Travel Photography is the magic combination of capturing memories, amazing destinations and people.
After taking an epic adventure, all those travel photos become even more valuable to us than they were during the journey. Glancing back at a photograph can take you straight back to a situation or place.
Getting home and realizing that you didn’t capture those wanderlust moments just right can be devastating.
Luckily with a few basic travel photography tips, anyone can take amazing travel photos, no matter what camera you use.
Firstly, a few basic travel tips for packing a travel camera.
Like all the packing hacks tell you…travel light! This goes with camera equipment too.
Think about the situations you will come across and the kind of images you want to take. Are you going to be exploring cities or hiking through waterfalls?
Going on safari? Then grab a zoom lens.
One of my favorite lens to travel with is a 24-70mm as it is so versatile. It won’t be perfect for every shot but if you can only take one lens it can cover most situations.
The point is though that you don’t need to take ALL your camera gear. If you are unsure if you will use a piece of equipment… don’t pack it.
Have A Way To Back Your Images
Memory cards fail, hard drives get dropped. Make sure you have at least 2 different ways to back up your images. You may want to use cloud storage and a hard drive.
Invest In A Good Camera Bag
Make sure you take a good camera bag. Even if you only have a small camera. It is the best way to make sure you don’t lose your camera.
If you have a big, flashy camera it can also be safer hidden in a bag for some places.
Best Camera For Travel Photography
Probably one of the most asked questions!
It can be daunting when looking at a camera for travel photography. Not only are there so many brands and makes to choose from but then there are the prices.
The best news is that you can take amazing travel photos with any camera…even a camera phone.
If you really want to be serious about your photography though, you will want to invest in a DSLR. This will let you get more creative and be in control of the images you make.
A good camera for travel is one that suits your travel style and is comfortable. I would suggest heading to your nearest camera store and trying out a few cameras. See how they feel in your hand and how you like them.
As someone who has had many issues with luggage weight, I would also suggest taking a look at the mirrorless DSLR’s. They are so much lighter and make the best dslr camera for travel! I know personal friends who love their Sony and Olympus mirrorless cameras.
I asked a bunch of my favorite Family travelers what cameras they loved for Family Travel photography. Come see what they think are the best cameras for family vacations.
Travel Photography Equipment
We have already mentioned some of the best lens for travel photography, camera bag, and tripod but there is some other camera gear you may want to consider.
- Filters. At the very least make sure you have UV filters on your expensive lens to protect them from getting scratched. You could also look at Polarizing and ND graduated filters too.
- A Spare Battery. There is nothing worse than finding your camera is out of battery near the end of a big day exploring. Buy a spare battery and make sure it is always charged.
- Spare Memory Cards. Cards get lost, they malfunction…and they get full. Carry a spare, or two.
Okay, so you are all set up and ready to go. How to do you take those amazing travel pictures?
Let’s start on the things you need to do before you even set off on your trip.
How To Take Better Photographs
It can be easy to get caught up with the technical side of photography but remember it’s about enjoying the moment and capturing it.
Experiment and have fun!
You can always take a quick look at an image, decide if it worked or not. Delete, and move on.
Learn and create.
Know Your Camera
Get to know your camera really well.
Figure out what all those buttons are for. Play with the menu and settings. Try it out in different situations so you know how it works under all conditions. Play with low light settings, different modes and all you can.
If all this becomes instinctual then you will not be concentration on the mechanics while you are trying to capture a moment on your travels.
What Camera Mode Is Best For Travel Photography
Any mode but Auto is best! Take that dial away from Auto, make mistakes and practice.
Manual allows you full creative freedom and often makes the best images but is also the trickiest to learn. It’s perfectly okay to work up to manual mode.
I personally love Aperture Priority. This allows you to set the aperture while the camera sets the shutter speed.
When I am capturing moments quickly in changing conditions I find it easier. It also allows me to keep enjoying what’s going on around me instead of getting too focused on the technical side of my camera.
If I am setting up for a special and thought out shot like a sunrise or sunset, then I will use manual mode.
Check out this post if you want to know more about the camera settings for sunrise and sunset photography.
ISO is how sensitive your camera is to the light you let in. You want the ISO on the lowest possible setting for each environment to prevent any graininess in your photographs.
Travel pics will have so many different scenes so you may have to change the ISO quite often.
When you are out in the day you will not need to have an ISO higher than 200.
For night time you may need to bump this up if you are not using a tripod. With a tripod though, to capture the best images, especially around sunrise, you will go down as low as your camera ISO will go. This is usually 100 or 50.
Shutter Speed is how long you are letting light into the camera for.
Cameras usually have up to 30 seconds for long exposures ( you may want this for sunset, low light or creative painting with light shots). You would only use these settings in low light situations and if you have a tripod.
With quicker times like 1/250 ( which means 1/250th of a second) you are reducing the amount of time you leave the camera ‘open’ to let in light. These are the ones you will use during daylight hours.
Fast shutter speeds freeze time. Making it great for capturing wildlife, people and other things you don’t want to blur.
If you have your camera in Aperture Priority mode the camera will automatically set this for you.
Aperture is how much light you are letting into the camera.
It can seem a little complicated at first as the f-stop numbers used for aperture go down as the more light is let in. For example, f4 is a larger aperture letting in more light while f22 is a lower aperture and less light!
As well as letting in light to the camera the aperture sets the focus for your photograph. The lower the f-stop number the less of the image is in focus ( or lower the depth of field ).
So, for example, if you are taking a photograph of a beautiful Tuscany landscape, you will want as much in focus as possible. This means you will have a higher f-stop of about f11.
If you are taking travel portraiture or wanting to focus on some local crafts you will want a smaller depth of field with f4- f2.8 depending on your camera lens.
F9 is usually a good spot for an average shot with most of the scene in focus.
It’s important to remember that in manual mode the shutter and the aperture need to be worked out together as the effect the light and expose of the image. It can seem very complicated at first which is why I love the Aperture Priority mode I mentioned earlier.
If you love all the technical side of cameras then this post about Aperture and shutter speed is great.
PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION TIPS
Learn a few simple photography hacks before you travel.
Remember these are just guidelines and rules are always made for breaking sometimes!
RULE OF THIRDS
When you look through the viewfinder imagine the rectangle split into a grid. Three ways vertically and 3 ways horizontally.
Use these imaginary lines and points on the grid to place things of interest that draw the eye.
Place your horizon on these lines rather than in the center ( and please make your horizons straight. The fastest way to ruin a photo is a crooked horizon ).
Got a lone walker framed in an amazing landscape? Pop them on one of the grid points to turn your travel photo into something amazing.
LAYERS IN PHOTOGRAPHY
To make your travel photographs stand out you need to add layers. These layers help create interest and a sense of scale.
Makes sure you have a foreground, mid-frame, and background as these create a sense of depth.
Place things of interest in these points.
Maybe the people walking in front of the Eiffel Tower are creating fun shadows. Use them as a foreground to add realness and interest to what could otherwise be just another Eiffel Tower photo.
How To Take Better Photographs While Traveling
Find out the best travel photography tips for when you are on the road.
Research a Location
Find the best spots to take images, explore for new and different viewpoints.
The easiest way to do this is to look online. You can Google a destination and check out website images, search on social media like Instagram or Pinterest.
My favorite way is to ask a local! They often know some local secret and hidden spots.
Check The Weather Forecast
There’s no point waking up at 5 am to catch an amazing sunrise if it is raining cats and dogs. The night before you are planning to visit a destination just check what the weather is like for the next day as well as sunset and sunrise times.
If you are in a coastal area it may be worth checking the tide times too.
There are some great apps for working out where sunrise and sunset will be as well as when.
What Is The Best Time To Take Photos?
This one is a little tricky while traveling. Unfortunately, the most popular time for you to be exploring a new destination is often when the light is at it’s worst for photography.
Midday light tends to be very harsh. It can take the bright colors out of an image and the lack of shadows and texture makes your photographs look dull and boring.
The best light for taking photos is around sunset and sunrise.
Also known as the Golden hour and Blue hour. This is around an hour or so either side of when the sun comes up and down.
The light is much softer and makes landscapes and scenes look beautiful with lots of detail. The added perk of getting up early or staying around later is that you will also see fewer other travelers.
A great suggestion would be to take your landscape and scenic images during these hours and capture interesting street photography during the harsher light.
How To Make A Photograph
Before you point your camera to take a photograph, ask yourself some questions.
- What’s the first thing you notice about the scene?
- What do you find interesting?
- Do you have a story you want to share in the photograph?
- How are you feeling right now?
- How would you like to feel looking back on this photograph in the future?
While taking travel photographs it is very important to be respectful and legal.
Ask before you take a photograph of a person. Check you are able to take a picture of certain areas that have political or religious significance.
If there are signs saying no entry…don’t take the photo!
I have been to some amazing sites in this world and seen the destruction caused by people jumping fences or off paths to take photographs. If somewhere is so beautiful you want to photograph it, leave it the same way for the next person to enjoy.
Don’t just stand and take a shot. Bend down, reach up, turn around. Always look for a different way to see a place and you will be rewarded with amazing travel photographs.
More Ideas To Improve Your Travel Photography
Photography is a practice. Even the best travel photographers, are constantly learning and trying to improve their skills.
Here are some ways you can improve your photography skills and take better travel images:
- Follow your favorite travel photography blog. Really study their photographs and work out how they got certain effects and perspectives. Then have a go yourself.
- Sign up for travel photography workshops. Not only will you learn new skills but you may even make some like-minded friends.
- Follow travel Instagram. Find the best travel Instagrams and get inspired!
- Book photography travel tours. There are some amazing tours out there like these with National Geographic. You can find smaller and cheaper companies in all parts of the world.
Lastly, remember to put the camera away sometimes.
Travel is all about experiences. Take the time to savor them and really enjoy them. Don’t get too caught up in capturing a scene that you forget to experience it.