Travel photography tips to improve your photos
Whether you have decided to go on a trip, do a world tour or have just gotten back from somewhere; you’ll probably be looking for travel photography tips to improve your pictures? Evidently, we all look at our travel pictures afterwards, and often say to ourselves, I could have done better, it’s not that great of a picture.
In the end, we often think of how we might be able to improve our travel pictures! In this article, I give you some tips and advice on how to improve your travel photo!
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What are the travel photography tips then?
Before I begin, these principles and notions are not supposed to be applied separately. We can agree that the more you combine them, the better your photos will be!
1 - Applying composition and framing rules
What do you mean, we have to think about taking pictures now? Well…yes, at least a bit! More seriously, I would say that this is one of the biggest tips for improving your travel pictures. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert in photography, try to have some basic guidelines for composition and framing.
Being able to take beautiful travel pictures will not happen by accident and it will take a minimum of photographic knowledge to do the right things (at least to “specialist’s” eye)..
When I talk about the basic composition rule, I am first and for most talking about the rule of thirds, which consists of placing one’s main subject on one of the intersecting lines that divides the image in three. A small picture is better example than trying to explain with words!
All photographers (and other artists) have used this rule (a rule that is associated with more rules) for centuries!
There are a whole bunch of composition rules to highlight one’s subject. The latter involves playing with colors, lights, using the subject’s sharpness (depth of field), leading lines, contrasts, etc.
A few years ago, I was given three superb books that I would recommend to all people who are interested in learning composition and learning more about landscape photography.
2 - Think about what you want to take a picture of
Yes, I know, it sounds like silly advice, but believe me when looking at some friend’s souvenir photos from holidays, I sometimes wonder what they wanted to actually capture in their pictures! Indeed, it’s another very important tip for photography photos.
So take a few seconds or minutes to think about what you want to capture. Is it the landscape? the general atmosphere of the scene? a particular object?
In this picture, I tried to capture the vastness of the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania. Indeed, if you want to take a picture of a landscape, which often happens when travelling, ask yourself what you want to highlight in the landscape. To help you, try to use an adjective to describe the landscape and, it is that adjective that you will try to highlight.
So what is your landscape like? Is it bright? Green? Stretch as far as the eye can see?
3 - Shoot during the best hours
Yes, it is also some of the most important travel photography advice to take into account. Have you ever realized that your photos might be too faded, without enough brightness or some that even have a “burnt out” sky as its called (all white)? I can assure you that this is simply due to the fact that you took pictures at the wrong time of the day (well, maybe on the wrong day as well…but that’s another story).
Keep in mind this simple element; there are indeed moments in the day more suitable for taking pictures while travelling. They are known as the “golden hours”.
These are simply the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset. At this time, the light is softer, well diffused, and colors, shadows and shapes are enhanced.
These are the ideal hours for travel photography (and everyday photography in general).
From my travel experience, I can estimate that you can easily take beautiful pictures two hours before and after the sunrise and sunset. The further you are from those hours, the harder the light will be.
So, yes, I know it’s not always easy to be in the right place at the right time but if you want to take pictures with beautiful lighting, it’s this time slot that you should aim for.
4 – Succeeding in landscape photography
And yes, when you travel, you also discover beautiful (new) landscapes. Who would want to miss a picture of the temples of Bagan in Burma, or the Grand Canyon in the United States? No one would!
So my advice would be to make sure you know how to get the best landscape pictures. So, of course, you are not only taking this kind of pictures when you travel however they are quite relevant!
I have also written an article to help know how to improve your landscape pictures.
So think of correctly highlighting your landscape pictures in terms of colors and textures and especially focus on using leading/diagonal lines. Additionally, trying long exposures for waterfalls, etc…
5 - Shoot contrasted and colorful pictures
Nothing worse than dull and colorless photos, don’t you think?
Make sure to highlight your subject in a contrasted way and play with the colors. Focus on what stands out for you, in a market or a town, for instance. It may even be an insignificant colorful detail. So, try to highlight it, while respecting as much as possible the previous guidelines (composition, framing and lighting at the adapted time of day).
6 - Forget the automatic mode
Whether you’re using a compact, mirrorless or DSLR camera, one of the tips to improve your travel pictures would of course be to stop using the automatic mode. So, yes, some of you will tell me that you can take great pictures in automatic mode with your DSLR. I’m hardly convinced any more, to tell you the truth.
As you become more confident with your camera, especially your DSLR, you’ll find that you’ll have a much better understanding of what you want to do when you switch out of auto mode. It will take a bit of time to learn and understand the notions of exposure, focal length, depth of field, ISO, etc., but once you’ve got it all figured out, you’ll be in control of your camera.
I remind you that in automatic mode, it is the camera that decides what it wants! Which brings us to the next point.
7 - Shooting in RAW and editing your photos
For those unfamiliar with the RAW format, it can be considered the ” digital negative “. It’s a raw picture and needs editing.
So why would you want to shoot in RAW you might ask? This will surely be the subject of a complete article showing you from A to B the merits of RAW.
To make it simple, because RAW mode is not the topic of this article, when you take a picture in JPEG format, the camera automatically applies (on its own) settings and compression to the photo. The final picture is therefore often good enough, but the latter will have lost a lot of necessary information during this compression and the extra automatic settings of the camera.
With the RAW format, you will get a “raw” photo, which at first glance is dull. The camera has made no adjustments or compression. You are indeed in complete control of what you want to do with the picture and all the information that was used to create the picture is still present.
This will obviously require having good knowledge of a RAW editing software, as is available on the market. Personally, I have used for more than 5 years now the Adobe Lightroom software, which is excellent. I do use now DXO.
According to the evolution of this blog, I think I will slowly start working with photography tutorials to learn how to use this software perfectly and thus take better travel pictures in RAW.
8 - Change the type of photos and your subjects
Quand je parle de varier le type de photos, je parle effectivement de vos sujets.
When I say change the type of photos, I’m actually talking about your subjects.
I know that, personally being passionate about landscape photography, I tend to focus on it a little too much, but I am trying more and more during my travels to force myself to take an interest in other subjects, which initially interests me less.
One of the tips to improve your travel photography is therefore to vary the types of photos you take. Try and remember why you went on the trip in the first place?
Was it to discover new cultures, meet new people, discover new landscapes, taste the different cuisines of the world? In short, it’s surely for all of these reasons.
In that case, force yourself to capture what you see and what your traveling for. Are you in a market and have discovered new foods, that’s one for the album! You’ve just met people dressed in traditional clothes; there you go again.
So you’ll understand, vary the different types of photos and don’t bring back the one type of picture every time. It’s a bit the same idea for if you go on a photo safari (like my safari in Tanzania) and only end up bringing back pictures of lions… By the way, are you looking for advice on safari photography?
9 - Be creative and inspired
This may sound like silly advice, but even if you don’t have the soul of an artist to begin with, try to see things differently from the way you might have initially.
You have to try to see things in a different way, from another angle, different from what people see in general. Because bringing back the same waterfall picture that everybody does during their trip to Iceland, it’s not that exciting in the end, is it?
On the contrary, why not think about how you could highlight this waterfall; show it in a different way? It requires a little bit more creativity and innovation!
You might be able to move around a little bit, to shift to a hill opposite, or to integrate another element in the foreground, to take a picture of that waterfall, right?
It’s a waterfall, as you can see, we know that. But really try to get another perspective.
10 - Varying the shots and the depth of field
To finish with my last piece of advice to improve your travel photos, being to try to vary the type of shots and the depth of field.
This is nothing too complicated, I assure you. The idea when I talk about shooting is to vary the formats of portraits and landscapes. I personally know that I tend to take a lot more pictures in landscape format (except now that I’ve been on Pinterest), but I’m trying to improve now!
Try to force yourself, even if you’re not used to it, to take pictures in the format you’re least comfortable with. Even landscape photos in portrait format can look great, if they are well highlighted.
And secondly, is the depth of field. Simply put, if you haven’t yet heard of it, it’s the area of your picture that will be more or less sharp. One of the tips that are given to highlight a subject is to work with a small depth of field. Your subject will then be isolated from the rest of the image.
It may sometimes make more sense to work with varying depths of field to ensure that your entire photo is not always 100% sharp. This is especially true for detail enhancement, in areas where there are too many elements (city, market, etc.), but you can also use it in landscape photography!
These are my 10 tips to improve your travel pictures. I hope you will find them useful whether you are preparing your trip or if you are already on it. There are many other tips to help succeed in your travel photos, but these are already good basics. If you apply them, you already have a great chance of improving your travel photos!
If you have any questions or remarks about the subject, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment at the bottom of the article!
See you soon for with a new article.