How to Take Better Travel Photographs: 7 Easy Tips
The perfect set of photos from the trip of a lifetime is the best souvenir. Sure, it can be a bit of a pain lugging around more than just a smart phone for photos, and planning around the perfect times to shoot does require some flexibility, but photos are one of the best ways to remember a wonderful trip.
You don’t have to be a professional photographer with the world’s most expensive camera to come home with great photographs. The following are seven easy ways to take better travel snaps, starting from the simplest changes to a few tips to really take your photos to the next level:
The eye likes to follow patterns. Driving the line of sight to a focal point or finding an interesting repeating pattern is a great way to get a shot that people, yourself included, are predisposed to enjoy looking at.
In each place you visit, walk around and take the time to get the best possible angle. If you see a repeating pattern, make it work for you by setting yourself up in the middle of it and take a photo that is framed by symmetrical objects, such as the trees in the shot above.
Shoot in RAW
This is a common tip but an incredibly important one. Shooting in RAW format means the files are bigger, allowing for as much detail as possible.
Most cameras are set to shoot in JPEG format, which means that some information is compressed and the image quality goes down. RAW format retains all of the information from the sensor, records all of the light levels and makes editing images easier with a better final product. Opt for a bigger SD card and shoot the larger-sized images. You won’t regret it!
Getting lower to the ground is a great way to change the perspective of the photo in order to make it more interesting than what the eye normally sees from a typical human height. The rocks in the example above would not have been such a prominent aspect of the photo had I not taken a knee and crouched down for the photo.
This also works well with large buildings or anything that would benefit from looking taller and therefore more impressive. If you’re not sure whether it would improve the photo or not, just take a knee and try it out.
Get Out of Auto
The automatic setting might work well for many if not most shooting situations, but as soon as you get into a low-light situation or want to take a photo of something moving quickly, it becomes clear just how much of a disadvantage shooting in auto is.
If the manual that came with your camera was thrown away long ago, isn’t helpful, or is just too big, check out YouTube tutorials for your specific camera. It’s a free and visual way to learn how to get the best photos with the camera settings available to you.
Put a Person in the Shot
Landscape shots are a popular memento from travels, and they can be beautiful, but some are just not as interesting without a person in the shot. In the example above, the girl in the ocean helps the viewer to imagine him or herself there. Without her in it, it would just be another beach.
It’s important to make sure that if the person is identifiable, he or she consents to having his/her photo taken. It’s annoying and perhaps a little embarrassing to ask but it’s important. If you travel solo, here’s a list of tips to help you take photos so that you can be the person in them.
Consider the Time of Day
For those super impressive shots with seemingly perfect lighting, chances are the person took the photo during golden hour, which is the hour after the sun rises and before the sun goes down.
The best lighting for most photographs exists during this time frame, and that means that your schedule and the weather have to cooperate. If photography is a big part of your travel plans, consider when the rainy season is in your chosen destination and try to avoid it. Wake up earlier or time your arrival at certain places so that you can shoot during golden hour, and watch as your photos improve dramatically.
Edit but don’t Oversaturate
Learning how to edit your photos is a game-changer to the quality and fixing areas where the lighting is too dark or too bright. This is another skill that is easy to learn with YouTube tutorials depending on the program you’re using.
Lightroom is a favorite of many travel photographers. It’s more user-friendly than Photoshop and has a nifty paintbrush feature that makes editing only certain parts of the photo easy.
It’s tempting to make every color pop and to have super bright and inviting photos. In the example above of Northern Ireland, it was such a sunny day and the landscape there is so green and blue that, believe it or not, I had to take the saturation down! It’s a matter of taste how each photographer likes his/her photographs to look, but taking the saturation way up just makes them look fake.
The above are just a few of the steps you can take to achieve better photos when you travel. If you have any additional tips, share in the comments!
Kristin Addis is the solo female traveler behind BeMyTravelMuse.com, a website for off the beaten path adventures! She is also the author of solo female traveler guidebook, Conquering Mountains and How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly.