If you’re interested in capturing more interesting, captivating and unique photos while you’re traveling abroad then it’s important to take the right steps when it comes to how to improve your travel photography.
It might seem that even though you’re taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos during your trip that none of them are coming out how you want and overall they’re not very impressive compared to what you see online.
Thankfully, with a little bit of effort and conscious thought, it’s possible to improve your travel photography skills and turn your mediocre snaps into popular, classic travel images.
Regardless of whether you’re traveling for business, going on a backpacking vacation on your own or you’re just spending some time abroad with your friends or significant other here are some tips and techniques that you can take advantage of so that you’re able to capture stunning and highly engaging photographs with whatever camera you’re using.
One thing that you should keep in mind before I get started is that it’s only half the work getting the right photo with the right framing and the other half of taking good images involves your post production and editing skills/techniques.
How to Improve Your Travel Photography: Practical Tips and Techniques
Practice All That You Can
Over the past few years I’ve probably taken upwards of 100,000 photos and although by no means am I anywhere near to being a professional photographer I can definitely see an improvement in the photos I take today compared to those that I took a few years ago.
The best way to become better at anything is simply to practice doing whatever it is all that you can.
When it comes to photography what this means is that you’re going to want to spend a lot more time taking photos, learning how to use your camera properly, experimenting with the style of shots that you’re taking and just spending more time behind the lens rather than just always looking for the perfect set up or shot.
It’s only a matter of time until you become a lot more comfortable with taking photographs, whether you’re just photographing architecture, people or focusing on landscape shots and eventually you’ll start to notice that your photos are becoming better, more engaging and more interesting to look at.
Even before you start traveling I recommend heading out around your hometown and spending a few hours throughout the week capturing shots and getting to know exactly how your camera and camera gear works.
Always Have Your Camera Ready
When you’re traveling it might not always be ideal to have your camera right by your side but you should always make a conscious effort to have it somewhere that you can quickly access it and take a shot.
Some of the best travel shots come from those spontaneous moments where you weren’t even planning on capturing anything and something interesting just randomly happened in front of you.
If your camera is inaccessible then you might have missed that once-in-a-lifetime shot and it’s better to have it ready just that you’re always good to go when it comes to capturing the scenes in front of you.
Having your camera ready will also make you a lot more likely to use it on a more regular basis and if it’s just stuffed into your camera bag then you might not be so inclined to pull it out and use it so always make sure you’re able to grab it and get it going in just a few moments.
I’ve seen plenty of photos ruined from a little bit of blur and I’ve even had some awesome shots that I couldn’t use because I didn’t remember to stand still when I was capturing.
If you’re looking to more seriously get into travel photography then of course you’re going to want to pick up a tripod for traveling with but it’s also a good idea to remember to keep your camera steady to avoid any blurry photos and to help you better frame the shot.
Whenever you’re walking around a new city you’re bound to see tourists taking walking shots and it’s not very likely that the photos that they captured are going to turn out very good at all.
When you see something worth photographing you’re going to want to take a moment to frame your shot and right before you push down on the shutter button try to remember to hold your breath for a few moments so that even the motion of your breathing doesn’t have a negative impact on your photo.
You don’t have to be as careful during the day when you’re photographing in bright conditions but at night when there’s a lot less light for your camera lens to take in you’re going to want to pay extra attention to keeping steady so that you’re able to capture a sharper, higher quality image.
If you’re interested in doing any long exposure shots then of course you’re going to have to use a tripod or find a very flat, steady surface that you can rest your camera on.
Take Many Shots of the Same Thing/Area/Landmark/Person
It’s never a good idea to just take one photo of a landmark, place or person and just hope for the best.
It’s a much better idea to make an effort to capture a handful of different shots of whatever it is you’re photographing because this will improve your chances of having that one awesome shot and it will give you more to work with at the end of the day when you’re going through your photos and choosing which ones to keep.
Rather than just walking up to something and photographing it you should always try to walk around your subject and capture it from different angles.
The different shots you get will also have variations in the amount of exposure, the angle of your photo, the aperture and you can even choose to use different levels of zoom just to see what kind of photographs you able to get.
It’s a lot better to have a variety of different images to go through rather than having to rely on just one or two or have to scrap everything because you weren’t able to capture a good shot.
While you’re walking around and capturing your subject from different angles you should also try to remember to keep your eyes open and to look around you as well.
This works by opening you up to more photo opportunities and gives you a better chance to find something more unique and interesting to capture rather than simply capturing whatever everybody else is taking photos of.
You can very easily apply this at major tourist spots and landmarks – simply look to see where everyone is pointing their cameras and rather than taking the same shots just look around and try to find something else is that everybody seems to be avoiding.
It’s these spots that no one is capturing photos of that are going to give you more unique and interesting photos that tell a story rather than just being a replication of the same thing that everybody else is looking at and talking about.
Do Some Planning
A lot of times you’ll probably just be out photographing whatever is around you but if you’re looking for something to take pictures of specifically try to think about if you want to tell a story, show a unique angle or just whether or not you want to take a more interesting shot.
You don’t have to spend hours on end trying to come up with the perfect place but it’s a good idea to visit somewhere interesting when the light is right, when it’s not so busy and to do some research beforehand online just to find some inspiration or get some tips on how to capture the subject more effectively.
In travel photography it’s usually spontaneity that results in the best photos but a little planning goes a long way as well especially if you’re trying to take your photography to the next level.
Learn How Your Camera Works
It doesn’t matter if you’re using your smartphone or if you have a high-end mirrorless, you always want to spend the time to learn how your camera works and how you can use it to capture the best photos.
Even your smartphone is going to have different settings that allow you to change such things like the shutter speed and aperture and you’ll have even more control over the settings with a higher-end camera and this is going to give you even more capabilities when it comes to your photo photographic freedom and creativity.
I recommend looking up tutorials on YouTube and even reading the manual just to get a better idea of how everything works and how you can take advantage of your camera gear in the best way possible.
Don’t Avoid Bad Weather
Everyone knows how nice it is to get some great photos when the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful, warm day outside.
On the other hand, it’s still possible to get some incredible shots whether it’s been raining, snowing or even if it’s grey and overcast outdoors.
I would actually argue that the best photos come from those times when everyone else decides to stay inside and you’re the only person out there looking for some cool things to take photos of while you’re using the inclement weather to your advantage.
Of course, if you’re not going to want to head outside if it’s pouring rain or if it’s 30 degrees below zero but just remember that the weather doesn’t have to be perfect for you to get some good shots.
Try New Things
When you’re first getting started with travel photography you’re mostly going to want to focus on learning how a camera works and what it is you like to capture the most.
As your skills develop, however, it’s a good idea to start looking for new photo opportunities and trying out new things with your camera that you might not be so comfortable with doing.
For example, I love photographing architecture and more general travel scenes and I actually hate taking photos of people and doing portrait shots.
The problem with this is that if I just continue doing what I’m comfortable with doing then I’ll never develop my skills as a photographer and I’m kind of backing myself into a corner with what it is I’m capable of doing.
By going out and making an effort to get those poor shots or by doing something that isn’t completely in your comfort zone you’ll learn more about photography and at the same time your skills will continue to develop and improve which will only result in better quality images.
I know that there are a lot of people out there that recommend traveling with more than one camera and a wide range of different items of camera gear but I actually recommend against doing this.
Unless you’re hired by National Geographic or you’re traveling somewhere with the specific purpose to take amazing photos then it’s your best bet to travel as light as you can and only with the camera gear that you’re comfortable with using and carrying.
If all you want to do is take photos with your iPhone then that’s all you need to take great photos and anything else that you bring is just going to hold you back and keep you from capturing the scenes in front of you.
On the other hand, if photography is your passion and you need to travel with a selection of different lenses, tripods and other accessories then by all means do so as long as it makes you happy and as long as you’re able to take some good shots.
Have Fun and Enjoy Your Trip
The most important thing when it comes to traveling and even when it comes to improving your travel photography is to always remember that it’s important to have fun and you always want to be enjoying yourself rather than getting stressed out or annoyed with looking for the best shot.
While it’s nice to be able to take amazing photos it’s even nicer to have incredible memories of the time you spent abroad and if you spend too much time fiddling with your camera gear and not paying attention to what’s going on around you you’re simply going to miss out on the positive experiences that you could be having.
Some More Tips for After You’re Done Traveling
I hope that some of the tips and techniques that I went over up above will help you to improve your travel photos and there are a few more things that I want to go over when it comes to what you should do once you’re done traveling and you’re back at home.
Travel photography doesn’t just stop the second after you taking the photo and there are a few more things that need to get done before you can call it quits.
Backup All Of Your Photos
There are few things worse than getting back to your hotel or returning home after a long trip and realizing that you can’t find your photos anywhere on your computer or memory card.
Whether something happened to your laptop hard drive or you misplaced your memory card it’s always a good idea to remember to backup all of your images whenever you get a chance.
If you’re not traveling with a laptop you might actually want to consider doing so, so that you’re able to keep a copy of the photos that you’ve taken and apart from uploading them to your computer you should also keep them on a separate portable hard drive as well just in case of any failures.
Choose the Best Images to Display
After you get home you’re probably going to spend some time going through all of your photos.
If there’s any that you want to display online for showcase in a portfolio this is when you’re going to want to go through them and determine which ones are the best and that you like the most.
You definitely don’t want to delete the ones that aren’t superior but there’s always going to be a small handful of the photos that you took that you’ll be able to tell are much better than the rest and deserve to be shown to others.
With these awesome photos you can upload them to an online portfolio and I recommend using Flickr for that.
Edit Your Photos with Lightroom or Photoshop
I’ve met quite a few people that are opposed to editing their photos and I think that this is the completely wrong mindset when it comes to being able to take great photographs.
I guess the argument is that editing is unnatural and when you edit your photos you’re creating a less accurate representation of what you actually saw.
The problem with this argument is that using a camera on its own is taking advantage of a specific technology and what you’re displaying is also not a completely accurate representation of what you actually saw seeing as the camera itself is making its own adjustments when it comes to exposure, aperture and other settings.
Either way, I always recommend editing your photos once you get back from your trip.
There are a wide range of different photo editing softwares that you can choose from but I would recommend going with either Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop since these are the industry standard and are widely used today.
I’m not going to get into it in this post but in the future all right a post on how you can edit your photos using these programs and how you can turn plain, uninspiring images into stunning, high quality and captivating photos.
Keep in mind that learning how to use these apps isn’t hard at all and there are plenty of blogs and online video tutorials that you can use that will show you how to use them effectively.