Dabbling in Jet Lag
My entry into travel photography began in 2012. My first camera was a Nikon Coolpix and my style of photography was point and shoot. I took pictures of everything without any regard for composition or light. I never thought I would do anything with the photos other than sending them to my mom.
As traveling developed into a passion so did photography. I realized I wanted to not only show these beautiful places but also convey the emotions I felt in those places. Over time, I upgraded my photography gear and learned the fundamentals of photography. I read books, watched online tutorials, and practiced….a lot.
Even though I never went to school for travel photography, I’ve been able to learn a lot of useful tips using these methods. And, if I was able to learn using these methods, so can you!
So, here are my best travel photography tips to help you improve your photos.
Travel Photography Tips
1. Get Better at Post-Processing
This is my most important travel photography tip. Learning how to process your images is essential to excelling in travel photography.
With a few simple tweaks, you can go from a photo that was OK to a photo that is WOW. The trick is to be able to do all this without going overboard and over-processing your picture.
By learning how to improve contrast, sharpen image elements, soften color tones, reduce highlights, boost shadows, and adjust exposure levels you will be able to dramatically improve your travel photos.
There are several tutorials to help you get started. At the end of this article, I have provided a list of both free and paid tutorials to help you get started.
Do you want to learn how I edit photos? Subscribe today and get a FREE Lightroom Preset.
2. Take Photos during the Blue/Golden Hour
The most important element in photography is light. It dictates the shape, texture, contrast, and shadows in your images. So, why not take your pictures when the lighting is at its best?
There are two moments in the day when the lighting is perfect for photography, the blue hour and the golden hour. The golden hour corresponds to the one-hour window after sunrise (or before sunset), and the blue hour is the one-hour window before sunrise (or after sunset). At these times, the light is softer more pleasing to the eye. Additionally, it’s often less crowded, allowing you to set up the perfect composition.
Can you take pictures during the day? Yes, of course! Granted it’s not as easy. But, advanced techniques like filters and bracketing can help you combat the harsh sunlight.
3. Use a Travel Tripod
I learned this lesson the hard way. A lightweight travel tripod is an essential piece of equipment for every type of photographer. A tripod allows you to set your camera position and keep it there.
Do you need to use a tripod for every shot? No, and I don’t either. But for tricky lighting situations or if I want to use advanced techniques (HDR, focus stacking, etc.) a tripod makes a huge difference. I also use it when I want to use slower shutter speeds (waterfalls, sunrises/sunsets, etc.) or a low ISO.
In short, a travel tripod is ideal for tack sharp landscapes, low-light photography, self-portraits, flowing water shots, and sunsets/sunrises.
4. Always Bring Your Camera
This one is self-explanatory. If you don’t have your camera you can’t take pictures. I always have my camera with me, and I am always ready to capture a moment.
Having to hold a camera all day can be uncomfortable for some. But, investing in a comfortable camera strap or clip can help with this.
As an example, my camera strap has a cushioned section for my neck. I can also extend the straps so I can wear my camera across my body. For hiking or walking around cities, I use the Peak Design Capture Clip. It’s easy to use and clips onto any backpack or belt taking the weight off my neck and shoulders.
5. Know How to Use Your Camera
This is the most common mistake I see with beginning photographers. They have a fancy camera but don’t know how to use it. They shoot in auto mode, and never uncover their camera’s potential.
You should know everything about your camera, from the number of megapixels to how to shoot in manual mode.
I actually read the manual for my camera, and I discovered there were a lot of cool things I could do. As an example, I learned I could set one of the buttons to zoom in so I can double-check the sharpness of my photo.
Knowing how your camera works will allow you to better handle tricky situations, giving you more creative freedom in your shots.
6. Experiment with Composition
Photography is all about composition. You see photos from the same location over and over, but what makes one picture stand out from the others? Composition.
Your first shot won’t necessarily be your best. You can almost always come up with a better composition after some experimentation.
Try shooting from a low angle to capture the size of a building or climbing up high to show the vastness of a landscape. Try shooting from different distances as well. If you have a zoom lens, try different focal lengths.
It might sound obvious but move away from the tourist groups. If you see a crowd going one way, go the other way. By spending the time to search for a unique angle, you will be able to capture more original photos.
7. Never Delete a Photo
If there is one lesson I’ve learned, it’s to never delete a photo. Sometimes after post-processing, I am not happy with my work. It does not mean it’s not a good photo, it just means I have not found the right way to process it. I prefer to put the photo aside and come back with a fresh perspective.
Sometimes cropping an image differently can completely change the photo. You never know, and you don’t want to delete a photo that you can’t recover.
I, personally, never delete a photo, and I have kept all the original memory cards as well.
Along with that, I recommend backing up your photos, both the RAW files and the final edited pictures. This way you can be sure to never lose your pictures.
8. Use Leading Lines
The goal of any photographer is to direct the viewer’s attention to a specific point in the image. This can be done in several ways, but the most common is via leading lines.
Leading lines allow you to direct the viewer’s attention through the photo, thereby creating a deeper connection with the image.
Some good examples of leading lines are roads, rivers, hiking trails, bridges, and mountain ridges.
9. Use the Rule of Thirds
One of the most basic concepts in photography is the Rule of Thirds. Understanding the Rule of Thirds will help you create more balanced compositions.
Imagine dividing an image into thirds horizontally and vertically (2 lines for each so it’s split into 9 sections). The goal is to place the subject at the intersection of these lines to help frame the image in a way that’s pleasing to the eye. This rule can also be applied to the horizon. Placing the horizon on either horizontal line rather than the center is more visually appealing.
Composing your shot using the Rule of Thirds is easily done by turning on your camera’s “grid” feature. This displays a rule of thirds grid directly on your LCD screen, so you can use the rule while you shoot. This can also be done during post-processing in Lightroom using the Crop Guide Overlay.
10. Learn the Fundamentals of Photography
While all these tips are great, if you don’t know the fundamentals of photography they will be of no use.
Photography is the art of capturing light with a camera to create an image. You need to understand how to harness light to create the image you want.
I recommended starting with the three most important camera settings; shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These settings control how light interacts with the sensor. It is critical to understand how to balance all three for any given photo. For a complete guide on this topic, check out my article – the most important camera settings in travel photography.
Understanding the fundamentals will give you a basis for creating and processing your images.
Bonus Tip: Be Patient
Patience in photography is key. You have to be ready to wait, sometimes for hours. I like to show up at a location one or two hours in advance, so I have time to set up and compose my shot. This means that I often sit in the cold for an hour, but, if I can have the photo I want, it’s worth it.
Not only do you need patience for taking the picture, but also for post-processing. It takes time to learn all the techniques. You won’t learn everything in a day or even a year. It’s a constant learning process.
Travel Photography Resources
Travel Photography Tutorials
Photography Life – Best free online tutorial. It’s a great place to get started.
Landscape Photography in Depth by Daniel Kordon – This is the most comprehensive professional post-processing tutorial I have done.
Adobe Creative Cloud – The best editing software (Photoshop & Lightroom) used by most travel photographers.
Raya Pro – The best plugin for Photoshop. A powerful luminosity mask software that simplifies your workflow.
The Nik Collection – A series of plugins for polishing your final images.
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Read More Travel Photography Articles
I hope you enjoyed my guide to improving your travel photography and found it useful. Here are some more articles related to travel photography that I think you might find interesting.
- Travel Photography Gear Guide – What’s in My Bag?
- The Most Important Camera Settings in Travel Photography
Have questions about improving your travel photography? Do you have any additional travel photography tips? Send me a message in the comments below!
Interested in more travel photography articles? Check out my other posts on travel photography.