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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 Photoshop editing techniques and Lightroom editing tips for your travel photos!