Take Better Travel Photos

Top travel photography tips for the complete amateur.

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• Travel: How-To • Travel: Tips & Tricks

Matt Anderson's Take
Going on a trip and want to get the most out of your new camera? Or maybe you just want to take the best photos your smartphone can take. Don't have a camera at all? Then you might be interested in reading Sony A6000 Review & Unboxing. Either way, our simple tips will make you a much better travel photographer in no time.

Know Your Camera

Let's start with a very important tip which is that you need to know how your camera works. Practice, practice, practice. Then go practice some more, but do it all at home before you travel.

Have Camera Ready

Seems simple enough but having your camera ready to shoot is a huge part of taking great photos. If it's locked away in the car, your hotel room, or even in your backpack you're far less likely to use it. Keep it out, keep it ready to go. When a shot presents itself you simply turn it on, pop the lense cover off, and starting shooting.

Go Early / Stay Late

The best time for taking outdoor photographs are during the so called "golden hours". These special times happen about an hour after sunrise and about an hour before sunset. Getting up early for those morning shots will pay off with excellent lighting conditions and you'll probably have fewer tourists to deal with as well.

Add People

Adding people to your photo brings in a sense of scale that otherwise may not be there. It's hard to visualize how big something like the Grand Canyon is but add a person somewhere in the shot and it all just makes sense to the viewer.

Go Low

We all tend to stand up and take our shot but it's often better to change your perspective a bit. Try dropping down to your knees for a different view of your subject. This is especially true when taking photos of children but works for all types of scenes.

Go High

On the opposite side, elevating your camera can add a whole different look to your shot. Look for ways to get up higher for a new perspective. Hills, stairs, and tall buildings are just some of the many ways to add height.

Travel Light

There's nothing fun about dragging around 50 pounds of camera equipment as you travel. For most amateur travel photographers you just need your camera, an extra battery or two, maybe a lightweight tripod (see Sony VCT-R100 Lightweight Compact Tripod Review) or monopod, and maybe a second lense.

Composition

Learning how to best frame a shot takes a lot of time and practice. Flip through professional photographs online and start to look at how the images are framed up. Rarely do you want to find a subject and center it in the middle of your frame. Try moving it off to one side instead.

Shooting landscapes? Avoid having the horizon right in the middle of your photograph. Instead, put the horizon around 1/3 of the way in from the top or bottom of your frame. Adding other elements (tree branches for example) is a great way to further add some drama to an otherwise boring landscape photo.

Straighten Your Horizons

This is important for all photos, but it's critical for landscape photos that have a horizon in them. Straighten the horizon! Hold your camera so the horizon is as straight as possible in the frame. Later on you can further straighten it in your editing software as needed.

There are few things that stand out more than a horizon shot (beach, ocean, sky, etc) that is crooked. And before you try and tell me that your "tilt" is intentional and artistic understand that tilted horizons rarely look good, even if intentional and artistic. Keep them straight and your photo will look infinitely better.

Shoot Wide

I think we all tend to overuse that zoom feature. The first rule is, don't zoom on a smartphone because you're not going to hold it steady enough and any type of "digital" zoom is pointless. Assuming you have a real camera, avoid zooming in if you can't stabilize the camera well (tripod, monopod, etc).

If you do zoom, try to avoid over zooming. Cameras these days create very large photos (in terms of pixels) so you're often better shooting a wider photo (not zoomed in) and cropping the image later on in your editing software.

Zoom In

I know, I know. I just told you to shoot wide and don't zoom in. But there times when it makes sense to zoom in and really capture the detail in a close up subject. Food photos are a great example of when it makes sense.

RAW

If your camera offers the option to shoot in RAW, then shoot in RAW if you plan to do any major image editing in programs like Lightroom. The RAW file format creates much larger file sizes than JPG, but these uncompressed RAW images have much more photograph data in them and allow for much more controlled editing later on.

HDR

Feeling advanced? Try shooting with your camera's HDR function. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Most newer cameras will automatically do a set of bracketed HDR-ready exposures. Meaning, you push the shutter button and your camera takes 3-7 photos all at once. Each photo will have a different exposure setting.

Start with a 3 bracketed exposure setting and your camera will take one correctly exposed photo, one underexposed, and one over exposed. Combine the 3 shots together using a program like Lightroom and your images will pop like never before.

Backup

Want to make yourself sick? Then take all of your travel photos on a single memory card, don't back them up, then lose the card or let your camera get stolen with the card in it. Yea, that will make you sick fast.

To avoid that, backup your photos at the end of each day. This can be as simple as copying them to your laptop or bringing several memory cards and using one per day while keeping the rest in a safe place (hotel safe, etc).

Have Fun

Having fun is probably the single most important tip we can offer. If you're not having fun photographing your travels, then you aren't having fun while you travel. If you can't have fun while traveling then what's the point of traveling at all?
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