7 tips to improve your travel photography

The best travel souvenirs are undoubtedly photographs. If you are ready to improve your travel photography then start with these seven tips.

1. Be patient

The perfect image rarely presents itself right when you arrive at a location. If you want to improve your travel images then you have to have the mindset of a true photographer. Be patient, take your time. Study the clouds, study the flow of people. Could you get a better photo if the clouds moved slightly? What about if the people moved away from in front of the statue a little? Is there a person on a bicycle about to come into the frame? Could that make for an interesting image? Give yourself time to walk around and study the location,  look at the same subject but from multiple angles and perspectives.  This can sometimes be a little difficult if you are traveling with other people. In this case it’s a good idea to set everyone’s expectations ahead of time. Whenever possible try to make arrangements to get there early or stay later so you will have the freedom to be patient and get the right image.

The Alamo - A UNESCO World Heritage Site in San Antonio,Texas
A photograph of the Alamo with no people in front of it only happens after patiently waiting for the perfect moment.

2. Take walks

Explore a location on your two feet. You are going to see much more interesting things while walking through city thoroughfares, meandering along paths and weaving through street vendors and shop stalls than if you are whizzing by everything in a car. If you really are serious about improving your travel photography then, when you arrive in a new location, make a point to get out of your hotel and walk the neighborhood. Use google maps to plan routes between points of interest and build in time to shoot along the way. 

UNESCO World Heritage Site Canals of Amsterdam
Walking among the canals of Amsterdam is the best way to explore the city.

3. Shoot during the golden hour

This time of day is also called the “magic hour.” During the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset the sun is low on the horizon. The rays of light have to travel through a lot of atmospheric particles to reach us. Those rays filter the light and make it less bright. This adds more indirect light which softens contours and lowers contrast. The thicker atmospheric particles scatter the blue and violet wavelengths so it is easier for the orange and red light to get through and produce those lovely warm, golden hues.

Side benefits of shooting during this time are that there are fewer people out and the temperature is a lot cooler. Oftentimes I will get up and shoot during this time, go have breakfast and then return to my room for an afternoon nap when the sun is highest in the sky and it’s too hot to think. 

The golden hour offers the most beautiful light for photographers.

4. Use the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a tried and true photography practice to create interesting and well-balanced images. Imagine dividing your image into thirds by placing two horizontal lines and two vertical lines on top of it. By placing the important subjects in your photograph on those lines, or where they intersect you create an off-center composition that is more pleasing to the eye. 

5. Plan ahead

Do research ahead of time to get a good understanding of your location. Google images and Instagram are great for this. Look at other shots you like and study their angle and perspective. Try to figure out the vantage point and the time of day of images you like. If it is a destination with opening and closing hours and admission fees find those out. Make any reservations you might need and figure out how you are going to get to your desired location before you even leave the house.  

Trang An Landscape Complex Vietnam UNESCO World Heritage Site
Climbing 500 steps to the top of Hang Múa at sunrise is the only way to get this iconic view of the Vietnamese countryside.

6. Visit more than once

The first time you visit a location is to get an understanding of what the place is about. Go ahead and make the expected “postcard” shots and use your time to explore more in depth. Return a second time with a better understanding of the best time of day to shoot and where to go to make the best shots. 

UNESCO World Heritage Site Old City of Berne, Switzerland
Staying in the same location for several days allows you to revisit top photo spots to get the best image.

7. Buy the right gear

The best gear to shoot with is the gear you have. There is no point in buying a super expensive camera if you are going to leave it in the hotel when you go out for lunch. So, my last tip to improve travel photography is to buy the gear that you are actually willing to carry on you throughout your travels. In general a travel tripod is great for low light situations such as cloudy days or interiors. Wide angle lenses are good for landscapes and long lenses are great for shooting wildlife and objects far in the distance.  

Improve travel photography by buying the gear you will actually carry with you. I always have a camera close by no matter where I travel
I always keep a camera close by no matter where I travel.

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