Want to learn how to take better travel photos? Maybe your goal is to share photos from your travels with the world as an aspiring travel blogger, or maybe you just want to get better at capturing vacation memories as beautiful, personal keepsakes. I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade over the years, and am excited to share my top tips for taking better travel photos.
Invest in the right gear.
When I was first starting out, I remember being told that the best camera is the one you have with you. Don’t feel like you have to rush out and buy the most expensive equipment right away. In fact, you can take some pretty epic photos using only your iPhone. Compact and always on hand, it makes the best travel camera, perfect for capturing spontaneous moments.
However, if you are ready to invest in the next level, here are a few of my favorite photography essentials:
- DSLR Camera: A professional camera offers an arsenal of different settings that allow you even more creative potential and flexibility. I use the Canon 5D Mark IV and love it. Other popular brands include Nikon and Fujifilm.
- Lens: Building a collection of good camera lenses can become a lifelong obsession. A good place to start is with the Tamron 28-75mm Zoom Lens. Zoom lenses have a variable focal length for greater flexibility. Prime lenses, on the other hand, are fixed at a certain focal length, meaning that the angle of view can’t be changed. However, prime lenses can be lighter weight and some argue have greater image quality. One of my favorite prime lenses is the Canon EF 100mm Macro Lens.
- Drone: In recent years, greater and more accessible drone technology has made it possible for even the most amateur photographers to capture epic overhead shots. I have the DJI Mini 2, which is compact and great for travel, without sacrificing image or video quality. Just make sure to research drone laws for your destination ahead of time.
- Camera Bag: You’ll need someplace to safely store all this photography equipment when you travel. Brevite Jumper Photo backpack is compact enough for easy on the go, but has space for it all, including a 16″ laptop. Plus it blends in as a regular backpack, so no one needs to know you’re hauling expensive equipment.
Do your research ahead of time.
You have limited time to capture a perfect shot in the moment, so always make sure to research your destination before you arrive. Look up the local landmarks and points of interest that would make good subjects for your photos. I also love to check out the location on Instagram to get inspiration for some of the more off-the-beaten path shots captured by local photographers and bloggers.
Then venture off the beaten path.
Plan your shots beforehand as much possible, but also leave room to discover the unexpected. You never know what’s waiting around the next corner or down an unassuming path. One spring day, I went out on a photography expedition in my hometown of Boston. I had researched all the most Instagrammable spots to capture spring blooms: Commonwealth Avenue, the Charles River Esplanade, the Boston Public Garden. But it was after I had packed up my equipment and started walking home that I stumbled upon my favorite shot of the day. Down an unassuming street in an otherwise forgotten part of town, these brilliant, purple blooms stole the show.
When shooting landscapes, beware big vistas that can make the viewer feel lost in your image. Find a subject, like a person or an animal, to help anchor your image and show scale.
Also pay attention to what’s immediately around you. Something at your feet could help ground your photo and create interesting layers in your composition. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty. Sometimes getting the perfect shot require a bit of athleticism. You’ll often find me laying in the mud to capture the crunchy leaves in the foreground or climbing a tree to get the angle just right.
Aim for the right lighting.
Contrary to what you might think, blue skies and bright sun make for some of the worst photography conditions. Stark shadows and intense backlighting are not your friends. Instead, try to plan your shoot days for overcast or rainy weather, when the lighting is softer and more consistent. If you can’t control the weather (and who can, especially when traveling!), at least avoid harsh midday lighting when the sun is directly overhead. A photographer’s favorite time of day is Golden Hour or dawn, when the lighting is universally flattering. Plus, there’s another big advantage to venturing out when it’s super early or less than ideal weather conditions – you’ll avoid crowds that could get in the way of your shot.
Follow the Rule of Thirds.
For perfect composition every time, follow this tried-and-true rule. Divide your frame into three sections, either horizontally or vertically. Then place your subject in line with this imaginary grid. Even though the subject is off-center, this technique maintains balance and beauty.
Practice makes perfect.
Don’t wait until you are on an epic, once-in-a-lifetime trip to try out some of your new skills. Before you go, practice around your hometown or even your own house. Playing tourist in your own city is fun and can open your eyes to the beauty right in your own backyard. Challenge yourself to photograph in different and less-than-ideal lighting and scenarios. You very rarely get to control your conditions when traveling, so you’ll want to be prepared to handle anything!
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