the eyes are the window to the soul.”
Make Sure Your Focus is Spot On
How many times have you taken a picture only to find later that it is out of focus or focusing on the wrong thing? Practice. Practice. Practice.
How to Improve Your Photography Skills to Take Better Travel Photos
Learn the Basics of Your Camera
If your goal is to improve as a photographer AND take better travel photos, find a course that teaches the basic principles of photography.
Understanding ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed and how they all work together sometimes takes effort to wrap your head around.
Many professional photographers encourage you to get away from shooting in Auto Mode and “focus” on shooting in Manual Mode. That’s where understanding ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed is essential.
If you are traveling and moving from one scene to another, one tip is to shoot in Aperture Mode and let your camera figure out the Shutter Speed. This helps when you are on the go and want to be able to compose a shot quickly.
You can still achieve some nicely composed and focused shots.
There’s nothing like good old fashioned practice to improve your skills over time. Practice on your family. Practice on your friends. Practice on inanimate objects in your garden. Practice with each trip you go on to take better travel photos.
Take a Course to Learn the Features of Your Camera
If you are looking for a comprehensive course that starts at the beginning, Audrey Ann from Live Snap Love has some amazing photography courses to take.
simplyjolayne does not receive any financial benefit from referring you to Audrey’s classes; Audrey just has an easy way of teaching and helping you to improve your skills.
If you spend any time on social media, you may encounter people who are passionate about their brand of camera. There has long been a debate about which camera brand is the best—Sony, Canon, Nikon, etc.
The answer? Whatever camera you have with you!!!
Point and Shoot Camera
Just remember, you don’t have to travel with ALL of your photography equipment. Pack lightly. Take only the essentials. That may mean your camera body and one possibly two versatile lenses and a few accessories. Here are a few ideas for you to consider.
A go-to lens for the Canon T8i is the Canon EF-S 18-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 [affiliate] with image stabilization. It is perfect for all of your domestic AND international adventures. The Canon T8i (in the Canon Rebel Line) is a perfect beginner’s camera.
If your skills have improved and you are looking to upgrade from a T-series camera to a Canon 6D Mark II or similar DSLR, note that you will also need to upgrade your lenses from the EF-S line to the EF lenses such as this lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
Upgrading is an important consideration, as the photography hobby comes with some expensive photography gadgets and equipment!
The good news, the relatively inexpensive Canon “nifty fifty” [affiliate] lens—an EF lens—works with both camera bodies. (Be sure to pick the nifty fifty lens suited to your brand of camera).
Nowadays, with the advances in smart phone camera technology, the best camera might just be in your back pocket!
Beyond the “phone” capabilities, the travel apps, and having the ability to search for anything under the sun, your smart phone is perfect when you travel for the photography moments when you need to snap something quick, when the lighting is low, or you just want a back up to your camera shots.
If your first inclination is to proclaim, <GASP> “Never!”, think again.
Don’t be so quick to rule out a selfie stick, especially if traveling solo is your gig.
There are tripods that are small and flexible for travel, but if you are traveling solo (or even with a group), you may wish to have the added benefit of the Fugetek selfie stick [affiliate] in your travel gear.
The selfie stick a handy gadget complete with an iPhone and Android compatible camera stand. The stick can extend in height with an easy click-in lock and comes with a removable remote for easy one-step operation. The tripod features non-skid feet for your selfie stick to become a stand alone device.
The Canon Wireless Remote Control [affiliate] is a handy photography gadget that is lightweight and small. It allows you to take “selfies” with your DSLR!
Or, if your hands are full holding reflectors or if you are using a tripod, you can easily set up your camera on the remote setting and enable the remote control.
There is a specific camera setting!
Don’t forget to change the setting on your camera!
There is a debate in the photography community as to the need or value of Lens Filters. For certain types of photography, filters are essential in achieving a specific look and feel to your photos.
A UV Protected Lens Filter [affiliate] can be a protection to your mor expensive lenses.
Be sure to purchase the correct size of filter for your lens.
While you often hear about the “golden hours” in photography, it isn’t always practical to only shoot at the first light of the morning or in the waning hours of the evening for the best light.
As you travel, you are shooting and sightseeing all day long and need to account for the sun as best you can. A Lens Hood [affiliate] can help you to take better travel photos during the daytime hours.
The lens hood blocks the direct sunlight from hitting the lens and allows you to take better travel photos in the bright light of the day.
Again, be sure to purchase the correct size for your lens.
Extra Memory Card
Be sure to have sufficient memory in your SD Cards [affiliate]. If your travel extends for an extended length of time, invest in a card with enough space for all of your vacation photos.
Having a back up card isn’t a bad idea either.
Camera Battery & Charger
Waterproof BackPack Cover
An improvised backpack rain cover fashioned from plastic bags may work to cover your backpack and keep your camera and photography gadgets dry for a time. Invest in a Waterproof Backpack Covers [affiliate] for future rainy days.
Tips for Looking Awesome to Take Better Travel Photos of YOU
Wear Colors that POP
Do you know what colors look best on you?
Choose bright colors that enhance your skin AND make your photos POP with color when you travel.
It may be as simple as wearing a brightly colored scarf.
Consider your destination and make color choices based on it. For example, if you’re at the beach, wear something besides blue so that you stand out from the color of the ocean.
Learn How to Pose to Show Your Best Side
- Move to good lighting
- Slightly push your butt out behind you to show a slimmer torso
- Bend your arm to create space between your arm and your body
- Turn your body 45 degrees toward the camera
- Turn your face so one ear is closer to the camera and slightly tilt your chin down
- Lean forward from the waist just a touch
- Stand tall, don’t slouch. Watch your posture. Sit up to elongate and slim your waist
- Put one foot forward—put most of your weight on the foot in the back
- Show movement—walk, twirl, look away from camera, grab your sunglasses, tuck your hair behind your ear
- Be confident
- Take candid shots
- Use props and have some fun
Use a Tripod
While not one of your essential photography gadgets, you may find that a tripod for your camera or your iPhone would come in handy for family photos, still shots, and travel photography.
The GorillaPod might be a great in between tripod if your camera and lens fit the 6.6 pound weight specification.
Use a Selfie Stick to Take Better Travel Photos of You!
In a world with camera phones, it is a simple task to ask your travel partners or even a stranger to take your picture.
If you go on vacation and return home without a single photo of you, hand over your camera next time or consider investing in a selfie stick.
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Final Thoughts on How to Take Better Travel Photos (and Look Better in Them too!)
This is a brief overview of how to take better travel photos. The key, really, is to practice, practice, practice.
There is so much more to learn if you wish to master the features of your camera, and especially to move away from shooting in Auto.
All in the hopes that you will be able to take better travel photos.