20 More Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know

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Traveling is fun and rewarding, but sharing memories of your journeys with friends, family, and the world through your own beautiful images can be even better.

Traveltips Georgia 2

Georgia (the country)

Here are 20 more tips for great travel photography:

(You can read Part One 20 Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know here)

Before you go:

1. Make the visual decisions

For most of us, deciding where and when to go is based on many decisions, not necessarily related to photography. But there are some small decisions you can make to turn an ordinary trip into a photo-worthy one. For example, let’s say you are going on a business trip. You can squeeze a few hours of photographing between meetings. But a much better option would be to take a day or two off and spend this extra time photographing on location.

Or when planning your next family vacation, add a little visual research before the trip. Is there a nice festival or a market worth visiting at your destination? Is there something unique like an interesting ethnic group or unusual landscape that’s worth documenting? These small visual decisions can make a huge difference in your photographic experience during your trip.

2. Build a shot list

A “shot list” is a term from the movie industry. It’s a list of shots that are planned for a specific day. Want to come back home with better travel photography results? Then the shot list is your tool for the job.

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Thailand

First, make a list of visual ideas as your “I won’t come home without” image list. Combine the iconic images with more creative ideas. For example, if you’re going to Paris, don’t skip the Eiffel tower. As a true symbol of Paris, it should be on your list. But make sure to add creative visual ideas, such as boutique wine shops, farmers markets, or anything to your liking. The shot list is there to help you, not restrict you. When you’re on the road, with so many new sights and smells competing for your attention, the shot list will keep you organized and be a continual inspiration for creating the next shot.

3. Smart gear choice

Don’t take all of your equipment with you! Match the gear to the destination. Do you really need that flash on the beaches of Thailand? Or that 50 mm prime lens for the safari trip to Tanzania? Choose wisely and you’ll worry (and carry) a lot less.

4. Photo boot camp

If you’re not making images on a daily basis, it will probably take you a few days on location just to “get in shape”. Get a jump-start by warming up at home by creating a daily photography routine at least one week before departure. This will make sure you’re at your best as soon as you step off the plane.

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Thailand

5. Coordinate expectations

Apart from our photographer’s “hat”, we all wear other hats, such as “father,” “spouse,” or “friend”. When traveling with others, we must wear many other “hats”. You must coordinate expectations with your travel partners to make sure the importance you’re placing on your photography during the trip won’t cause problems. Think and plan together about places you all can visit that would be great for even those who don’t take pictures: vantage points with scenic views, colorful markets, religious centers, etc.

When you get there

6. Location scouting

This is another movie industry term. It means that before even taking out your camera, it is wise to get familiar with your surroundings. Take at least a few hours to learn the area. Understand if there are any interesting places around your hotel, visit one or two places that are on your shot list and adjust it accordingly.

Traveltips Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

7. Get up early

Yes I know, this one is a crazy ratings downgrade. But hey, travel photography is not for the lazy! The most precious thing on a trip is your time. Do not waste the hours of golden light of morning (or afternoon) on sleeping. Especially if you are traveling with non-photographers, it’s your time to do your best shots. You can save sleeping in for weekends at home.

8. Markets first!

Colors, food, local people, culture; markets are a photographer’s paradise. It’s always better to visit open markets (for the daylight) rather than covered ones. Some of the best markets I visited happen only once a week, be sure to be there.

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China

9. Diversify your shoots

You took a landscape photo with a wide lens? Excellent, now do it again with a telephoto lens.

You’ve got the main square in daylight? Wonderful! Come back at night with a tripod and shoot long exposures. Make the most out of your once-in-a-lifetime trip as your diversify your shoots and portfolio.

10. Get out of your comfort zone

We all have places that are less comfortable for us, but visiting a new place is an excellent opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. Do you not have the courage to approach strangers in the street in order to take their portrait? This is an excellent opportunity. You might be surprise how easy and fun it is to do this with strangers.

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Thaliand

11. Go iconic – but from a different point of view

We all know how Times Square, The Taj Mahal, and the Eiffel tower look. Don’t come back with the same, “we’ve seen it all before” images. You don’t have to skip those iconic places, they usually are truly worth the visit. But think of new and fresh ways to feature them. Try using a fish-eye lens, creative editing process, or reflections – the sky is the limit.

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Uzbekistan

12. Get inspired!

When I’m on a photography assignment, I always try to pay a short visit to a local gallery. Yeah, it sounds bit snobbish, but seeing the photography, paintings, or any other local art forms acts as a huge inspiration for my travel photography. We all want to create different and unique images. This is great way to do just that.

13. Setting a trap

I love this technique. Instead of jumping from place to place, looking for interesting subjects to photograph, I suggest to stay put and start building your frame with the background. Find an interesting vantage point on the street. You can even do this sitting at a sidewalk café. Establish your frame by determining the composition and exposure setting. Then wait for something interesting to enter your frame.

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Dominican Republic

14. Join forces with a local

From experience, in travel photography, there is nothing like working with a local photographer. Use a social platform (Facebook, Flickr, couchsurfing) and find a local photo enthusiast like yourself, who can show you all the best places to photograph. Of course, there are always risks when meeting strangers from the internet. Use your common sense and don’t meet them somewhere secluded at first.

Coming back home

15. Backup

I cannot stress how important this tip is. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Laptop, hard drive, cloud storage, you name it. Backup your images on more than one source.

16. Clean your gear

Before you store your stuff, you should clean it. Sea salt, sand, or even just fingerprints on the lens, can damage your gear. Keep your equipment in good shape and you will enjoy it for many years.

Traveltips Kyrgyzstan 3

Kyrgyzstan

17. Have a successes and misses notebook

In the past, I was recording a notebook of all my “almost got it” frames. Those fuzzy, overly bright, and “what the heck is this thing in the background” images.

I kept this notebook in order to learn how to not repeat my mistakes (and because we photographers like to be angry at ourselves from time to time). Then, I realized that it is just as important to understand why I failed as it is to understand why I succeeded. So, even today, after every assignment, I write ten things to keep and ten things to work on until the next trip.

18. Rest from it

I know it’s tempting, but resist the urge to filter, edit, and post-process your images the minute you get home. Give yourself at least a week before you do so. We tend to emotionally connect to our images, usually by the degree of investment and hard work we put into creating them. Give yourself time to disengage yourself from the experiences of your journey. This will help you see your images with less bias.

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Laos

19. Get feedback

After learning from your successes and mistakes by yourself, use the help of someone else. Choose a friend, (preferably one with tact) and get his/her opinion on the images. It doesn’t matter if they’re a photographer or not. They should be honest, sincere and non-competitive with you.

20. Get it out to the world

Now, after resting from it, seeing it again with a new perspective, and hearing someone else’s advice, it’s time to get your art out to the world.

Choose up to 15 photos (not more). It is important to pay careful attention to the opening and closing images. Each image must stand on its own and together as a set. Add some text and post it to the world.

Note: the author would like to thank Nicholas Orloff for his help in writing this article.

Traveltips India

India

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Oded Wagenstein is a cultures photojournalist and author. His work has been published in numerous international publications, such as the National Geographic.com, BBC.com, and Time Out. He is the author of three photography books. Visit his Facebook page and continue to discuss travel and people photography and get more fantastic tips!

  • Morten

    That was some stretched tips …

  • Yes to number 18, but even longer, Wait a few weeks, even a month, before you seriously cull and process the pictures!

  • Chandan Dudeja

    Nice blog, keep posting your blog with us.
    Rajasthan tour

  • AndreaZ

    Excellent! Appreciate #18 too! Has me re-thinking with new ideas 😉

  • I’m bad at forcing myself to edit as soon as possible. I think it’s the “show friends on facebook” urge to brag about your weekend. Plus I end up miserable while editing because it’s more like a obligation than a joy. I definitely need to try out tip 18.

  • Tim Lowe

    20 is about 15 too many. People can retain at most 5 ideas. 😉

    I particularly want to highlight #4. If you don’t shoot every day, you’re not going to be comfortable with your equipment and technique. I highly recommend the “365 Project.” Shoot at least one image every day for a year. No matter what. You’ll be amazed at how creative you become at 11:30pm…

  • Hi Andrea.
    Happy you liked the article

  • Agree

  • This is exactly why I wrote this tip out of the same sense of commitment

    Oded

  • Ravindra Kathale

    Yes, Tim, I agree. A 365-day a-picture-a-day program will do wonder to our skills and creativity. But you know, the thought itself is terrifying. What if I don’t get a good shot? What if I just can’t shoot? etc. But it will be a great exercise. Thanks for the thought.

  • Tim Lowe

    Do you learn more from good shots or bad? I think bad.

  • gregknudsen

    This breaks tip #20, but I’ve developed a slideshow series on YouTube called “50Fotos” of places throughout Asia and the Pacific. Each set is only 2min37sec, so quantity is offset by brevity. Latest: Temples of Angkor, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Mrauk U (Myanmar).

  • Be humble and polite with locals.At many times we encroach their privacy while shooting.If they are not willing try to make them convince .

  • Ravindra Kathale

    Both, my bad ones and others’ good ones. How about you?

  • Tim Lowe

    Yes. But more from my bad ones.

  • disqus_36H62Xy4NG

    Good article, but about #20, where should we put them? I kept a blog on my website while was in Indonesia for a year but I need to get more people seeing my work. I don’t think flickr and tumblr are good only for the fact that you agree to have your images sold without your knowledge. Any suggestions?

  • Nirvan

    Appreciate your marvelous work but I being an amateur photographer would really like some details about the photos. Such as the lens, focal point, edited or not, flash or no flash. Only then we can try to upgrade our technique. Thank you for your effort.

  • Kishan

    Thanks for the tips!! I really like many of them.

    Just back from a trip with a lot of photography and was about to jump on editing them this evening. Will let it pass for a week now. Also, I really like the tips about getting the pictures reviewed by a friend, making a short list, choosing the right gear, Markets etc are really good. I feel like revisiting this blog before every photo trip I make. Thanks 🙂

  • Hey there Nirvan,

    How are you?
    I understand your need for these kind of data. There are articles in which I attach them. But, I truly believe that if you know the aperture or lens it will not make you a better photographer. We sometimes prefer to focus on technical matters while important things are the story.

    As an exercise I suggest you try to guess the exif. This is a great way to learn.

    For example, let’s look at the last picture from a festival in India.

    You will see that a wide lens was used. A shallow depth of field, Implies an open aperture and the splashing water = high shutter speed.
    Now if the aperture is 2.8 or 3.5 or if the shutter speed is 500 or 1000, It does not matter as long as you understand the principle.

    For me, it is far more important, for example, that you will notice the composition that emphasizes the central character then any of the other numbers

    Oded Wagenstein

  • Hi Kishan, welcome back!

    YES. take your time, enjoy the memories and then come back again to the images with clear mind.

    Oded Wagenstein

  • Why not? you get it for free 🙂
    Oded

  • Well, A Professional photo page in Facebook can be great for you.

    Oded

  • drdroad

    Are you kidding?? I’ll be editing my photos while still there! Unless you’re talking about a one day trip. The last thing I want to do is come back from some faraway location, be it Washington DC or Lima Peru, and find I didn’t get outstanding images of every one of my subjects. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided to go back to a particular spot because the photographs I thought we’re so great when I shot them don’t seem all that hot in ACR.

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