5 Quick Tips to Great Travel Pictures

Vacation and travel  Season is upon us!  As we travel and explore our world we are exposed to new and exciting things, things that inspire us to photograph.  Whether we are traveling just 50 miles away to stay at a Bed and Breakfast and explore a small town or traveling halfway across the world to spend a month trekking across southeast Asia, we want to capture the excitement and experience and share that with others.  In This article I will give you 5 quick tips to dramatically increase the quality of your photos to make them more interesting and the kind of pictures that will garner you tons of “likes”.   In the digital era we are constantly exposed to images, good and bad.  Don’t you want yours to stand out?


#1) How to shoot a landscape:  The best time of day for landscapes is to shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon.   This is because to dramatic angle of sunlight helps separate things that are close (foreground) from things that are far (background).  The dynamic play of heightened light and shadow adds depth to your image.  You can read a more detailed explanation of the use of light here in my post on using natural light. 
The other thing to consider when shooting a landscape is “what am I taking a picture of”? explore during the day and take note of places that might look interesting at sunset/sunrise.  Take note of which direction the sun will shine from at these times and which time will be best suited for the landscape you are photographing.  Try to have at least one main subject, an interesting building or beautiful tree, as your foreground object.




#2) People:  I love to photograph people.  People are dynamic, ever changing creatures.  The diversity of the species never ceases to amaze me.  Each unique cultural pocket, whether 50 miles away or 50,000, has it’s own flair. As we travel capturing the unique or exotic flavor of the people we see is a great way to create a complete photographic experience for our later audience.

Taking candid pictures of strangers is not always an easy task.  Many people do not want to be photographed at first or are shy.  If you own a high end SLR then using a telephoto lens is a great way to circumvent this.  A lens that can go to 300mm gives you enough distance between you and your subject to allow for discretion while shooting, capturing those unposed moments when people truly stand out.  If you do not have long lens or are using a point and shoot camera there are other strategies.

A) Be friendly.   Meet people.  Smile.  Take time to talk to people.  Then pull out your camera.  Try to take photographs while they are busy doing something or otherwise distracted, rather than posed.   Try to draw out expressive emotions such as a smile.  If they don’t want their picture taken, then don’t.  It won’t come out good anyways.

B) Go to crowded areas.  People in crowded areas are already exposed, less likely to pay attention to you and less likely to notice your activity, even if they are peripherally aware of it.  Find a busy place, a market, a street corner, a festival, and plant yourself in a single location.  Hold your camera to your eye (or use the viewscreen if you don’t have a viewfinder) and just observe people.  When someone interesting comes into view: click!  By already having your camera up and ready people are even less likely to think that they are the subject and therefore less likely to flinch or avoid the lens.

C) Shoot first ask forgiveness later.  If you are traveling with a partner then follow them around with your camera ready.  As they interact with/distract a person in a market, store, cafe, whatever, point and shoot.  Keep shooting if you have something interesting to photograph.  Stop shooting if they ask you to.  Then refer to #A.  It might surprise you to find that shooting first increases the chance for a “yes” to being photographed.

D) Avoid posed photos of people as much as possible.  Please.  For the love of Art!

E) Go for medium or close up photos, focusing on facial expressions.



#3) Details! Details! Details! Every little cultural pocket has it’s own unique objects: A hand woven basket, a pair of cowboy boots, a seashell.  Every new location has it’s own unique foods, plants and animals.  These unique details add depth to a photo story.  A detail shot should go in close.  Focus on the little things.  Reduce the depth of field; which can be achieved on a point and shoot by using the “flower” icon in your automatic settings.  Find your unique object and remember rules 4 and 5 below!

#4) Change your angles!  Don’t take every picture from a standing view.  Go down to get that flower picture.  Climb up to get that building picture.  Use the rule of thirds to make a more dynamic image.


#5) Think before you shoot.  The difference between just pictures and great photographs is thinking, observing and asking your self questions: “I like this thing/place/person, but how can I make it more interesting in a photograph?  What angle would be best?  Is the light good now or should I wait?  Can I move the object/person to get better lighting?”


Are you going to document your travels in the same manner an insurance agent documents a car wreck or are you going to make Art?  The power is in your hands.

Good luck and enjoy your travels!



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