Five Tips for Taking Great Travel Photos

Published 11/6/18
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You’ve just arrived at your destination, and it’s every bit as magical as you expected. The sights, the sounds, the smells – all of it is perfect, and yet somehow you can’t escape the lingering thought that it’s temporary. In a few days you’ll return to work, and all of this will be a distant memory. Unless…


You’ve captured the moment. Now, when you’re sitting at your desk, you can look back at this photo and relive the experience again as if you were there.

Travel photos are meaningful because they allow us to relive important experiences. They let us escape the present by transporting our minds to our favorite destinations. They also allow others to share our experiences through social media.

So how can we make those photos the best they can be? 

Tip #1: Capture the Magic Hour

Photography is about capturing light, and there’s no better natural light than the soft pink and gold hues of Magic Hour. It’s the time of day just as the sun sets, before the light is lost. The gentle glow of Magic Hour is perfect for landscapes and portraits, especially if you’re in a romantic location.

You can find similar lighting in the early morning before the sun comes up, and sometimes after a storm or a light rain. Magic Hour after a rain is particularly nice, because the wet, reflective landscape will pick up colors from the clouds.


Tip #2: Frame Your Shot

It’s easy to point and shoot, but pictures tend to be more interesting when you take the time to compose your shot. Pausing to adjust the frame so that your subject is off to the side can make a huge difference in how you remember the moment. Even if you’re taking a portrait, try adjusting the image so your subject’s eyes appear closer to the corner of the image.


Tip #3: Use Your Flash to Add Life to Shadows

Taking pictures while facing the sun can help you capture beautiful edge lighting effects, but it also means you’ll be battling heavy shadows that can make your subjects appear dark. Turning on your flash can balance out the shadows to make the image feel more complete. For the best results, adjust your flash settings so that it’s slightly less powerful. This will let the flash do its job without appearing too obvious. If you don’t have a flash, asking your subject to move closer to a large semi-reflective surface (such as a white stone wall) can do the trick.

Even in shade or when it’s overcast, a flash can help brighten shadows around the eyes. It can also add some slight sparkle to the eyes, making your subject feel more alive.


Tip #4: Look for Color when Photographing Landscapes

Vibrant colors are what you’re looking for when photographing landscapes. Shadows can provide great contrast, especially when photographing dunes or mountain ranges, but they also tend to mute and shift colors and can make a place feel more desolate or foreboding. If you want to capture a memorable view of a landscape, try to time it so that the sunlight complements your surroundings. 

Generally, you’ll want to keep the sun at your back or off to the side, but don’t be afraid to break this rule if the weather is interesting. Backlit rain and fog can look amazing in the right environment. If you’re photographing a backlit environment, adjusting your camera’s exposure up a notch or two can help you capture better color from the shadows. Adding a vintage or cross-processed filter to backlit photos can also help them appear more magical.


Tip #5: Angle is Everything

Part of the fun of travelling is getting to see things in a different way. Locals don’t usually look up at tall skyscrapers, but tourists often do. Why? It’s because they take the time to appreciate their environment. When you’re capturing your vacation, don’t be afraid to squat down, climb high or even tilt the camera to get a better angle on your subject. Find the angle that helps you tell the story from a unique point of view.


Remember – It’s About the Memories!

These simple tips should help you feel more confident as you capture moments from your next vacation. Just don’t forget why you took the trip in the first place! The best photos are the ones with stories attached to them. Even a “terrible” photo can be great if it helps you remember your loved ones or a special experience. As you practice these tips, don’t be afraid to share the photos you create.

Now get out there and travel!