How to Get the Most Out of a Travel Photography Location

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The one thing that I always wish for on any trip is more time, but I also think that no matter how long I have somewhere I will always wish I had an extra day, week or month.

Making The Most Of A Location

As a photographer, you will rarely have the luxury of time, whether you are on an assignment or a personal trip. The reality is that there are so many things to photograph, in so many different way,s that you could spend a lifetime just photographing one city and get vastly different results every day. So making the most of your limited time is absolutely essential in maximizing the output of a trip.

On any given day you will only have enough time for a certain number of locations, so it is imperative to make the most of a scene and get enough saleable shots which are different enough from one another. This is even more important if you wish to make money from stock images with travel photography.

Research and planning can help immensely in ensuring that your time on location is well spent. But equally you will need to learn to think creatively on location to maximize the potential shots that are on offer. I try to get between four to six shots at any location which are different enough to send to my image libraries for editing (that doesn’t just mean vertical and horizontal orientation).

Here are a few tips to help you maximize a scene to get a variety of shots:

Look for different angles

It might seem obvious but if you move around to different points around your subject it could give you a completely different view of the same subject. That could mean you photograph from higher up or even lower down if possible.

Four different ways of portraying the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Four different ways of showing the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Incorporate other elements 

The flag in the foreground gives a completely different shot of the Blue Mosque.

The flag in the foreground gives a completely different shot of the Blue Mosque.

This will require a little bit of creative thinking but it could give you completely different photographs to what you already have. Look out for people or objects, such as flags, that you could incorporate into the foreground.

Try a different time of the day

It’s incredible how different places look and feel at different times of the day. Go early morning for soft light and less crowds, and you get a tranquil feel. Or how about mid-afternoon with the crowds to show the chaos of a place. Catch the golden light late in the afternoon for a wonderfully warm photo.

Change the composition

You can do this in post production, but I’m a firm believer in getting the shot right as you take it, so experiment with the image framing. Put your subject on the left or right, or tilt your camera to add some diagonal lines to draw the viewer in. The way you frame your composition can give a completely different look and feel to your image.

This was one of the shots I took. I also walked around and took a close-up of the face.

This was one of the shots I took here. I also walked around and took a close-up of the face.

Don’t forget about the details

It’s easy to forget to photograph the small details when you are in awe of that beautiful landscape or the famous landmark, but the details are what can really give your images variety. Whether it’s the detailed carvings, the ornate tiles, or the beautiful artwork, these details are what you may miss sometimes when you visit those famous landmarks. These sorts of images are also ones that Picture Editors find essential when laying out a magazine spread as they can be reduced in size to fit any space while still looking great. Some of my best selling shots are of these details!

Close-up shots of the details are a great way of adding additional shots from a location.

Close-up shots of the details are a great way of adding additional shots from a location to your collection.

Look beyond the main point of interest

This might sound strange, after all, if you are photographing that famous landmark or a beautiful landscape, why would you want to miss it completely? You should still take the pictures of the landmark or the landscape, but after you have got multiple shots of your main subject in the scene, start having a look around for other things that you can capture. It might be a beautiful autumn colour leaf on the ground or a street performer near the landmark. The aim is to try and maximize your output at every opportunity.

This stand selling post cards was in St Marks square in Venice. This image has out-sold all of the images I took of the landmarks!

This stand selling post cards was in St Marks square in Venice. This image has out-sold the famous landmarks photos that I took!

Remember that just a few additional shots at every location can add up over a trip and give you an extra load of saleable photos. But even the last shot should be good enough, and have enough thought put into it as the first one.

Can you think of anything else? What do you do to make sure you make the most of a scene? Share your tips and photos below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kav Dadfar is a professional travel photographer based in the UK. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty and Axiom Photographic and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, Lonely Planet, American Express, and many others. To keep up to date with his latest news follow him on his Facebook page

  • AliciaLStacey

    Remember that just a few additional shots at every location can add up over a trip and give you an extra load of saleable photos. But even the last shot should be good enough, and have enough thought put into it as the first one. http://num.to/775.984.859.373

  • I totally agree with you in the point about “Don’t forget the details”, Kav! The essence of a place or an object normally lies hidden in the less visible parts. In my last holidays I visited a small village in the border between Thailand and Myanmar and, while I obviously photographed the main landscapes and sights, I enjoyed observing and capturing these small scenes and corners the most. See them here: http://gonzalobroto.blogspot.com/2014/03/from-drought-to-flood-on-inconsistency.html

  • JvW

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    It’s probably not a good idea to click on that link.

  • Michael Owens

    Its becoming a theme of late. I flag these comments constantly, unfortauntely, they are the bane of our existence these days!

  • is deleted now thanks

  • It’s really hard for us to read every comment even the flagged ones – I’m not sure in Disqus how to see which ones are flagged but I’ll take a closer look. Barring that send in a contact through our form at the bottom of the page and let us know if there is one person that’s a bad apple.

  • Interesting article! You gave some real good points that will help me on my next vacation. On my trip to the Florida Keys last year I missed some key pictures because I focused too much on nature.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Absolutely, and shots like the spiral staircase and the window that frames the tree are perfect examples of details that ordinarily people would miss but you have managed to capture forever! Good work.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Glad it helps. Nothing wrong with focusing on nature but just keep your eyes open and look beyond the obvious.

  • David Green

    If for some reason , I can only take a single body and 2 lenses with me on holiday , I take my Sigma ultra-wide angle 10-20 f3.5 along with my Nikon 18-135 lens .
    The Sigma lens is great inside museums etc for getting close , AND getting all the detail – the distortion can be used in all manner of ways, including comical

  • I’m going to France in June…taking a Viking River Cruise and then 4 days in Paris. I can only take two lenses with my Canon 5D MarkIII so that I’m not lugging tons of equipment. I’m thinking my Canon 24-105 f/4.5 L and my regular Canon 100-300mm so I can get some shots from the river. Suggestions? I have a 50mm f/1.2L that I love and a 24-70mm f/2.8L also. Help!? And thanks for your input.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Nice work. Love the second photo.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Rebecca, this is a tough one as different photographers would have a different view on it. What you have suggested would be fine. It gives you a good range(24mm all the way to 300mm) however you are obviously sacrificing speed with the lenses. I suggest if you are going with these 2 that you take your 50mm prime lens with you so that you have the back up of a fast lens. It’s not a big or heavy lens so hopefully won’t make too much of a difference (my 50mm lens is my favourite lens ever)!

    My 24-70mm Cannon lens is my work horse and what I use the majority of the time and so my personal preference is for my most used lens to be the best it can be. So if I was in your situation and could only take 2 I would take the 24mm-70mm and the 100-300mm lens. Off course this means you have a gap but depending on what you are photographing you might be able to cope.

    I’m a huge advocate of not taking tons of equipment but I also would be pretty annoyed if I missed a shot because the right lens was sitting at home. So I tend to create a shot list before I go which gives me a good indication of lenses I might need. So in this situation I would take all 4 lenses (this might sound like a contradiction considering I’m always preaching less equipment) and really just have the 24-105mm as a back up incase I desperate for the gap in the range. I hope this helps.

    I wrote an article a while ago with what I carry which might be of help.
    https://digital-photography-school.com/whats-camera-bag/

  • Thanks. I am still torn. I want length but my favorite is 50mm. I wanted reach to get shots from longboat but may sacrifice for. 24-70 and 50 mm. I prefer to get shots in cities I really don’t want to take more than two lenses I know I may miss shots

  • Hi Kav: Many thanks for an extremely practical article. I am back from a holiday in Taiwan where I took only my 50 mm prime lens. Your advice “Don’t forget about the details” was therefore particularly valuable since I love close-ups. Please, find some examples below and there: photo trip to Meinong.
    I am looking forward to your next article about travel photography.
    Matt http://www.konniandmatt.blogspot.com

  • David Green

    Thank you for taking the time to comment in a positive manner !!

  • Kav Dadfar

    No worries David. Like your work.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Matt

    No problem, I’m glad you found the article useful. I’m working on another one so watch this space!

    Wow, going away with 50mm prime is extremely brave! But I also think that working with prime lenses makes you better because you have to move and really think about the composition so well done! I love the shot of the white umbrellas could look at that for hours, also really like the shot of the paint pots. It’s a lovely shot that tells a story. Good work and carry on using your 50mm. If you haven’t already got a macro lens maybe look to hire one and get even closer!!!

    Kav

  • wondergirl

    Hi Rebecca – I traveled to Tibet/Mt Everest Base Camp/Nepal last year and took my favorite lenses. I took a zoom (18-22) and my wide angle. My advice is to take your favorites because they are the ones that we are most comfortable with and therefore will probably take the best shots with. If the 50mm is your favorite then go for it 🙂 Happy travels 🙂

  • Rebecca

    Thanks you are right. But I think I have finally decided to go with the 24-70 and the zoom I will save the 50 mm for my pet photography business

  • Kav Dadfar

    Good call.

  • Thank you very much, Kav, for your encouraging feedback. I will consider buying a macro lens. Any specific suggestions for my Nikon 3100? – I am looking fwd to your next article.
    Matt http://www.konniandmatt.blogspot.com

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Matt, apologies for taking time to come back to you I’ve been away a fair bit over the last few weeks. Unfortunately as I use Canon I can’t give you any personal recommendations on Macro lenses (unless they are Canon) but a colleague of mine uses the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/3.5G ED VR DX and absolutely loves it. I would suggest that you look at renting a few different ones over the course of a few weeks and test them out. I always do this before buying a brand new lens that I have never used before. Hope this helps.

    Kav

  • Excellent advice. Many thanks, Kav.
    Matt.

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