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10 travel photography tips for taking amazing photos

10 travel photography tips for taking amazing photos

Have you ever had someone post travel photos and boast about how nice it is to be sitting on some tropical beach or exploring some foreign city, only to be confused because their photos look kind of lame?

This, my friends, can be explained by terrible travel photography.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take good travel photos, but there’s more to it than taking a cheap digital camera and snapping what’s around you.

As someone who has been slowly growing my travel photography skills over the past 7 years, I’m going to share with you my travel photography tips for taking amazing travel photos!


Canon DSLR 600D

1. Get the right gear

Yes, you can use a point-and-shoot or a smartphone for travel photography, but your photos will come out much better if you get a quality camera.

I’ve detailed my suggestions for DSLR cameras and lenses, but do your research and get whatever feels right for you. And remember, a quality lens takes better photos than a good camera!

travel photography tips

travel photography tips

2. Notice what’s in the foreground for landscapes

It might be tempting to capture a landscape by focusing on only what’s in the distance, but having something in the foreground (ie. closer to you) might make the shot more interesting.

In the above photos, I’ve used boats and trees as my foreground props. These give scale to the landscape, and make the photo more interesting to look at.

travel photography tips

travel photography tips

3. The rule of thirds

Our eyes are naturally drawn to the balance of photos where the photo is divided up into thirds horizontally or vertically. Instagram has a grid of thirds when you upload a new photo for this very reason.

When you take a photo, try out different ways of dividing the scene into thirds. You might be surprised at how much more appealing your photos look!

travel photography tips

4. IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE

This one is kind of hard to explain, but I’ll try my best. A good photo has balance, ie. there’s not a heavy looking object on one side of the photo and a light object on the other side.

Dark areas and light areas, large objects and small objects, all contribute to a sense of heaviness and lightness. Try to arrange the objects in your photo so that one doesn’t dominate the other.

travel photography tips

5. Take note of backgrounds for portraits

If you’re taking a photo of a person, try to position them in front of something that contrasts with their shape. For example, the sky, a lake, or a blank wall behind the person make them stand out. If you get them standing in front of a bunch of other people, then they might fade into the busyness around them.

If you have a lens with a large aperture (a smaller f-number), you can create more background blur, which again will make the person stand out from what’s behind them.

travel photography tips

6. Mix up selfies with different angles

Close up, in the distance, looking ahead, facing away – there are so many more options for selfies than the standard ‘looking at the camera with a duck face’ pose.

If you want to mix it up a little, try using a your timer on a tripod (I use a Joby GorillaPod as it’s easy to travel with).

If you’re travelling with a friend of partner, ask them to take a photo for you. I usually set up the photo with my camera exactly how I want it to look, then hand the camera to my husband to take the photo while I run into the shot!

travel photography tips

7. Wait for the perfect moment

Crowded places often make travel photos look messy. If you can, wait until people in the shot move out of the way before taking a photo. I’m constantly standing around for a few minutes in crowded places, just so that I can wait for crowds to clear.

In the above photo, I actually photoshopped someone out of the doorway as it was really difficult to get a shot with no-one in it!

Another option is to use super wide angle lenses, so that your photos don’t look as though a bunch of people are standing directly in front of you.

travel photography tips

8. Have your camera ready all of the time

You never know when a photo op will come about, so it’s best to have your camera ready, always. The above shot was taken at the very moment our boat passed this one, so I had to have my camera ready in a matter of seconds!

I have my DSLR slung over my shoulder and set to auto-mode most of the time, as it takes less time to set up for spontaneous shots, but I switch to manual if the lighting isn’t right or if I’m doing night photography.

travel photography tips

9. Take multiple shots of any scene

Don’t be afraid to take multiple photos and delete the ones you don’t like. I might take anywhere from 1-5 shots of a scene, and then I’ll go through them to find the best one.

I handed my camera to Robert to get a good photo of me on the beach at Lake Titicaca. He took about 10 photos then handed me the camera to choose a winner!

Before

After

10. It’s all in the editing

Of course taking a good photo in the first place is important, but editing is equally important to how your photos look when you present them online. Here’s my list of editing techniques to make your travel photos pop!


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Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

25 Responses to “10 travel photography tips for taking amazing photos”

  1. Maaike - Travellous World

    I love this post! Thanks for all the tips! I’m using a DSLR myself and am still learning all things. I’m still struggling quite a lot with situations in which there are bright objects and dark objects in the same frame. For example, I love to photograph European alleys. Often, one side of these alleys are very bright, due to sunlight being able to reach those places, while the other side of these alleys is dark. I find it really hard to get the camera settings right in these kind of situations. Would you have an idea what the best settings would be?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Maaike! A very common problem – and one that’s actually better fixed by waiting until a different time of day. Bright sunlight and shadows are difficult to capture well, so the best thing to do (if you have time) is to wait until a cloudy day, or go out in ‘golden hour’ (ie. the hour after dawn, or the hour before sunset) as the sunlight is much less harsh in these situations.

      Reply
  2. Angie

    Great tips! I’ll have to keep these in mind as I travel. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  3. Mima Isono

    I never pay attention to “the rule of thirds” before reading this post. Thanks so much for the tips. And I think it’s very important to continue practicing photography daily regardless on travel or not.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Not a problem, Mima! I agree, it’s really practice that makes perfect. I take photos even when I’m not travelling, mostly because I enjoy it but also because the practice makes me better at it!

      Reply
  4. Petra @ The Global Couple

    Great tips 🙂 I think constantly practicing and refining technique is key. I went to a great photography course here in Auckland before heading overseas a couple of years ago, where they taught us all about composition and using our cameras in manual, and we walked through the city practicing – it was fantastic. I also love using my telephoto lens in markets and so on – getting close up to things like weird food makes for really interesting travel photos!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That sounds like the perfect way to get started with manual mode photography! I’m self taught, but I think the learning process would be a hell of a lot quicker if you have someone walking you through the settings and practising on the spot!

      Reply
  5. Kirstie

    Good tips! I think I’ve improved a lot over my years of travel, but I still have a long way to go and occasionally get frustrated about not being able to capture a beautiful scene as well as I’d like!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Ahh, even the most professional photographers feel that sometimes! Depending on the lighting, the situation, and the people around, all make a difference to how a photo will turn out. Sometimes it’s just not possible to take a good one! we’ve just got to do the best we can.

      Reply
  6. Rae

    Thank you so much for these amazing tips! After spending the majority of college with my DLSR in hand my camera now feels like a useless brick in my hand. Will have to remember this for the next outing!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m glad you found it useful, Rae! It’s hard to get into the habit of thinking about your photos before you take them, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature. Best of luck practising with your DSLR! 🙂

      Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Bad lighting is sometimes unavoidable, especially if you’re travelling and don’t have time to wait around for a better moment! It’s every photographer’s worst nightmare! All I can suggest is trying the shot from a different angle, as sometimes moving a few metres will make the lighting look a little better. For night shots, you can check out my tips here 🙂

      Reply
  7. Ben Church

    Wow, our volunteers will really benefit from this article. Photos are an amazing way to remember your travels!

    Reply
  8. Stephanie

    Nice write up.

    Being mindful of backgrounds is very important! Another rookie mistake I see a lot is overexposing the highlights in the sky on a high contrast scene. Simple HDR or an ND filter can solve that problem though.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Stephanie! Over/Under exposing is a very common mistake, though it’s sometimes hard to get around, especially if you don’t want to be carrying around a lot of gear with you!

      Reply
  9. Sam Chadwick

    Great stuff, especially the rule of thirds, something I hadn’t considered before.. I’m pretty new to this whole photography stuff. Thanks!!

    Reply

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