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When I look back at my old travel photos, it was very much a quick snap and go situation. No thought went into taking it, there was no checking to see if it was in focus and it was uploaded as it was.
In a way that’s nice as it’s quite literally a memory of how you saw and experienced that exact moment, but nothing beats a photo that makes you (and everyone who sees it) say “wow!”.
In this post I’ll share with you my top 10 travel photography tips to help you take better photos on your next adventure.
1. Get to know your camera
Firstly, you absolutely do not need an all singing all dancing camera* that costs a fortune. Of course they’ll get you great photos (if you know how to use it properly) but it’s not necessary, unless maybe you’re on your way to becoming a professional photographer or you have specific camera* needs.
That said, you do need a camera* that’s able to a) take a good quality photo and b) allow you to transfer or WIFI drop the photos onto either your phone or computer.
I started out with just my iPhone, then my Olympus Pen E-PL7*, and now my beloved Canon M50*. Though I do still sometimes just use my iPhone. All of those cameras performed totally differently, but were capable of taking a great photo in their own way.
Use whatever you’re comfortable with and then if you find yourself enjoying it, you can upgrade to something even better at another time.
And remember, it’s the lens that can really make the difference. Do a little research into what lenses are best for your camera* when it comes to travel photography and build up your kit as you go.
Read my review of the Canon M50
Read my review of the Olympus Pen E-PL7
2. Prepare your camera before you shoot
This one isn’t for the iPhone users among us, but if you’re using a camera*, listen up!
I used to head out, whack on auto mode and just click away. This is fine when you’re starting out, but if you really want to get the most from your camera*, I’d recommend using manual (or at the very least the Aperture or Shutter Speed settings, labelled Av and Tv on my camera*).
Before I go on, let me quickly explain what those mean:
- Aperture: also known as the f/stop, this is what you adjust to let in more or less light, and increase or reduce that background blur.
- Shutterspeed: this is how fast or slow the shutter works, letting in more light the longer it’s open. This is key for night photography or something like the northern lights.
- ISO: do you want your photo brighter or darker? Move the number up to get a brighter photo, but be aware this will make the photo appear more grainy.
At risk of making this too complicated, there’s a more technical explanation over on Tech Radar if you’re interested.
I now use the manual mode (labelled M on my camera*) and play around with all three of those settings to see what works before I start taking my photos, which helps to not waste any time.
As an extra tip, I’d recommend adjusting your White Balance in the settings to suit the setting. My camera* is great for quick changes on the touchscreen, such as when the sun comes out or goes in. As I prefer warmer photos, I tend to use the ‘shade’ or ‘cloudy’ settings.
Set your camera up with these settings before you start your day and your camera should remember them. Then it only takes an adjustment here or there to suit the lighting, which naturally you can’t predict.
3. Take the time to frame your photo
This is something I never really thought about until a couple of years ago, but it turns out composition is everything. By that I mean what is in your photo and where it’s positioned.
For example, you could take a photo of just a lake, or you can take it in a way that includes a swinging branch from above, that boat over to the right, and remember not to chop off the top of the mountains in the distance.
Tip: If you didn’t shoot the photo the way you wanted, you can always crop the image later to get the framing you want!
4. Consider the time of day you’re taking the photo
Sometimes you just want to take a photo and carry on with your day, but if you truly want the best photos, shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun isn’t at its highest point.
A while ago I learned that many of my favourite travel bloggers shoot just after sunrise or before sunset, which is why their photos have a gorgeous glow and less of a bright glare to them.
If I’m on holiday I’ll get up early to take my photos (this helps with avoiding people too!) or nip out again before dinner to take some.
Golden hour really is the best time in my opinion, those warm golden hues cannot be beaten. And if you’re lucky with the weather, it’ll take your photos to the next level.
5. Get creative with your photos
We can all take a photo of a beach, right? Think about how you can make it interesting and share a different view on a place.
I love the above example for this. I found these steps into the ocean in Croatia and shot at sunset, which gave me a really unique shot. The light was really working in my favour here!
Since I started doing this, I’ve loved my travel photos a lot more.
6. Adjust the aperture for blurred backgrounds
By taking the Aperture to the smallest ‘f’ number possible (for my 22mm lens* that’s f/2) you can achieve a really blurred background, whilst keeping everything up in the front in focus.
I learned this in the early stages of being a blogger and love it for photos of objects and people. For photos of landscapes I tend to take the ‘f’ number up to eight or so, as I don’t need that blurry background for shots like this.
Have a practice at home and see the difference!
7. Capture real and raw moments
I love travel photos that capture a moment in time. That’s often people or wildlife, but it really can be anything. It adds another dimension to a photo I think, and really shows a place in an authentic light.
There are many photographers who capture local communities and events brilliantly. Just be careful that you don’t upset anyone by taking a photo of them of course, it doesn’t hurt to ask for permission and explain why you want the photo.
8. Think about what photos tell a story
Following on from the above, photos that form a story are really special. Instead of taking just one snap, for example your coffee on the hotel balcony, take a few photos that show the whole scenario.
Perhaps that’s a photo of your view out of the balcony doors where the curtains are flowing in the breeze, your coffee on the balcony table surrounded by items that you’ve taken on holiday, and then a snap of you sipping your coffee and taking in the view.
Anything that tells a person what they could experience if they visited is really what you’re aiming for. Sometimes adding a face or a hand is all a photo needs to add depth to it!
9. Make a few quick and easy edits to your photos
Some prefer not to edit their photos at all, that’s completely up to you, but when I learned that photographers and travel bloggers make a few adjustments to enhance their photos I realised how game-changing this was for me.
I am guilty of over-editing in the past, but less is more, and the better you know your camera* the less edits you’ll actually need to do.
To edit, I use Lightroom either on my computer or the App on my iPhone. You’ve got two options here:
- Edit yourself by adjusting the brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows, clarity, colours, etc.
- Download a Lightroom Preset and let it do the work for you.
I have downloaded a number of presets, either free ones or very inexpensive ones from Etsy, and keep a range of them in Lightroom so I can choose which one best suits the photo.
I’ve also made further adjustments on those (perhaps even to lessen the intensity of the colours, for example) and then re-saved it as my own preset.
You may still need to make a few extra edits as I said, but the preset will do most of the work for you. This is instrumental in getting that consistent aesthetic on your Instagram feed, if that’s what you’re trying to achieve.
See more of my images over on my Instagram.
10. Store and organise your travel photos
When it comes to storing all my images (both unedited and edited), I have a WD My Cloud Mirror Storage Drive*.
They’re not cheap but I can store thousands of photos on there without even scratching the surface. The best bit for me is that they’re accessible via an app on my phone, so I can download photos on the go, make my edits on the Lightroom app and upload to Instagram in a matter of minutes.
I love to organise, so sifting through my photos and deleting the rubbish ones before uploading to the storage drive is key for me. It just makes it easier to find the photos you love, and save space for more photos. I usually go through my memory card on the flight home!
Shop my camera kit:
I’ll leave it there for today as I think that’s more than enough to get started with, but please let me know if this has been helpful and if I can answer any questions you have!
I’m no professional, but I’ve been taking photos for many years and have learned a fair bit along the way.
Do you feel more confident in taking better travel photos with these tips? Let me know in the comments below!