Beginner Tips for Taking Great Travel Photos
Written by Julie Boyd | Photography by Julie Boyd
Photography is a huge passion of mine, so taking great photos when traveling comes naturally to me. However, just because you are not a photographer, doesn’t mean you can’t take great images as well! After all, some of these trips are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, so having a good photographic record of them is important. Remember, that taking a great photo is not about having the best camera. Understanding light and composition is the key to taking great pictures, and if you understand how they work together, you can create powerful images even with your iPhone. Here are some tips to get you started on taking great travel photos.
Shoot at sunrise or sunset
Lighting is the best for photos when the sun is low on the horizon, so making sure you are out-and-about between the two hours after sunrise, and the two hours before sunset, is the key to making great images. A bonus for being up at sunrise is that typically no one else is awake, so you might get to enjoy an otherwise popular location before the tour busses start unloading for the day.
Shoot with the light
Make sure you aren’t shooting into the sun or light source, otherwise your subject will be dark, and the background will blown-out (unless you are trying to intentionally do a silhouette). Notice in the image above of Westminster Abby the sun is behind me and illuminating the building. I am shooting in the direction that the light is going. If the sun was in front of me, I would have hard time capturing the details of the building and the beautiful sky. You can experiment with this in your own home with your phone camera. First have your subject stand with their back to the window, and then take a pic. Next switch places and do the same. Notice a difference?
Use soft light for portraits
Find a shaded area where the light is even. This will make your subject’s skin look more soft and flattering, and eliminate distracting shadows that can form under the eyes when shooting in direct sunlight. Notice in the picture on the left, Brian has harsh shadows on his face because the light is coming from above and casting a shadow, making his eyes dark. On the right, Brian is sitting in the shade, so the light is bouncing up from the ground and filling in the light on his eyes.
Fill the frame
Eliminate distracting or unnecessary objects from your image. This will help draw focus to your subject, and make your image more interesting. The above image of the highland cattle doesn’t have a clear subject, but by filling in the frame and focusing on one cow, the subject of the scene is more clear.
Change your perspective
Don’t just stand up straight and snap your photo. Move around! Get down low to the ground, or shoot from a higher angle to add drama or show a new perspective. This will add interest to your photos, and make them more distinctive.
Look for unique compositions
It takes an artistic eye to see different compositions, but if you pre-visualize your shot and practice, you will improve. Start by thinking about everything in your frame, and then see what is around you that might add interest to your image. Maybe you can use flowers to frame your image in the foreground, or the wall of a building to be a leading line back to your subject. Look at photos that really stand out to you for inspiration, and then practice replicating them until you master creating your own compositions.
Don’t forget about the details!
I love taking photos of epic sunsets or a beautiful cityscape, but it is important to capture the details of a scene as well. Shooting things like the hands of a street artist painting, or an interesting rock in the sand will help tell the story of the place you are experiencing. Slow down, soak it all in, and capture all of the things around you that help contribute to the memory of the place you are visiting.