Traveling is the ideal opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and photograph new destinations and subjects. You want to make the most of your travels and create amazing photos while still having fun and fully enjoying the experience.
Travel pictures are memories and with your images you want to convey those feelings and emotions that take you and back to a beautiful location. Improving your photography skills takes time. Travelling is one of the best ways to experiment in completely new scenarios and locations.
From amateur to professional photographers, the following tips will help you up your photography game on the road and if you scroll down to the end of this article you will find a link to my in-depth guide to plan your next photography trip.
1. Plan Your Itinerary Well
Careful planning for an upcoming trip ensures you have time to visit the sites you want to see and to strike the right balance of having planned and unplanned time every day. Otherwise, it’s easy to end up overplanning or under planning and then burning yourself out or scrambling to fit in everything during the final couple days of the trip.
Schedule a maximum of 1-2 sites per day, so you have time to recharge. If you’re traveling with other people and want time alone to take pictures, let your group know and plan accordingly. For example, maybe you can sneak away for some long exposures while they visit a destination that wasn’t high on your list.
2. Have the Right Gear With You
The biggest mistake most photographers make while traveling is lugging around a lot of heavy gear. Choose the lightest camera body you can to get the pictures you want. Then select a single zoom lens and single prime lens to pair with it. You’ll be taking a lot more wide-angle than close-up shots. If you have a wide-angle zoom lens, pair with it versatile prime lens, such as a 35mm or 50mm lens.
On the flip side, if you prefer a walk-around zoom lens, choose a wide-angle prime lens. Pack a few key accessories such as a battery charger and circular polarizer filters. Leave everything else at home.
These are my lightweight bodies and lenses recommendations for you :
Lightweight Camera Bodies
- Olympus PEN E-PL9 I own one. Budget friendly, easy to use, sensational in-body image stabilization and it soots 4k videos.
- Sony a6000 24MP APS-C Sensor. Amazing price on Amazon.
- Sony a6500 If your budget is higher and you love shooting 4k videos
Lightweight Travel Lenses
3. Take In a Scene Before Pulling Out Your Camera
When you arrive at a new location, spend a few minutes taking in the scene. You’ll get a much better idea what you want to photograph and how you want to photograph it than you would if you pulled out your camera and started shooting right away.
After you get the shots you want, put your camera away. You can always pull it out again for a few more shots. However, it’s nice to experience a destination without a camera in front of you the whole time.
4. Experiment With Different Types of Photography
Traveling creates natural opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and dabble in new photography styles. If you spend most of your time at home taking pictures at family events and of your own kids around the house, it’s fun to play around with architecture or street photography. Even if you’re traveling as a professional photographer with a specific assignment, embrace the chance to get an unusual or unexpected shot.
5. Include People in Your Photos
Including people in your travel photos is important because it’s adds to the narrative while creating perspective of famous destinations. For example, it’s a lot easier to appreciate the scale of the Grand Canyon when there are a few people in your shot.
Ask your travel companions to pose for you periodically. Don’t be afraid to include groups of tourists in occasional shots as well. While it’s nice to get clean, people-free shots, it’s also nice to document the fact that there were people there. It would be odd to visit Tokyo in the middle of cherry blossom season and not see a lot of other visitors.
6. Tell a Story
It’s easy to find yourself going through photos after a trip and realize that you just have a bunch of snapshots that don’t really tell a story. Not every travel image needs to be a breathtaking composition. However, when you create an album of your travels, you want it to be more than a collection of random images. Getting people into your shots will go a long way toward telling a travel story. Strive to capture a mix of wide shots and close details. You want to set the scene and then expand on it with little elements, such as the pattern of the tiled floor or the way people gaze up at the frescoed ceiling.
7. Talk to Locals and Other Tourists
One final way to add to the narrative of your travels is to gain perspective from locals and interact with other tourists. Learning the history of a place or hearing about others’ experiences taking in an iconic landmark for the first time will help you create depth with your images. For many people, it’s intimidating talking to individuals they don’t know. The more you interact with other people while traveling, the most comfortable you’ll become with the process.
8. Take a Good Mix of Photos in Varied Lighting
One of the freedoms that comes with traveling is having your camera with you at all times of the day. Make a point to head out early or stay out well into the evening to create images that aren’t all in broad daylight, which is what you see in the average travel photo. Plan for at least one or two night outings as well. Use the night photo sessions to capture buildings lit up or to create long exposure car light trails.
9. Don’t Underestimate the Power of your Smartphone
Sometimes you don’t want to lug around your mirrorless or DSLR camera or you find yourself with a great photo opportunity when you’re without the camera, such as returning to the hotel after dinner. Modern smartphones have great cameras, particularly when you shoot in RAW, use manual settings, and edit your images. The best camera is the one you have on you. When you are relying on your cell phone, make the best of it and take a few shots.
10. Don’t be a Perfectionist
As a photographer, you may feel the pressure to create spectacular images every time you’re out with your camera. This expectation is unrealistic and creates unnecessary stress. Your travel photos don’t have to be perfect to be great images. Additionally, while traveling, it’s important to get shots of iconic buildings and to take a few silly tourist shots, such as pretending to hold up Spaceship Earth at Epcot. You want to get these shots, and it’s perfectly fine if they look just like everyone else’s pictures.
Finally, when you’re traveling, pack multiple memory cards. Switch up your cards periodically, and backup your photos, ideally on an external hard drive, at least once during the trip. Spreading the photos over multiple cards and creating a backup set greatly reduces the risk of losing all your photos if something goes wrong with your camera or one of your memory cards.
If you’re about to go on your next trip and want to take amazing photos, I recommend you reading my article The Ultimate Guide to Plan Your Photography Trip it’s full of resources and tips to make sure you are ready to take stunning photos on your trips.
Where are you traveling next and what are your best tips and tricks for creating stunning travel photos? Let me know in the comments section below.
Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.