In today’s digital age, travel photography is climbing the ranks as a top photography skill to have. People rely heavily on Instagram and other social media outlets to showcase their life and travels. Are you putting your best foot forward to stand out from the crowd? Use this post to uncover 20 travel photography tips to start taking better travel photos on your next trip!
Before Your Trip:
1. Know Your Camera
Spoiler Alert: You don’t need an expensive professional camera to take great travel photos. With advancements in smartphone technology, the cameras on our phones are taking better and better photos to the point where you sometimes can’t even tell the difference. That being said, if you do have a great DSLR, Mirrorless, or Point and Shoot Camera, get to know it as best as you can. Any time I get a new gadget, I really love watching YouTube tutorials to learn all the ins and outs of it.
The cameras that I recommend most for travel photography are the Sony RX100 MIII (great for on-the-go and vlogging) and the Sony a6000 (perfect substitute/replacement for the clunky DSLRs). There are tons of other accessories and gear that I recommend right here in the TCS Travel Shop.
2. Research Places You Want to See (Use Pinterest, Instagram, Google, Friends/Family)
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That sounds a little aggressive… I’m not saying you need a detailed minute-by-minute itinerary, but a general idea never hurt! Research a little bit ahead of time so you know some of the places you want to check out around your destination. My favorite tools to use for this are Pinterest, Instagram, Google, and just asking friends and family members for recommendations. Pinterest and Instagram can especially be a gold mine for beautiful photo locations since they are image heavy platforms. You can easily save your findings in both the platforms too!
3. Use Google Maps to Mark Your Spots
Once you have an idea of the places you might want to photograph, use a tool like Google Maps to plot them out. Doing this is a great way to plan a route of attack for all the places you want to see. You’ll be able to estimate a transportation route and see how close/far each of your locations are from one another. I particularly love the “SAVE” feature on Google Maps that allows me to put a star or flag on a location that I want to remember.
4. Pack Wisely and Comfortably
First rule of traveling is to always travel as light as possible. You don’t want to be lugging around heavy bags of camera equipment when you’re on the go, so make sure to only pack the necessities. If for some reason you do need a ton of camera equipment (maybe you’re shooting video in addition to your traditional still shots?), opt for a comfortable carrying case/backpack that will make it easier on your body. Don’t forget comfortable shoes to walk around in as well! Check the TCS Travel Shop for my favorite things!
When You Arrive:
5. Get Up Early to Beat the Tourists
Nothing great ever comes easy. If you want truly stunning photos (and some pretty lighting), make sure to rise early to beat the tourists. If you’re going to a hot spot–like the Brooklyn Bridge or Eiffel Tower–the earlier you arrive, the more likely you are to get a picture without hundreds of tourists crowding the photo. Plus, you’ll avoid the harsh sunlight that usually starts to hit around late morning and early afternoon.
6. Stay Out Late to Beat the Tourists
But, if getting up early just really isn’t your thing, consider staying out later into the evening when everyone else is wrapping up their evening. Evening shots and cityscapes can look really cool at dusk if you have the right camera equipment!
7. Have Patience
The key to capturing those unforgettable photos of popular landmarks, sites, or destinations is having patience. Trust me–I get it. I know how frustrating it can be to be crammed in with a bunch of annoying tourists who are taking up all the space in the area by taking photos with their gigantic iPads (PLEASE, SOMEONE TELL ME WHY OBNOXIOUS TOURISTS LOVE THIS SO MUCH?!?!). But if you just wait a couple of minutes, usually they will go away and the space will clear up for you. Have patience to get the right shot and angle because it will pay off!
8. Use Different Angles
Get creative with the angles and focus of your photos! An unexpected and unique perspective can be the difference between a good photo and a remarkable one. Take a step back, to the side, to the corner, to the front… Work all the angles!
9. Explore a Little
In case you didn’t know, you don’t always have to stick to the map. Sometimes the best discoveries are places that you didn’t even know were on the map to begin with! If a side street looks enticing to you, explore it. If you see a cozy restaurant with amazing interior decor, stop in for a coffee or treat. I feel like it’s always these unexpected places that we end up remember the most anyways!
General Photography Rules:
10. Use the Rule of Thirds
This well-known photography rule still holds true. When in doubt, make sure you’re using the rule of thirds to set up your photo.
11. Play Around with Composition
Don’t get too hung up on the rules of photography though. Play around with the composition of your photo. Put the subject in the middle, on the side, at the top, etc. See what works with different angles!
12. Fill the Frame AND Use the Frame
Find unique ways to fill your photo (i.e. don’t have too much open space in the foreground if it’s not necessary) or create a frame for the subject that you are photographing. This can be done by taking a good look at the surroundings of your subject before you shoot. Look through your viewfinder and try to find some hidden gems that will make your picture stand out!
13. Use Your Eyes to See Details
Before you step away from a shot, have a quick glance around to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Maybe there’s a charming little flower arrangement on the table at a cafe that would make the perfect accent to the photo. Or maybe the details on the door next to the building you were looking at has a really unique and intricate design. Make sure you don’t miss out on these little things!
14. Have Awesome Editing Tools to Help Emphasize the Beauty
Editing is where the magic really happens. I’m not saying you have to go out and purchase thousands of dollars of editing software right now, but investing a little bit can certainly help. I use Adobe’s Creative Cloud Lightroom Photography Plan, which has been a game changer, and it’s only $9.99/month. To really kick things up a notch, I purchased and installed these ‘Dreamy Presets’ Lightroom Presets so that I can beautifully and effortlessly edit all of my photos with the click of a button. If you want to try them out, you can even use my discount code “THECITYSIDEWALKS10” for 10% off your order! I personally love the New York, Los Angeles, and Santorini presets.
15. Crop Your Photos
A good crop job can be the defining factor to a really amazing photo. When you’re editing your photos, be on the lookout for angles and areas that you can crop out to really make the subject in the photo stand out. The foreground and sides are usually good places to start.
Bonus Tips to Remember:
As with any skill, the more you keep at it, the faster you’ll improve. Practice taking photos as much as you can! You’ll eventually start to learn and see what works vs. what doesn’t. And don’t get hard on yourself at first–the skill will develop the more you work on it!
17. Put the Camera Down…
This might be one of the most important tips (if not THE most important tip) on this list. Although this entire article is about how to take better travel photos, you need to remember to put the camera down once in awhile to be present in the moment and really appreciate where you are. I once met a woman who said that when she travels, she never puts her camera down and just looks at the pictures when she gets home. How depressing is that?! You’re traveling to see and experience a place, so you should probably do exactly that! Put your camera down and be present to take in the moment.
18. …But Keep it With You
That being said, you should always make sure you have a camera accessible in case something comes up that you want to capture! This is pretty easy nowadays since we have cameras on our phones and our phones are attached to our bodies. But having a small point and shoot camera never hurt either. I personally love my Sony RX 100 III as a backup to my iPhone camera.
19. Be Wise with Your Hotel Choice (if that’s an option)
If you’re flexible with your hotel choice and budget, it might not be a bad idea to pick one that is centrally located or one that has an awesome balcony/view! It’s a convenient way to be able to take some cool shots of the city.
20. Always Have Backup
The worst thing that could happen for your photography is getting stuck with a dead battery, lost photos, or a full memory card. ALWAYS bring these things with you when you travel:
- Extra Batteries
- Extra Power or Charging Cords
- Extra Chargers
- An External Hard Drive
- Extra Memory Cards
- A Convenient Case to Carry Everything