Having travelled a fair amount, and also being a passionate amateur photographer, I have learned a lot about taking great travel pictures. I learned mainly by trial and error, and everything I know I want to share with you, so you can make your own travel photos more creative and capture amazing moments without camera catastrophes.
Note: This post is aimed at amateur/hobbyist photographers with point-and-shoot cameras, so I apologize to the professionals – no DSLR tips here, sadly! (One day I will own a professional camera, it’s on my ultimate travel gear wishlist).
Practical Travel Photography Tips
- If possible, try to have two cameras on you. This may be impossible if you are on a tight budget, but if you and a travel buddy each bring a camera, you can have a backup. If you have both a large, bulky camera and a tiny point-and-shoot, this is a perfect combination. The professional camera can be used when you find that perfect tripod shot, and the point-and-shoot can easily be concealed when in a dangerous area or whipped out when on the road.
- Multiple batteries! Depending on your camera type, you may have different battery needs, but it is essential to always have a backup battery plan. I would highly recommend a portable charging device for emergency power, especially when you are far from your hotel or a Starbucks 😉
- BEWARE THE SAND! One of my poor little point-and-shoot cameras was damaged forever in Egypt (2010) as I had no clue how evil sand can be for cameras. Find a good cover for your camera if you are visiting and capturing desert areas, and be extra careful when cleaning the lens, as one grain of sand can scratch it badly. (Been there, done that, cried over replacing camera).
- A tripod can make a massive difference to your travel photography. There are so many available these days, many lightweight and easily portable for sightseeing, but my favourite has to be the flexible tripods. You can wrap them around objects to get creative and hands-free shots.
- Always have too much disk space! Invest in SD cards with maximum GBs, and have a super-safe place to store the filled ones in-between transferring them to a secondary storage device. Keeping them in a little plastic bag with your passport is a good idea.
- Back your photos up! A laptop and external hard drive are very useful, but if you can’t take those devices with you, uploading pics to Cloud storage (like Dropbox.com) via a computer in an internet café can also work.
- With lots of space on your camera, and the joys of digital technology, you can afford to take multiple snaps of the same subject. Try different lighting, focus, and angles, and delete pics you don’t like later (when you can view them in better light, or on a bigger screen).
- Sometimes a little trickery can work wonders. Stage photos – move things out of the way (I always clear the table area when taking a food shot, for example), break a twig or two off to get a clear view. You don’t have to go wild (please don’t go around breaking off whole tree branches for a perfect shot!) but you can definitely control and manipulate your subject, where possible.
Creative Travel Photography Tips
- Open your “photographer’s eye”. This may sound kind of creepy, but all it means is that you can open yourself up to seeing, beyond merely looking. What catches your eye? What lighting do you like, what patterns? What sticks out? Do you like photographing buildings, people, food?
- Seek the unusual. Sure, by all means take that perfectly centred picture of a famous landmark, but also go beyond the postcard perfection. Seek new angles, new perspectives, and new compositions of your favourite landmarks. Feel free to experiment – mix and match textures, capture things that make you feel something.
- Try kooky compositions. Perfectly centred photos may work to show the perfect symmetry of a subject, but other compositions may work better for other subjects. Try an off centre composition, a macro shot, or wide shot to see what you prefer.
- Keep an eye out for colour. Look for interesting colour combinations, and contrasts.
- STOP to take that perfect picture when you see it. Often I think, &§!*, that would have been an AMAZING photo, after I missed my opportunity. My husband is used to me stopping without warning when walking, as he knows something has caught my eye, and a photo MUST be taken. You won’t regret it!
- Break the rules. Take pictures of what you want to, experiment, and have FUN. To me, photography is about capturing moments. It’s a bonus if you can make those moments beautiful, and even better if they perfectly capture the mood and context of the moment.
- Finally, embrace the surprises! The photo above was a happy mistake, but I love it 🙂
Have you got any travel photography tips? Pop them in the comments below!