8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey

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Call it obsessive compulsive, but there is a reason why we humans are obsessed with traveling and love taking countless pictures of our trips (in other words travel photography). Either consciously or subconsciously, we know that our images have the potential to connect us to our beautiful world.

Images of places, cultures, art and even food can carry us away from our mundane everyday existence and transport us to a magical place that we once explored and experienced. There is nothing greater than reliving a magical sunset, that mountain summit or some beautiful architecture when we sitting in the middle of a snowstorm, is there?

That being said, here are a few tips to make the most out of your travels and ensure you have memories that can last a lifetime and more!

8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey - Memorable Jaunts Yellowstone National Park

8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey

#1 – Rise and shine with the proverbial rooster

There is something so wrong about setting an alarm when you are on vacation, but that is one of the best things you can ever do for your photographer’s soul. My travel alarm, much like my internal body alarm, goes off somewhere between 5:30-5:45 a.m. every single day. I have long learned to stop fighting it and to instead embrace it.

This is my photography time – time for just me, my camera, and my surroundings. The light is perfect – a soft shade of pink and the slow warmth of the sun just peaking out of the horizon. This me time generally satisfies my creative juices and I find that I start the day refreshed and ready for all the other adventures that lie ahead.

A general tip that also works for your early morning photography exercise is to know ahead of time where and what to shoot. Take some time to scope the location prior so you are not spending precious early morning hours just looking for the right spot and the right subject. Track sunrise times with an app like The Photographer’s Ephemeris, SkyFire, or Planit! – and also track the weather using something similar to The Weather Channel app . Also think about what you want to get out of this early morning shoot ahead of time. I find that working with an end goal in mind makes getting up early even more rewarding, as well as being an effective use of my me time.

8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey - St Kitts Film Photography

An early morning start got me an empty beach and the most beautiful pink sunrise – all captured on medium format film. I took my time to compose my images without the rush of people walking into my shots.

#2 – One scene – three ways

I use this rule no matter what I am photographing – either weddings, family portraits or travel photography editorials. To me, it brings variety into my portfolio and new favorites every time I go through my images.

My rule of three is to aim for a horizontal wide angle shot, a vertical view, and a zoomed in (a.k.a detailed) view of the same scene. Usually, when we travel, we often tend to focus on only one of these three. But don’t forget about the others that also make up that moment and help tell the story. You can also try other points of view. Focus on one aspect of some interesting architecture instead of the whole building, or shoot a detail of that delicious street-side food stand.

Mariott Hotel Grand Cayman - Travel Photography Tips

I fell in love with the decor at the Marriott Hotel in Grand Cayman – everything about this wall screams tropics to me!

8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey

#3 Add a sense scale

In order to communicate true scale in an image, always try and include a recognizable object or subject. For example, frame a vehicle, person, or house within a landscape, or a hand for a food shot. This gives your audience a better understanding of the dimensions of the subject in the image.

8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey

The grandeur of the America Bison! People fail to anticipate their size until you see them compared to a medium size SUV!

#4 Notice the details

The old adage, “It’s all about the details” is so true, especially in travel photography. People want to experience an image and almost imagine themselves in your shots. Colors, textures, and patterns are all details that make up the story. Pick a subject and focus on that subject for details.

If there are any distracting elements in the shot, try shooting straight on or overhead to help remove these distractions. On the other hand, if there are no distractions, use the rule of thirds or negative space to draw the viewer’s eye to the details. You can also try creative cropping to bring attention to colors and textures by filling the frame with the detail.

8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey

Wildflowers along my hiking path shot two different ways – first overhead.

8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey

Then with details that almost fill the frame…no matter what you prefer, they both tell a different story.

#5 Pack the right (and light) gear

Be practical and pack smart. The last thing you want to do is lug ALL your gear halfway across the world only to be so frustrated, and not to mention sore, that you are put off by the whole idea of photographing anything. I am speaking from experience, in case you missed that!

Nowadays, I really think long and hard before putting a piece of gear into my travel backpack. Do I really need a 35mm lens and a 24-70mm zoom? Sometimes it is also helpful to leave my heavy dSLR at home and shoot solely on my handy iPhone, especially when I am location scouting for a shoot. If iPhone photography is really your jam, you can add some lenses like the Olloclip for your iPhone that is lightweight and convenient.

#6 Always be ready for the shot

Keep your camera handy; you never know what you are going to get. I love to capture those in-between moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. We tend to drive a lot as a family, so my gear is always under my feet, ready for an interesting shot. If your camera is always within reach, you’ve got a good chance at capturing all the in-between real life moments too.

#7 Follow the light

8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey

An early morning hike in the mountains south of Denver Colorado had a gorgeous view and even more beautiful light falling on the wildflowers along my path.

Light is one of the most important aspects of photography, no matter what the genre – including travel photography. When you’re shooting think of using the 360°rule. Stand still and do a complete circle. Figure out where is the light coming from and where is it hitting? Make decisions based on the light you see. Is it a silhouette or do you want the light hitting the subject? Or do you want intentional lens flare by letting light (the sun) hit the lens.

Sunrise along the Idaho border Memorable Jaunts Travel Photography Tips

After driving almost straight through the night, the sight of the sun rising above the pine trees along the Montana-Idaho border was so magical. We only had trucks to keep us company and I love that element of detail off to the side of the image! Light no matter what kind adds a magical element to an image if done correctly!

#8 Be a part of the experience

At the end of the day, don’t forget to focus on what really matters – the people you share the experience with and all of the memories you make. Photographing your experience is great but don’t get so caught up in documenting it that you forget to live it. Candids, blur, and motion are as much a part of the experience as is the perfectly posed and perfectly light shots.

Take a step back and take in the scene, then bring the camera to your face and take a shot. Don’t let the anticipation of photographing every minute of your vacation be the reason you travel! Schedule some camera-free days to get yourself energized and rejuvenated as well.

What are some of the tips and trick you have tried on your travel photography adventures?

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Karthika Gupta is a lifestyle, wedding, and travel photographer based in the Chicago area. Her images are fun, fresh and natural and her love for nature makes it way into most of her images. She also leads unique photo tours to India.

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  • Brian Ditmer

    I like tip #8. Alaska is worst for this. Some visitors never look up from their cameras. I had to remind myself to experience being there..not just to document it.

  • ShowHarmony

    As you travel around, shoot a quick shot of every sign that tells you where you are at and what you are seeing. If you have GPS, so much the better.

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  • Micheal Jackson

    Great tip on travel photography but i must add in such photography work you should shoot every natural thing you come across. Examples like mountains, or maybe if you even come across a animal or market. This are ways to get people talking about your photography.

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