Do you like traveling and taking pictures? Read my tips on how to take better pictures while hitting the road.
Those who have been following my blog for some time know that before becoming a Travel Blogger I was a Travel Photographer. This is actually one of the main differences between me and other Travel Bloggers. I first started my website mainly as a portfolio website for my pictures and only after a few years, I started writing about my trips. I think it’s now time for me to write my guide on How to take better Travel Photos.
This post won’t be too technical but I will show you practical examples. If you want to go a step forward don’t miss this article where I explain how you can sell your pictures and stock-footage.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on the latest camera or lens but you do need to practice what you learn and try to make the best use of the gear you have. Remember: Photography has little to do with equipment but everything to do with the photographer.
Here are some tips on how to take better Travel Pictures:
Try to get the best shoot WHILE you are traveling
If you use a DSLR it’s possible to correct some exposure issues on your files once you are back home, but with cheaper cameras and smartphones that’s more difficult and in some cases not possible. That’s why it’s always better to take the best possible picture while you are shooting.
Today you can take as many pictures as you want without worrying about how much you’ll pay for the films so my suggestion is to take a lot of pictures. Be sure to check that the horizon it’s straight otherwise you’ll have to fix it in post-production and you’ll have to crop part of the photo. Check the exposure and be sure that the image is not too dark nor too light.
Think about the composition
You can find countless books and articles about the importance of composition in photography. One of the most important things to remember it’s the rule of thirds.
What is it? According to the rule of thirds, an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and those important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.
If you want the photo to be more interesting, generally it’s better to avoid putting the horizon right in the middle of the picture. The same it’s true for portraits. Remember however that even if you call it “rule” you don’t have to follow it all the time. The secret to taking nice photos is knowing the rules and knowing when you can break them.
Use natural guidelines
A good idea it’s to use some of the natural guidelines to “guide” the eyes to the main subject of the picture. It takes a while to start noticing those lines but after a while, it will become quite easy.
You can see one example in the picture above where I used the rocks in this canyon to guide the eye towards the main subject: the Treasury of Petra.
Avoid camera shake
It’s too bad when you spend quite some time taking your pictures only to realize when you go back home that the images can’t be used. To avoid this problem keep your arms close to the chest and slightly extend your legs. If possible, use a tripod.
Remember that it’s not possible to correct blurry pictures even if you have a 5000$ camera.
Think about the light
The most important element in photography is light. It might seem obvious but many people forget about it. Thinking about light means thinking about when it’s the best time to take pictures.
Usually, the best light is not at noon but around sunrise or sunset. Personally, I prefer sunrise because there are fewer people around and if you want to photograph something without people is the best time. Honestly, however, it’s not always possible to take pictures at dawn or sunrise. So what can you do if you are forced to photograph when the light is too strong? These are some tips:
- Be sure to have the sun behind you
- Avoid scenes where you have half of the picture in the shade and half in the sunshine
- Use a polarizer filter the reduce the reflections and enhance the sky
The picture above was taken in Hokkaido, a beautiful island in northern Japan. Since I couldn’t shoot it when the light was good I decided to include just a small portion of the sky and I also used a GND filter to reduce the contrast. The point is: try to make the best use of the time you have. If you can’t shoot with a better light then go ahead and shoot anyway but do whatever you can to improve your picture right there.
Look for the right location
Today it’s quite easy to find interesting locations to take good photos. I often use Shutterstock to see which photos sell well for a given location and also to get some ideas about what to photograph. Just type the name of the place you will visit on their search bar and you’ll have a lot of different options.
Another very useful tool is Instagram (click here to follow me). You’ll have plenty of photos to inspire you.
Another “trick” that I often use if I don’t know much about the place I’m visiting is checking some of the postcards sold in local shops. With this method, I have often found places that are not mentioned on popular travel guides. Remember, however, to use these tools to inspire you, not to simply copy other people’s ideas: be original!
Use the depth of field appropriately
In simple words: focus only on what you need. Remember that it’s easier to get a picture like the one you see above if you have a DSLR. But you can do it, to some extent, even with a smartphone: simply touch the subject you want in focus and the background should become a bit blurred.
To get better results try to have a good distance between the subject and the closest object in the background. The more distant the background will be, the better the blur will look.
Be sure to have some spare batteries and SD cards
If you use a tablet or a smartphone and you take a lot of pictures it’s a good idea to get a powerful power bank. If you will be traveling in remote places without electricity it’s a good idea to get a solar-powered power bank.
There’s nothing worse than being in the most beautiful place on earth only to realize that your devices are dead or that you don’t have room in your SD card for more pictures or videos.
Which gear do you need to take better Travel Photos?
As you’ve noticed I’ve hardly ever talked about equipment. That’s because as I said at the beginning of this post if you’re not a Pro and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can take beautiful photos even with your mobile phone. This doesn’t mean that the DSLR is not a good investment, on the contrary: if you are a Travel Blogger you should definitely consider getting a professional camera and a couple of good lenses.
Whatever tool you use, remember that practice makes perfect! Get outside and take as many pictures as you need to improve your technique so that you’ll be ready to take better pictures on your trips.
Here you can find the review to a useful Photoshop tool to merge two exposures: Raya Pro. Here 5 reasons why you should use a VPN while traveling.