5 Tips for Better Travel Photos
You booked the trip, took the time off work, travelled to your destination. Now the camera is out to capture the sights and scenes you’ll take back home. How do you go beyond easy snapshots and create images you will be proud to share with friends and family? Here are five easy-to-follow tips to make you a better travel photographer.
1. Plan your day
Photo opportunities exist everywhere. Planning your day will prepare you to identify and capture the subjects you want. To make it easier, collect your map and your research notes about the location; go out earlier when the light is best and before crowds flood the place. This will give you images that most people won't get. Also plan where you will be at the end of the day when the light comes down to get some potential golden light, twilight photos and illuminated monuments.
With a little research ahead of time, it was easy for me to find a good high location for a good view of the Duomo in Florence. I made sure to be there at the end of the day, yet early enough to assess where I wanted to set up my tripod. I then caught the evening lights coming up over the town.
2. Have your camera ready
It is a good habit to review the camera settings on the first outing of the day. You might have used it indoor the night before and changed the white balance, or used a long exposure for night photography. Reviewing the camera when you start the day will ensure things are reset properly. Assess the light conditions and choose the new settings according to the environment: a fast shutter to freeze the moment, high ISO in low light conditions etc.
Take the lens cap off!
This sounds obvious, but it is amazing to see how many people walk around with their camera off and the lens cap on. This can be the difference between taking that great photo and not being ready for it!
3. Anticipate the image
When you find a great background, wait for something to happen. Visualize the image you are looking for, frame it, take a couple of practice shots to make sure you have the right settings and that you are satified with the composition. Then practice patience and wait for the image to come together.
In this image, the perspective and colums caught my eye but the scene looked empty. The delivery van that passed was far from being what I was hoping for. Then, I notice a lady crossing the plaza and walking in the right direction. She was a slow walker and it was just a matter of waiting for her to stroll into the image for me.
4. Don’t let it rain on your parade
Wet days can be perfect for photos: colours become more saturated, wet streets bring interesting reflections and places become empty as everyone flees for cover. This is your chance to get unusual images. Find a strategy that works for you: stand under an awning or a bus stop to stay dry while shooting, protect your camera with a shower cap or purchase a proper protective sleeve before leaving home. Also make sure you are ready to capture dramatic light just before a storm, or just after the rain has stopped.
November in London… far from being a sunny destination! I took shelter under an arch during a typical rain shower and noticed the vivid architecture reflections on the wet pavement. Looking at it from various directions, I found an angle that worked to include someone walking by with a colouful umbrella.
5. Fill the frame
To add impact to your photos, identify what you like about the scene and find a way to fill the frame with it. It could be an interesting pattern, a leading perspective, a busker juggling… Remove anything that does not add or contribute to your image. You can fill the frame by using your optical zoom, by walking closer to your subject, or as a last resort, crop the image once you are back home. This will however reduce the quality of the image if you want to enlarge it. Cropping is fine if you are simply trimming around the image, but more than that and the loss of pixels will damage the image.
Look for details
Travel photography is not all about great vistas and open landscapes. You should also include the little things that make you smile and tell a story about the place. Imagine you are writing a photo essay or a travel feature. Include a variety of angles, get low to the ground or get high on a bench to bring various perspective. While in Burano, Italy, it was fun to look for simple scenes and details that highlighted the colouful houses and tradition to hang the fresh laundry outside.
Don't be shy, share your own travel photography tips in the comments below.
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About the Author
Sophie has been a photographer, educator and traveller for most of her adult life. She founded Better Paris Photos in 2008 (which became Better Travel Photos in 2014) to deliver exceptional photography experiences to travellers.