I’m an avid traveler and a semi-professional photographer (that means yes, I’ve been paid, but no, not very much) and obviously those two loves combine with travel photography. I have photos from all over the world and they truly mean everything to me. I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way and I’ve picked up tips along the way. Here are the 10 most important ones I know and share with others all the time.
Keep in mind that it really doesn’t matter what camera you have. You are the one in control and your camera is just a tool. Learn how to use it, and learn how to take great photos.
Now, onto the good stuff:
1) Make sure horizon lines are straight
One of the most common mistakes people make, especially when shooting landscapes, is not paying attention to the horizon lines. It’s easy to hold your camera slightly crooked, so be sure pay attention and try to look for an obvious line to use as a guide if the actual horizon isn’t visible.
2) Use your flash when there is back lighting
Another common mistake and this easy fix can be used in many different situations. Flash can be used when the sun is behind the subjects. In this case, you see that we’re in the shade. The beautiful rain forest is a major part of the photo, but we still need to be lit well. Flash to the rescue!
You can also use this technique when posing in front of sunsets, at night if posing in front of a lit building, etc.
3) Offer to take photos of other travelers
Traveling alone but want a photo of yourself? No, you don’t have to hold the camera out as far as you can and snap a goofy photo of half of your face. Chances are there are other tourists nearby who are thinking the same thing as you. You’ll often see couples taking pictures of each other individually. Be friendly and offer to take a photo of them together with their camera. Then run away with their fancy camera! Wait, that’s not what I was going to say. Oh yeah, then ask if they’ll mind snapping one of you. That’s how I managed to get this photo of myself in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
4) Look for unusual perspectives
You can only pose so many times in front of random things or places before all your photos start to get redundant. Browsing this artisan’s shop in Fez, Morocco we noticed our reflections in these beautiful crafted mirrors and decided to make a unique portrait. It’s not an amazing picture by any means, but we had a good laugh about it and it’s better than us posing in front of the mirrors or a photo of the mirrors alone. Those would have been pretty boring, right?
5) Find a way to stabilize your camera at night
If it’s night time and you want to shoot something that your flash can’t light up, chances are your photo will come out blurry. The solution? Set the timer on your camera and find somewhere you can set it down. You probably aren’t walking around with a tripod, so look for a post, fire hydrant, bench, wall, etc. Line up your shot, click the shutter and take your hands off! Don’t be alarmed if your camera takes a few seconds to get the exposure. It’ll open the lens for as long as it needs to get a decent exposure.
6) Get high
No, I don’t mean use drugs to help your travel photography. Use your feet and start walking up, and up, and up. Some of the best views are from above such as this photograph from the hills above Cinque Terre. It was quite a hike, but well worth the effort.
7) Don’t use your camera’s digital zoom
There are very few reasons why you should ever use the digital zoom function on your digital camera. So few reasons that I can’t even think of one. Even if it does help you reach somewhere you couldn’t have without it, the pictures are so pixelated and blurry that you will probably never use it. It’s truly a worthless feature built into cameras simply so they can advertise a bloated zoom number on the box for uninformed buyers.
If you really need to get closer for a shot, use your feet. If that’s not possible, try a different perspective. Get creative and you’ll enjoy your photo much more than by zooming in to 100x.
8) Keep an eye out for candid moments
Candid moments are usually my favorite type of photographs. Sometimes you can capture someone’s expression when it is entirely genuine. These kids fighting over a tire really stood out to me and I was really glad I managed to capture it.
This is the time to be incognito – think James Bond! Haven’t you always wanted to be a spy?
9) Keep an eye out for something unusual
So long as it is safe, you should always carry your camera with you. Even if it’s pouring rain outside, bring it along since you never know when you might see a SmartCar with the Death Star painted on it.
10) Take a lot of photos and don’t delete them
Memory cards are cheap. Buy the biggest one that your camera will work with or, better yet, buy several. It might seem like over kill but it can be a good idea to change cards a couple times throughout your trip. This way, if one fails or your camera gets stolen, you still have photos on another card and you didn’t lose everything. If you’re feeling nice you can always donate it to a traveler in need. I met two during my last trip and unfortunately I could only help one of them out of their bind.
I hope these tips help! If you have any travel photography questions or have a tip you’d like to share, please use the comments below.