10 Simple Tips for Better Travel Photography

| August 12, 2010 | 20 Comments
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Photos are to traveling what lettuce is to a salad: it’s very difficult to have the second without the first. The camera becomes the most important companion of your trip and will be with you everywhere, anywhere, at all times, and if it’s not with you when you need it…you’ll get really pissed. Am I right? Good travel photography however is not easy and I bet that many times when seeing your photos back home you get frustrated at the results or aren’t as impressed as you were when you actually took them. Some are too dark, others too bright, others are not well focused, some don’t really say much…the opportunities for them to be average or poor are endless.

tips for better travel photography maitravelsite

The good news is that there are a few simple things that you can do that will immediately result in better travel photography. Not all pictures can always be breathtaking because too many things have to be right at the same time, but by remembering the following tips you will quickly realize your pictures have dramatically improved and results are immediate.

COMPOSITION

Many people think that pictures don’t come out good because the camera isn’t professional, because the subject wasn’t posing correctly or perhaps wasn’t too interesting after all, when the truth is that composition (framing and actually taking the picture) has been almost ignored. These first tips for better travel photography have to do with this precisely and are always applicable, no matter what camera you are using.

1) Rule of thirds- Horizontal

When taking a picture (particularly landscape pictures of any kind) look though your camera and define what part of what you want to portray is near you, what is far, and what is the background of it all. Usually the sky or a large mass of water (lake, ocean) will be the third and will sit at either the top or bottom of the picture. Imagine you can divide what you see into three symmetrical horizontal areas, focus, and shoot. If there are only two distinct areas, split them not along the middle of the viewfinder but a third from the top or the bottom-  the human eye finds this distribution naturally pleasant and you are off to a good start.

rule of thirds horizontal maitravelsite

Realize how this photo has 3 distinct horizontal areas: blue sky, orange sky and the ocean + beach

2) Rule of thirds- Vertical

Now imagine you do the same thing you did before but vertically: you want three symmetrical vertical areas. Why? Most people have a tendency when taking a picture to have the subject in the middle of the picture and shoot, thus making him/her/it the center of attention and the leaving the beautiful background almost irrelevant, when the truth is that the background is what you want to show off and the model is there as memory or proof of the visit. By having the person pose in one of the two vertical lines the background will be visible in 2/3 of the picture and the subject will also draw attention without being in the middle of it all.

rule of thirds maitravelsite

In this perfectly composed shot the man was captured when he was positioned on the right vertical line. You can also appreciate the horizontal rule of thirds, letting us see everything that was hapenning.

3) Pay attention to the background

If you’re taking a picture of your kids at the beach you probably don’t want to arrive home and realize this is the picture you took.

check the background

Surprise!

4) Symmetry and patterns

Human eyes naturally also like to see patterns and symmetry. Be on the lookout for opportunities of simple yet captivating shots.

bangkok royal palace symmetry maitravelsite

This popular shot is timeless

5) Make sure you’re at the same level as the subject being photographed

If you’re photographing a kid get down on your knees to be at his level, if it’s a small dog then lie down, if it’s a car then bend over. Being high above the object or below it creates distorted proportions.

not at the same level as subject

This photo doesn't convey any message- the kid is not comfortable

subject at same level as camera

The girls feel comfortable looking straight into the camera















6) Get close to the subject- do not rely on digital zoom

If the object being photographed is far but within walking distance, don’t be lazy and walk to it. Digital zoom (whether in camera or photography editing software) can make the picture blury if the picture is not perfectly focused or the camers has been slighly moved.

NON COMPOSITION RELATED

7) Use the flash when outside

This is not necessary if you’re photographing a distant object, but if you are taking a picture of a person, animal or something that is close to you use the flash for better lighting- it will get rid of unwanted shaded areas. Additionaly, when the sun (or source of light) is behind your object you can still take a picture and avoid the shadow by forcing the use of the flash. 99% of ALL cameras have this option.

photo without flash

No flash was used here

with fill in  flash

See how the flash got rid of most of the shade?




















8 ) Use the viewfinder if your camera has one

Taking the picture by looking at the screen is not as precise as using the viewfinder because your eyes are also paying attention to things around the camera. If you use the viewfinder your eye will have its undevided attention on what you want to portray, and common mistakes like keeping the horizon line horizontal will be avoided. Which reminds me: KEEP THE HORIZON AS IT IS MEANT TO BE: HORIZONTAL!

9) Use depth of field and focus accordingly

What does this mean? Very easy. You’ve probably seen pictures where the main subject is well focused and stands out over a blurry background, right? Unlike what you might have thought you don’t need a professional camera to achieve this result: all point and shoot cameras can do it as well. To do this point the center of the camera at the object which (now that you know) will be on the side of the viewfinder and half-press the shutter button- this will make sure that the subject is well focused. Now, without releasing the button move the camera to compose the picture as you want, with the subject on a side, and finish pressing the button. Voila! The subject is focused, the background is blurry.

 A good example of using depth of field maitravelsite

A good example of using depth of field

10) Take tons of pictures!!

Digital photography is cheap, so make use of it! Take pictures of everything, of everyone, without holding back, and if you don’t like it, delete it! Practice makes perfection and sometimes you will get superb pictures you were not even expecting.

With these 10 simple tips you are well on your way for better travel photography and  should start seeing results the next time you take pictures. Remember however that photography should also be spontaneous, and unplanned pictures at odd angles can sometimes be better than that shot you have been planning ahead. Get you camera, go outside and start shooting!


Did you find these tips useful? What other tricks do you know of that help you take better pictures? Tell us abut them and if you liked this post please share it- and “Like” it (Facebook style)!

Category: Photography Tips

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20 Responses to “10 Simple Tips for Better Travel Photography”

  1. Carlos says:

    I do experiments by using Symmetry and patterns I really need these tips so that I could beautify more my photos. I love photography so every time I travel I make it sure I capture beautiful images. Thanks for sharing these useful tips.

  2. Nice tips, I’m always looking to improve my photography. I really like the photo for #3, so expressive lol

  3. rebecca says:

    great tips will share, thanks for visiting my blog

  4. Thanks for this impressive information. I really need these tips so that I could beautify more my photos. I love photography so every time I travel I make it sure I capture beautiful images.

  5. Great tips.. Thanks for sharing..I always use “Symmetry and patterns”..

  6. The dog taking a dump in the background is classic

  7. I know this is an older post, but I stumbled upon it after reading the depth of field article and it’s still great advice! Thanks for these tips, as a “photographer” still in the early beginning stages, I appreciate the help.

  8. karolina says:

    Great tips! The photos are amazing.
    I actually like the picture without the flash on number 7 better than the one with the flash :)

    • maitravelsite says:

      Hi Karolina!

      There is nothing I can say about personal likes or dislikes :) However the shadow casted over his face does not really portray him- if it were you on the pic and the shot had a nice background it would be a pity if you couldn´t be recognized don´t you think? :)

  9. wow this post would be great tips for beginners. You bought your camera for a purpose. That is to take pictures, So get out and shoot. If at first your photos are not that nice, just keep shooting. No peasant became a master in one night. It’s just hard work plus dedication. :)

  10. I loved tips number one and two. Definetely going to put them into practise. Number three made me laugh. Took while before I saw it though.

    • maitravelsite says:

      These very easy tips will greatly improve any photo you take Natalie- and making somebody smile makes me smile :)
      Federico

  11. wow. Thats something i really need the mosts :)
    I knew most of them already :) Good Job

    • maitravelsite says:

      I knew you would be well aware of all of them, or almost! :) I aimed this post to the average traveler who usually only has a point and shoot or perhaps an ultra-zoom camera :)

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