20 Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know

20 Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know


1. Get up Early

The best light to capture most kinds of subjects is in the golden hours- one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset (depend off course on where you are on the globe). So get up early to get that amazing photo opportunities, while all the other tourists are still asleep.

2. Do your research

Don’t leave it to chance and learn as much as you can about the place you are about to travel. The more you know, the more “intelligent” your images will be.


3. Learn your Craft

Don’t waste your expensive traveling time on learning how to operate that new camera, lens or flash. Do your homework at home.

4. Choice the Right Lodging

Staying on the center of town, or having a room with wonderful views can create a lot of great photo opportunities.


5. Say Hello

Learn how to say “Hello” in the local Language, and greet the locals when taking their photo.

6. Get Inspired

Watch the portfolio of other photographers in order to get new ideas and get inspiration. You can read the interview I did with Steve McCurry, the photographer of the “Afghan girl”, to get few great tips for a true master.Also, If you perceive yourself as an artist, you must acknowledge the work of other artists. Do not underestimate inspiration: visit art galleries, attend some photography lectures, listen to classical music, read good books.


7. Feel the Place

Photography is not only about visual inspiration. Try the local food, smell local markets and hear local music, this will help you to better understand the story of the place.

8. Find a Fixer

Talk to locals and seek their advice on great photo opportunities in their own country.


9. Travel Light

Don’t take your entire house with you. When I travel I take with me only two lenses: One zoom and one prime lens. This is extremely important tip if you plan to do some hiking or trekking.

10. Get off the Beaten Path

Yes I know that in Cuba they smoke cigars and that in Thailand they have monks. Tell your viewers something fresh and new. Share your own point of view of the place. You will be able to do so, only after following tip number 2 and 6.


11. Don’t try to get it all in once

Don’t try to see everything on your limited time. It is much smarter to get a better understanding about each place you visit on your journey. Slow things down, and your images will get better.

12. Travel Slow

If time allows you, always choice to travel by train or bus over flying. As it will allow you to have better Interactions with the locals.


13. Leave the Camera Behind Sometimes

Don’t spend your entire trip looking through the lens. Enjoy your time just traveling and enjoying the ride.

14. Keep it Natural

One of the most important and influential photographers of all time, Henri Cartier Bresson- Never ever used flash in his photography. A practice he saw as “impolite…like going to a concert with a pistol in your hand.” Try to learn how to use and enjoy the benefits of natural light before you buy that expensive flash or reflector.

15. Get Higher

Every good travel photo series must have at list is one bird’s eye view of the place (Being referred sometimes as the “establish shot”). Find yourself a vintage point overlooking the entire city or town.


16. Stop with the Excuses

“Well, if I had an expensive camera and lenses like you have” or “If someone would pay me to travel”, or “but, you have so much time on each destination”.

All of those, are excuses I often hear from my travel photography students. Excuses they tell themselves to answer the question of “Why can’t I get Strong images?” So, A. My first newspaper published cover image, was taken using a pocket camera.

Yes, equipment is important and it certainly makes life easier. But don’t forget the camera is just an instrument. A “pipe” which captures your vision and thoughts. Do not cry over the equipment you don’t own. spend the time and money to learn photography, reading books about it and travel as much as you can.

And B. For my first 8 journeys, no one paid me anything. I worked very-very hard at my day job for a whole year, and then I spend my money on traveling. I slept in some shitty places got bus rides from hell. This lifestyle requires commitment. And today, even as I get paid for traveling somtimes. The lengths are usually one to two weeks per assignment. Two weeks to come back with an amazing results. Not excuses like “but it was raining and I was sick” are accepted.

So, stop the excuses, and get back to work.

17. Find Yourself a Master

: the best way to learn (anything) is by watching a master working on his craft. Try to find a photographer which you can accompany as his assistant. It is true that most travel photographers like to travel alone. But it doesn’t have to be a travel photographer. Most of my knowledge about using light, I learned from a great fashion photographer, which I served him as an assistant for a while.

18. “Exotic” can be found Anywhere

No matter where you live in the world: New York, the Middle East or a small village in France. Try to see the beauty of the place you live in. if you will find the beauty of that place and bring within your images, people will follow.


19. Don’t stop Traveling

A good travel photographer must keep is portfolio alive. Keep on traveling, and as the last tip mentioned: you don’t have to travel to far and exotic places to do so. As it is very easy to travel to India and get “good” travel photography. Try to bring the beauty of your own local town. Travel to the nearest market or attend the next festival as a way to keep your craft improving.

20. Be Human

Treat your subject as well as you can. Don’t shoot people from a far distance, don’t shot people who don’t want to get snapped. If you promise to send their photos, please do so. This will ensure that the photographer that will come after you will be received with a smile. And don’t forget, sometimes it is best to just leave the camera behind and enjoy the ride.

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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!

Some Older Comments

  • Pieter August 3, 2013 07:46 pm

    What a brilliant and inspiring article. The world has so much to offer in terms of travel photography and telling stories through your work is a wonderful gift. Thanks for sharing!


  • Rafaela June 17, 2013 12:54 am

    Hello to every body, it's my first go to see of this blog; this webpage includes awesome and truly excellent information designed for readers.

  • Jp Avery May 29, 2013 12:02 pm

    Totally agree two lenses like the 24-105mm togive you freedom not to change lenses very 5minutes.then a 50mm for low light and just a spare but as i traveled overseas to asia earlier this year I found I used my 17-40mm a lot.what ever lenses you choose you will always need the lenses you didn't bring so make a wise choice!

  • Uriya May 21, 2013 07:34 am

    Nice tips. Some of the photos could be made in Kazakhstan.

  • Graham Button May 20, 2013 06:12 am

    Excellent tips, I travel with 18-200 and nothing else... Any imperfections are corrected with Photoshop. Getting up early is always difficult for me... So tend to do more at end of day.

    Different people, different techniques and different ideas works for me. It gives that uniqueness.


  • milad ayoub May 20, 2013 04:18 am

    Thank you great tips

  • Zhala Najafova May 20, 2013 01:47 am

    Thanks so much for the great article! I wish to be a travel photographer and now I can use these tips for my future experience!

  • Dai Nguyen May 19, 2013 09:21 pm

    Perfect one to see this post

  • Arun Phatak May 19, 2013 02:21 pm

    Very useful and precise tips and beutiful pictures. wish you could be my master (tip 17)

  • Pam Vickery May 19, 2013 11:56 am

    These are great tips and I hope to be able to do more travel photography over the next few years. In the meantime, I live in a place that many would consider a photographer's dream. I am talking about the Province of Nova Scotia in Canada.

    I have lived her all my life and many of the things I see each day were humdrum to me until I changed my way of thinking about them. Now I try to see these everyday places and things through the eyes of a tourist. It has not only made me appreciate where I live more but it has tremendously improved my photography. A quaint fishing village to me is normal but to someone who lives many miles inland, this is an exotic place.

  • Norma Hawthorne May 19, 2013 07:24 am

    I've sold my zooms and bought a 50mm prime. As an interim, I'm usingan 18-105 until I can buy a better lens. That said, it's all in the looking, watching and waiting for me. Thanks for the tips and reminders. I organize photo expeditions in Oaxaca, Mezico for Day of the Dead with Duke University Center for Documentary Studies faculty.

  • Latonia Bailey May 19, 2013 12:46 am

    These were wonderful tips with amazing travel photos as examples. However, someone should have proofread this article. Tips #16-20 have countless errors that distract from the very good information.

  • Destiny May 18, 2013 12:29 pm

    This article couldn't have come at a better time! I'm taking a trip to Europe this Summer and I know there will be plenty of great photo ops. The tips are a great help! Thanks!

  • Ayo May 18, 2013 04:26 am

    Thanks for the Useful tips

  • Dr Ashok Verma May 18, 2013 04:24 am

    Thanks a lot.All the best. Ashok Verma

  • Martin May 18, 2013 03:36 am

    Thanks for the useful tips.
    When trekking I certainly leave myNikon 70-200 at home and carry: 50mm f1.4, 12-24 f4 and perhaps 18-55 f2.8 and on some occasions just the 18-200, especially when walking at high altitude.

    My wife agrees with points 10, 19 and especially 13!

    I do agree about doing some research before going away and certainly scour the web for tips; what I want to know is, is there a photographic site that tells on where to get the best shots for any given location? I do use Trey Ratcliff's 'Stuck on Earth'. I suppose the best way is either to go on a photographic holiday or adopt point 8 - I seem to have answered my question!

    Thanks again

  • Alice May 17, 2013 10:32 pm

    Thanks for the great tips. I have to admit that I never think to get up early to take pictures. I'm a working gal so sleeping in is my guilty pleasure. I'm heading to Paris and London for holiday in a few weeks. I'll give it a go.

  • Kumar May 17, 2013 09:39 pm

    Loved the photo of the man with grey hair. Beautiful portrait. The article was great. Very useful.

  • Madhu May 17, 2013 08:22 pm

    Hi. Thanks a ton. Very valuable tips especially about getting someone local to help and knowing the place to visit.
    I am off to Tanzania next week so your article will be of great value.

  • JaiB May 17, 2013 06:23 pm

    Thanks for the great and precise tips on travel photography.

  • Jim McAnlis May 17, 2013 05:54 pm

    Good article - things we all already know . . . but sometime forget. Thanks for the reminder

  • marius2die4 May 17, 2013 04:35 pm

    Very good tips!
    Some of my pics:

  • marius2die4 May 17, 2013 04:34 pm

    Werry good tips!
    Some of my pics:

  • Dave Molloy May 17, 2013 02:06 pm

    My tip for travel photography is to go to any local shop and check out the postcards, even despite their possible corniness. They can often reveal things about the local area that, despite all your research, you might not have picked up on. They can also give you alternate perspectives on the local highlights that you already know about. I have often changed my entire travel plans based on things I have seen on postcards

  • Ryan May 17, 2013 11:38 am

    Thank you for the tips. very useful.
    Can i reblogged it on my blog...
    i want to share it with others.

  • Harold H May 17, 2013 11:34 am

    Great travel photography tips.

    It's important to spend part of your time away enjoying the trip. and not always looking through the camera.

    Some of my best photos were taken when I turned around and looked at the world around me and not just the obvious.

  • ScottC May 17, 2013 09:57 am

    1,2,5, and 10 are extremely important!


  • bricat May 17, 2013 08:20 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is refreshing to hear how other people go about their business. Some of these tips I knew but most I have now learnt. And remember: If you haven't got anything nice to say, keep it to yourself. cheers

  • Rusty Solomon May 17, 2013 08:10 am

    Wonderful photo of the kid at the end of this page you have clicked. Timing of click matters over here. if we stop giving excuses then we may get some awesome photos.Keep sharing tips which are useful for travel photographer

  • Adam Pervez May 17, 2013 07:01 am

    Great tips! I only have a point-and-shoot and sometimes I think I would take much better pictures if I had an SLR. But as you say, no excuses.

  • Oded Wagenstein May 17, 2013 06:33 am

    Dear Ricardo,
    Thanks for the question.

    You mentioned the 50 mm 1.4 + 70-200 2.8 or the 85 mm 1.4 + 24-70 2.8.
    Both are very good in quality, but I can not answer your question without knowing what kind of subjects you like to shoot and from which distance.

    As for me, I would go for the 85 mm 1.4 and 24-70 2.8. But that's only because I get close to my subjects, so 85 mm as the Tele maximum is OK by me . Sometimes I do feel the need for the 70-200, but I find this lens too heavy and big for my working style.

    Do not forget, I truly believe that this is not the lens who makes the shot - it is how you work with it.
    Learn about composition and color, culture and the history of the place and any lens will be good for you

    If you have more questions, please feel free to write me


  • Kieran May 17, 2013 06:32 am

    'And don’t forget, sometimes it is best to just leave the camera behind' WHAT?

  • Jamesc359 May 17, 2013 05:23 am

    I don't believe that English is Mr. Wagenstein's native tongue. So it's only natural that he's going to make some common spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.

  • Romeo May 17, 2013 05:12 am

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and tips. I always carry my Rebel T1i- 55-250 Zoom and the 650D 18-135 mm lens both Canons. I do not want to change lenses all the time with one camera like I used to. I do not want to damage the lenses or the grooves for either one. I also have one point and shoot camera for those no moment notice shots that I will never see again. It comes very handy. I like to travel to other countries that is why I invested one two camera cotton carrier vest. It took the uncomfortable weights off my shoulders . I am just an avid photographer who reads a lot and manipulates the different buttons at home and goes to an indoor / outdoor places to pre-op my cameras before an event will take place. You are right, I like doing my homework before I go out shooting.

  • Michael Robert Powell May 17, 2013 04:58 am

    As nomad and a photographer across the planet - since 1988 - l totally agree with these tips. Disagree with above poster; sure some typos in article but excellent images.


  • Chris May 17, 2013 04:36 am

    I would split the difference - 50 mm 1.4 and 24-70 2.8. I have found that I seldom use a telephoto while travelling. Wide and fast work best for me.

  • Momen May 17, 2013 04:08 am

    Sorry to say that this is a poor article! Both language and photography are not up to DPS standards, disappointing.

  • Ricardo May 17, 2013 04:06 am

    You said you would only bring a pair of lenses, a fast and a zoom. Which one would you prefer if you had all of them: a 50 mm 1.4 and a 70-200 2.8 or a 85 mm 1.4 and a 24-70 2.8?
    Thank you

  • Cakap Niaga May 17, 2013 03:28 am

    I like much the last photo. Thanks for sharing.

  • Geoff Naylor May 17, 2013 03:17 am

    Wonderful photo of the kid on a donkey.

  • Alejandro Camacho May 17, 2013 03:10 am

    Thanks. Reading your tips I understood your experience and that knowledge is highly valuable. You are right, no excuses, read, prepare, respect, be pacient, observe and enjoy. Really appreciate it.

  • Roxana May 17, 2013 03:05 am

    This is so right on point, as I find myself making a few of these don'ts from time to time. Slow-travelling and getting up early are the ones that I love the most. It allows one to fully understand the place and get the time [and light] you want for your shooting.