How to take better travel pictures

How to take better travel pictures

15 tips for better travel photography.

Use the flash at sunlight to enlighten shadows. At night it’s better to avoid using flash.

Use the flash at sunlight to enlighten shadows. At night it’s better to avoid using flash.

The vacation is probably the time when we take the most pictures. Shooting travel images is however not always easy, so here is some basic advice which may help you get more satisfied with your travel photography. (Click on any picture to see it in larger size).

1. The equipment

It’s important not to carry too much. If you have a DSLR you should however bring it. Your standard lens will probably be enough. You can always go closer instead of zooming in. A flash and a mini tripod are also handy.

A camera bag that doesn’t advertise an expensive content will reduce the risk of theft. You’ll probably also appreciate if it’s big enough to also carry some extra stuff that you might need when walking the sites, such as a water bottle and whatever you need to bring or bay. But remember that sand and water are your cameras worst enemies, so don’t put sandy bath towels and wet swimsuits in the same compartment as your camera.

2. Research your destination

By surfing for images from your destination you’ll learn some about the popular motives there. You can also learn from postcard sets when you get there. After that you’ll know what you need to exceed in order to impress.

Take your best pictures in the warm, low light at sunset. There is so much more than the sunset itself to photograph.

Take your best pictures in the warm, low light at sunset. There is so much more than the sunset itself to photograph.

3. Know the light

The best time for photography is usually in the mornings and late afternoons. The low, warm light by sunset will probably give you the best images. When the weather is bad is also a good time for photography. The light is often beautiful just before and after rain and dramatic clouds can be fantastic in the background.

4. Use the flash right

An on camera flash is useful for enlighten shadows in hard daylight and with backlight. Avoid using it at nigh. Then you’ll probably get better images with a tripod.

5. Don’t forget the people

Often you destinations are places or buildings. But it’s the people that creates the atmosphere and make images interesting. So don’t forget to shoot people, especially people working can give you amazing images.

Even a boring motive can be very good if you put a person there.

Even a boring motive can be very good if you put a person there.

You can get fantastic photos if you can make people comfortable or happy about being photographed. Knowing words like “beautiful” or “great picture” in the local language can really help. It will also help making contact with people and perhaps you’ll get a great time at the same time.

Here is a short photographers dictionary:

  • English: Beautiful, Great picture
  • Swedish: Vackert, Jättebra bild
  • Finnish: Kaunis, Hyvä kuva
  • French: Belle, Image élégante
  • Icelandic: Falleg, Frábær mynd
  • Italian: Bella, buona immagine
  • Maltese: Beautiful, stampa Gran
  • Dutch: Mooie, grote foto
  • Norwegian: Vakker, flott bilde
  • Polish: Piękne, Wielka obraz
  • Russian: Krasivaya , bol’shaya kartina
  • Spanish: Niza, buena imagen
  • Thai: S̄wyngām p̣hāph thī̀ yxd yeī̀ym
  • Turkish: Güzel, büyük resim
  • German: Gut, schön bild

Remember, if you are shooting people it’s often better to go closer.

When in a crowd you can still take pictures by putting you arms in the air. Angle the camera downwards and shoot.

When in a crowd you can still take pictures by putting you arms in the air. Angle the camera downwards and shoot.are shooting people it’s often better to go closer.

6. Bring your own model

Do you have a travel companion? Take advantage of that. A beautiful motive like a sunset or a view can often get more interesting with a model in. You can also act as model yourself and ask someone to take the image for you. If you don’t look straight into the camera it won’t be a typical vacation portrait. Try to pose as you would like a model to doo if you had one.

7. Smile, enjoy life and photography

Your own attitude will influence your surroundings as well as your own experience. To be kind, laugh and have fun is a nice way to get better pictures. And maybe you’ll have a better time too?

8. The day has 24 hours

The night can give you exiting images. When you are unable to take pictures on freehand you can use a mini tripod or whatever is available for support: railings, poles, cars and so on. You can even get nice pictures with the camera on the ground. Use a lens cap or something to angle the camera a bit upwards.

How can you improve the image you just took? Try a new angle. Move so that you get a better background or a foreground. Without the foreground this would have been a useless image.

How can you improve the image you just took? Try a new angle. Move so that you get a better background or a foreground. Without the foreground this would have been a useless image.

9. When you have taken the image…

Look at it and think about how to make it better.

  • Does it feel empty? Zoom in to fill the frame or put a person in the picture to make it more interesting.
  • Can you change angle or perspective? Taking a few steps to the side will sometimes make a huge difference.
  • Are you on the right side of the motive? Shooting from the other side of the motive or with the sunlight instead of against it, can sometimes doo the trick.
  • Do you have a foreground? Hanging leaves or a flower as foreground can sometimes turn an uninteresting image into a masterpiece.
  • Are there people in the way? Put your arms in the air and angle the camera a bit downwards and shoot above the crowd. This can be very effective, especially with a wide-angle lens.
  • Can you simplify the image? Sometimes the image will be much better if you can move, zoom in so that disturbing details disappear. Perhaps you can wait for people to move or get in front of everyone else?
  • Can you zoom in? A part of a motive or a detail can sometimes be much more interesting than the full motive.

10. Tricky light situations

If you have problems getting the right exposure you can always measure the values in sunlight and in shadow and use manual settings. Your own hand is perfect to use as grey card. It will give you the right settings for skin tones.

Using the camera to remember things. We found this sign rather funny. We really had to restrain ourselves in the Chinese subway.

Using the camera to remember things. We found this sign rather funny. We really had to restrain ourselves in the Chinese subway.

11. Take memory images

You can use the camera not only to take beautiful pictures; it can also help you remember things. Shoot nametags, information signs or any information you’d like to remember. It’s much faster than taking notes.

12. When you have shot the obvious…

It’s too easy to just follow the crowd and to shoot what everyone else is photographing. But sometimes it’s more fun with details; rust, a bolt, stains, and so on. Even disgusting things can become interesting images. What are the others missing? Watch other photographers too. Is someone seeing something you have missed?

Keep your camera ready. Suddenly the image is there, a couple of seconds later the little girl playing had disappeared.

Keep your camera ready. Suddenly the image is there, a couple of seconds later the little girl playing had disappeared.

13. Keep your camera ready

An opportunity for a perfect snapshot may come and go very quickly. Make sure your camera have the right settings, so all you need to doo is to point and shoot. Being fast when the unexpected happens can get you the best picture.

14. Tell a story

Imagine you are telling a story with pictures. It’s not necessary the story of your trip in chronological order. It may be something entirely different. Five or ten rather uninteresting images can become interesting together, if shown in the right order.

15. Shoot in raw

Using the raw format can save many images afterwards. It will take more space, but if you bring a computer you can empty your camera regularly. You’ll need an image editing software. The most common ones are Adobe Camera Raw (comes with Photoshop) or Lightroom.

Read why I like raw editing here.

Good luck!