I’ve been lucky enough to visit 5 continents and over 30 countries in the past 10 years. And, throughout my travels, I’ve taken thousands of photos. I like to think I’ve refined my technique. To that end, I have compiled a list of travel photography tips.
Just a few things I’ve learned–often the hard way–over the years. If you, like me, want to explore the world and document your travels through photography, read on!
Photography Should Complement Your Travels
Before we dive into the travel photography tips, I want to impart some general advice.
When traveling, don’t let photography cloud your experience. It is quite easy to let photography take over your adventures.
It shouldn’t be like this.
Photography shouldn’t be the main purpose of your travels (unless you are doing a paid photoshoot obviously!).
It should complement your travels and enhance your enjoyment.
Put down your camera and enjoy the moment. Don’t spend every waking minute stuck behind your viewfinder.
Travel and photography do go hand in hand, but photography shouldn’t detract from your traveling experience.
Take time to speak to the locals. Visually absorb the sites and landscapes you’re visiting. Savor every moment and only take photos when the opportunity calls for it.
Don’t Let A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity Go To Waste
Remember that you may never visit some of these places again.
For example, I traveled to Antarctica in 2014. In all likelihood, I will never visit the white continent again.
To that end, I made sure I immersed myself in the experience. Yes, I took hundreds of fantastic photos. But I also enjoyed every second and was not constantly stuck behind my camera.
This is possibly the most important piece of advice I can give!
I have broken up the travel photography tips into three sections – location, equipment, and composition. Each section is as important as the other, so give equal attention to each one!
Travel Photography Tips: Location
Your location and surroundings are key to taking exceptional travel photos. Are they not?
If you don’t have a solid understanding of the places you’re visiting, you could miss out on fantastic opportunities. I wholeheartedly believe that the location is just as important as your actual composition.
1. Research the location beforehand
Going into a location blind can be exciting! And provide plenty of photo opportunities. It can also be a colossal time waste. Most likely missing some important shots in the process.
I’d advise researching your destinations beforehand.
Usually, when traveling, I look at the following:
- Public transport
- Accommodation location
- Main sites locations
- Main shopping areas
- Prohibited areas for public access
- Busiest areas or tourist hotspots
If you arm yourself with this knowledge you should have a more enjoyable experience.
Also, utilize your time more efficiently. Instead of spending hours aimlessly wandering through a city, you can head directly to the places you wish to photograph and get in on the action. Knowing the tourist hotspots can also help avoid crowds and congestion.
You don’t have to spend hours researching, but a quick look on Google maps and a few notes can make the world of difference!
2. Compile A List Of Must-See Sites & Places
As part of my research, I usually compile a list of must-see places. These are locations or attractions that I make it a priority to see. Anything else I find is a bonus.
For example, I went to Venice in 2017. Before I traveled there, I made a list of sites I wanted to see.
It went like this:
- St. Mark’s Square
- St. Mark’s Campanile
- St. Mark’s Cathedral
- Rialto Bridge
- Grand Canal
Having this list allowed me to make a rough plan of action. We got to see all of the above, plus a host of other interesting sites too. I got the photos that I wanted and wasn’t disappointed.
RELATED POST: What To Photograph In Venice
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Stray From The Plan
Although having research and a plan is useful, you don’t have to stick rigidly to it. If you only adhere to your plan, you’re likely missing out on some great photo opportunities.
Have a plan, but be flexible. If something takes your eye then act upon that impulse! You literally never know what is around the corner – some hidden treasure could be waiting for you.
I toured through Jordan and spent time in the capital Amman. I took a taxi to the old town and wanted to take some photos of the main mosque complex.
While down there, I happened to see a street market. I jumped on the opportunity and spent some time wandering through it. The experience was fantastic and I managed to take some interesting photos too. An opportunity I would not have had if I had stuck rigidly to my original plan.
4. Take Your Time
Sometimes you have to rush. Maybe you have to catch public transport or get somewhere quickly. However, when taking photos, avoid rushing whenever possible.
If you rush, the actual quality of your photos may suffer. You may take out-of-focus shots, or miss a golden opportunity.
This is one of the best travel photography tips I can give. Time is important–use it well. Don’t rush, give yourself plenty of time at each location, and get up early to beat the crowds!
5. Interact With The Locals
Finally, locals are an absolute gold mine.
First, locals can give you a greater understanding of a place. You can gain insight into their culture and daily lives.
Additionally, it provides some awesome photo opportunities.
Be friendly, learn a little of the local language, and make an effort to communicate. You’ll find that people are generally welcoming and even intrigued. You can use this to your advantage to take some fantastic natural photos or poignant portraits.
Travel Photography Tips: Equipment
Sure, location is key, but your photography equipment is also important. As far as travel photography tips go, I would put the least emphasis on equipment. But, that’s not to say you shouldn’t consider what you choose to pack.
Striking a balance is key. Be prepared, but don’t overload yourself either.
1. Be Prepared
Imagine arriving at a new destination only to find that you have left your memory card at home! This could potentially ruin your trip or mean you have to spend funds on replacing your forgotten equipment.
I usually make a list of the equipment I want to take with me. This is a simple list scribbled down on a piece of paper, something like:
- Zoom lens
- Spare batteries
- Spare memory cards
- Lens cleaning kit
By creating a list such as this, you won’t forget any vital photographic equipment!
2. Take The Bare Minimum Equipment
As far as travel photography tips go, this one is more for your own comfort and well-being. Some people make the mistake of traveling with literally every piece of equipment they own.
This could mean they have limited luggage space. It could also mean they spend excessive energy carrying it around.
Consider where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.
Look at the potential photos you’ll take. Once you have this info, only pack the bare minimum equipment you require.
If you don’t need 3 different lenses, then just stick with the mid-range zoon. Is that huge bulky tripod really necessary, or would a small tripod suffice?
3. Protect Your Equipment From The Elements
During your travels, you’ll undoubtedly encounter varied weather conditions. Our world is a wild place and protecting your camera equipment is important.
Bring a camera bag.
Furthermore, ensure you store your equipment such as batteries, lenses, and SD cards in a secure/protected location.
Extreme weather conditions such as intense cold or heat can really damage your camera if you don’t take precautions. For example, when traveling to Antarctica, I used bubble wrap to insulate my camera and spare batteries.
Travel Photography Tips: Composition
Finally, I have listed travel photography tips relating to composition. Obviously, the composition is a crucial aspect of any form of photography.
Travel photography actually allows you to explore many composition techniques. You can be creative and challenge yourself to produce unique photos that really showcase what a location or culture is like.
1. Use A Combination Of Landscape And Portrait
When traveling, I try to take varied shots. I don’t stick to one type of composition. During my time in New York, for example, I created a mixture of landscape shots and close-up details.
To show the vastness of the Manhattan Island skyscrapers, I took sweeping wide angle shots from the top of the GE Building in the Rockefeller Center.
I then snapped a range of detailed shots of individual buildings, shop interiors, and architecture. Having a balance like this can give you a huge variety of compositions to work with.
2. Ask Permission For Portrait Shots And Capture Natural Actions
I mentioned above about interacting with the locals. When doing this, always ask their permission to take photos! Some people may not appreciate you sticking a camera in their face without asking first.
Furthermore, if you ask, you can get them to strike a pose or get creative – this will make your composition more interesting.
Try to find a balance between natural shots, and posed portraits. Posed shots are great to create typical portraits. You can show what people are physically like.
Natural action shots are also important, however. You can convey what their daily lives are like, and what their culture and city are about.
3. Experiment With Different Times Of The Day
Sunlight, moonlight, and different time periods are your friend. A travel location can look completely different at sunrise than it does during the nighttime for example.
Consider visiting locations at different periods of the day. You can create some beautiful compositions utilizing natural light or the cover and shadows of darkness.
4. Try To Capture Unique Perspectives And Angles
If you search for photos of the Colosseum in Rome what will you find? You will find hundreds of shots all taken from the same position and angle.
This is boring!
Yes, you should take stock photos to show the attraction of a location as it is, but you should look for new and unique compositions too.
Instead of standing in front of the Colosseum, why not zoom in on the detail of the stonework?
Alternatively, why not take portrait shots of the fallen columns in the interior? Use your creativity and imagination!
5. Don’t Stand Static, Use Different Heights
One of my pet peeves is to see photographers standing still. Standing straight, camera at arm’s length can only provide so much creativity.
If you want to improve your composition, one of the best travel photography tips I can give is to utilize different heights!
Don’t be afraid to get low. I’m talking ground level. Get on your hands and knees if you must! In the same instance, don’t be afraid to climb up high to take aerial shots. Experiment with different heights to photograph your travels from new and exciting angles.
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Start Your Own Adventure WithTravel Photography Tips!
I hope you’ve found these travel photography tips useful. By using these tips, you too can explore our planet and capture some special moments! If you have any of your own photos to share then feel free to leave a comment!