Travel Photography Tips and Tricks

Whether you’re traveling somewhere familiar or are experiencing a new place, you’ll want some beautiful photos to help you remember the trip. You could take traditional, street-level pictures of famous landmarks, but it’s possible to add some variety to your final photo collection.

Slide your point-and-shoot camera in your pocket and get your lenses ready. With these travel photography tips and tricks, you’ll make the most out of your exploration. Read on for 10 ways to take great travel photos, giving you beautiful images that preserve your trip forever.

1. Scout Your Location

When it comes to travel photography, location is essential. No matter where you’re visiting, there are a lot of hidden gems and popular sites to photograph. To make the most of your location, be sure to:

  1. Visit tourist destinations: Practice your setup and skills by stopping at well-known places. Many popular spots are photogenic, meaning you’ll end up with beautiful photos no matter what. If you’re selling or giving out prints of your photos, these well-known spots make a great subject to shoot.
  2. Go off the map: For unique travel photography, ignore the popular stops. Travel side streets and go where the locals go. You’ll end up with unique shots that you don’t usually see, even if you’re in a well-known city.
  3. Take a walk around: You can take in the sights and plan your travel photography for the day. Make notes of places you want to shoot and when you want to shoot, or set up right then for your perfect photos.

Whether you want to visit the same shooting locations on different days of your trip or you want to see as much of an area as possible, scouting the location is sure to give you great subjects to shoot.

2. Get the Full Spectrum of the Day

As the lighting changes during the day and into the evening, you can end up with a variety of photos of the same place. Any time of day can get you a stunning picture. Try to find the best light during:

  1. Early morning: Get up early for some soft lighting. You also won’t have to worry about tourists or other photographers getting in your shot.
  2. Afternoon: For bright lighting and busy streets, head out in the afternoon. Bustling street shots show the true side of wherever you’re visiting, but you can always search for solitude in less well-known locations.
  3. Evening: It’s called the golden hour for a reason. Destinations in the evening have a pleasant glow to them, even if they tend to be crowded. You’re sure to snap some beautiful travel photography around this time of day.
  4. Night: The lighting may not be perfect, but you can get some beautiful shots if you head out at night. Once the sun goes down, cities come alive with lights and people.

It can take some time to find the best light. You might want to revisit locations at different times of day to see the full spectrum of your travel destination. You’ll create an exciting collection of photos if you get ones of the same place with different lighting.

3. Focus on Quality of Equipment, Not Quantity

You don’t want to lug around a lot of equipment as you travel. Excessive photography equipment:

  • Takes up space in your luggage
  • Makes traveling by plane difficult
  • Can be damaged during transport
  • Is at risk of theft

Practice your setup at home to figure out what you can manage to carry around. You’ll also get an idea of your preferred lenses and other equipment. From there, you can create your camera packing list, which may include:

  • One or two bodies
  • A compact, point and shoot camera
  • A selection of lenses
  • A mini tripod
  • Several memory cards
  • A flash unit
  • Chargers or batteries

While you can bring quality camera equipment on your journey, you don’t need to bring every part of your kit. Bring a good-enough quality camera to get great travel photos, and don’t forget to bring an external memory. Backup your photos onto a laptop or other device so you don’t lose all your hard work.

4. Take Candids

If you’re traveling with family, friends or a significant other, take candid shots of them. Posed photos are great for capturing scenery and remembering who you spent time with on a trip, but candids capture little moments you may not remember otherwise. To take great candid travel photography:

  1. Don’t be too far away: You won’t be able to cherish memories of your travels if you can’t tell who’s in the picture. Having individuals in the background of photos is helpful for dimension, but not so great for immortalizing a moment with photography.
  2. Don’t be too close: You want to be able to see where you and your loved ones are exploring. Taking a portrait-style close-up eliminates the backdrop of your destination and produces a photo of your loved one you could’ve taken at home. They’ll also know right away that you’re taking a picture, making it look more posed than candid.
  3. Take several shots: Snap a few photos in a row if something picture-worthy is happening. At a certain point, your friends, family members or significant other may catch on, but you want to capture the best moments. Taking a handful of photos will ensure that you get beautiful images.
  4. Have your camera ready: When you’re hanging out with loved ones, you never know when the perfect photo opportunity will strike. Always keep your camera prepared so you can capture everything from the small to big moments.

When you get back from your trip and go through photos with friends, family or your significant other, you’re more likely to linger on the candids. Maybe they didn’t know you took the shot, or perhaps you’ll reminisce about what happened when you took that photo. Either way, candid travel photos are sure to create a bonding experience.

5. Stay Safe

Even if you’re not traveling to take pictures, you should always take precautions when you’re on a trip. Remember to:

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Keep your passport and other valuables in a safe place
  • Have a small amount of local currency on you
  • Learn essential phrases in the local language

General travel tips will help keep you safe, but you’ll have to take extra care of your camera and other photography equipment. To keep your expensive digital camera and accessories secure, be sure to:

  1. Get travel insurance: Look into travel insurance for you and your equipment. See what’s covered and shop around to get the protection you need.
  2. Travel with sturdy luggage: Opt for anti-theft versions of luggage for extra security. Sturdy bags and careful packing will protect your photography items during travel.
  3. Keep your camera and equipment with you all the time: You don’t want to lose the things that make photographing your trip possible. Pack your camera and supplies in your carry-on bag rather than checking them when flying. If you aren’t shooting, you can leave them in a hotel safe or another secure area.

Keeping yourself and your items safe helps you have a stress-free trip. Be cautious when taking photos in high or precarious areas, as well. You don’t want to drop equipment or injure yourself. Pay attention to your surroundings, even when you’re setting up a perfect shot.

6. Choose the Right Mode

To get better pictures of your trip, take the extra time to choose the best mode setting on your digital camera. The camera mode determines factors including:

  • ISO or image sensor sensitivity
  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture or the opening of the lens

Depending on your focal point and when you’re shooting, you’ll need to determine what mode you need. Simple yet quality digital cameras come with auto, portrait, landscape, macro, sports, night and movie modes. For travel photography, you’ll want to try auto, landscape and night modes if your camera offers them.

Your camera may have less common settings, as well. Beach, snow, fireworks and underwater modes are some possibilities. Choose what fits your surroundings, primarily focusing on the lighting. Try different settings to get a perfect balance, and if you have more experience, go into manual mode.

7. Choose the Right Lens

You may have an assortment of lenses, or you may be searching for the ideal travel variety. You have a few options of lens types that work for great travel photos, including:

  • 18-200mm
  • 18-105mm
  • 100-400mm
  • 70-300mm
  • 10-22mm
  • 12-24mm

An 18-200mm lens is ideal for vacations, able to take short views and decent wide angles. For extremely wide views, opt for one of the last two lenses. A 10-22mm or 12-14mm will let you capture some eye-catching, beautiful images of any location.

Try not to go overboard with the lenses. Think about what you want to shoot, which will help determine what you need. There are a few different genres of photography you may be after when you travel, including:

  1. Culture: This type of travel photography involves many indoor locations. If you’re visiting museums, churches and other historical sites, bring the ideal 18-200mm lens. You’ll be able to take moderately wide shots of building exteriors and closeup details inside cultural buildings.
  2. Wildlife: Safaris and other jungle adventures have you viewing impressive creatures from far away. To get remarkable photos of these animals, you’ll need a lens with a long-range zoom. Choose the 100-400mm or 70-300mm lens for these shots.
  3. Nature: Choose wide-angle lenses for sweeping landscapes. If you’re looking for macro shots of native plant life, go with a 60mm f/2.8 or 100mm f/2.8 lens.
  4. Nightlife: Along with a camera that offers high ISO, you want a fast lens. For a more affordable option, consider a 17-50mm f/2.8 lens, which will help your nighttime photos turn out better.

While you need the right lens to get better pictures, you need to prepare your camera for snapping the perfect shot. You could miss the best lighting, a glimpse of wildlife or a happy candid moment.

8. Ask Permission

If you want to take a photo of a subject you don’t know, ask permission to take their picture. When you’re shooting street photography and large groups of people are passing by, you don’t need to ask everyone permission. But if you’re going to get a closeup, always ask first.

It can be a bit nerve-wracking to request this of a stranger, but it’s the right thing to do if you want them included in your photo. Remember these simple tips if you’d like to approach someone for a picture:

  • Only ask if the person doesn’t seem to be busy
  • Chat a little first to get to know them
  • Ask politely
  • Don’t push or be disheartened if they say no
  • Don’t go overboard with photos
  • Read their comfort level

Asking for volunteer subjects is a great way to balance a shot if you’re traveling alone. Be courteous, and you may be surprised about how open people are to the idea of being a part of your travel photography.

9. Vary Your Vantage Points

A street-based vantage point gives you an immersed look into your location, but for some breathtakingly beautiful images, you want to get up high. Aerial shots give you a new perspective and provide unique shots. All you have to do is climb. Depending on where you are, you may find a variety of locations that are perfect for aerial shots. Research if your destination has:

  • Lighthouses
  • Rooftop bars and restaurants
  • Observation decks
  • Ferris wheels or other aerial rides

Chances are, you’ll find something to give you an exciting vantage point. While you’re up there, you’ll get a sense of how grand the place you’re in is. Remember to be safe when you’re up high. Don’t risk dropping equipment for a slightly different angle.

10. Consider Composition

You can frame your travel photography in any number of ways to get better pictures. For unique travel photography, play around with your shot composition and your focal point. Try different composition techniques, like:

  1. Using symmetry: Perfectly symmetrical shots can be aesthetically pleasing. Balance your composition by centering one landmark or capturing two on either side of the frame. If you’re photographing a loved one or other subject, center them in the shot or use them to create symmetry with the location.
  2. Off-centering the subject: Symmetrical shots are stunning, but they’re also a bit expected. Deviate from the norm and position your subject off-center. You’ll capture more of the space around a landmark when it isn’t taking up the center of the frame.
  3. Following the rule of thirds: Seasoned photographers are probably familiar with this idea, but the rule of thirds helps balance composition. Imagine a grid with three vertical sections and three horizontal sections. There will be four points where their lines intersect, and you should place your subject at one of those points. Play around with different shots, moving the subject throughout the frame to get better pictures.
  4. Playing with color: The color in your shot composition can create an eye-catching piece if you use it right. Contrasting shades, bright blue skies, intense fall foliage and plenty of other colors will make better photos. If the colors aren’t as intense as you’d like in real life, you can always play with the mode on your camera or touch up photos later.
  5. Adding other subjects for scale: You may know how impressive the size of a landmark is, but sometimes it’s challenging to see scale in a photo. Capture a shot as others are walking by or have a friend, family member or your partner stand near the landmark. It gives viewers a sense of scale and adds something extra to a shot.

With these and all the other travel photography tips above, you’ll be taking great travel photos in no time.

Travel With Windstar Cruises

What will give you even better pictures is a stunning location to shoot. Why not practice these travel photography trips on a cruise with Windstar Cruises? Our smaller ship sizes allow us to stop in ports you wouldn’t get to see on a massive cruise ship. Get unique shots at these destinations with our immersive experiences.

Find your perfect cruise with Windstar Cruises today. Contact us at 1-844-235-9994 if you have any questions about the cruises we offer or our destinations. We’ll be happy to help you travel the world!

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