To take great travel photos has never been easier; even iPhones and other smartphones come with really terrific cameras these days. But how to take great travel photos is more than simply pointing your phone at a mountain or bridge and hoping for the best. There are some pretty simple tips that make travel photos better, and you don’t even need to invest in a super-duper high end digital SLR. I mean, professional photography aside, iPhones and pocket-sized digital SLR cameras are really all you need to take great photos of nature, historic sites, and whatever else is on your travel itinerary.
These ten tips to take great travel photos are all easy for casual photographers who, like me, typically only take their smartphones on their vacation adventures.
- Use photo apps. I swear by Camera+ and it’s the only one I consistently use. Editing tools, filters, and features like it’s touch exposure and focus, and versatility of shooting modes practically turn an iPhone into a high quality SLR. Snapseed is a popular photo app with casual smartphone photographers for it’s ease of use and (like Camera+) filters and editing tools.
- Sunrises and sunsets are fantastic photos to highlight your subject, or to even be the subject of your great travel photos. The golden hour, when sun is low in the sky, is also wonderful. the soft lights of sunrises and sunsets plus the dramatic colors of the skies makes for memorable stand-out travel photos
- Get out of the way! No selfies, no huge heads in front of your destination photograph. This holds true for travel videos too. Let the reader or viewer see what’s going on – the site is the subject, not you. One exception is family travel blogs; readers want to see children having fun or enriching experiences while traveling. Photos of your family also helps add a sense of proportion to natural wonders like the Grand Canyon.
- Do use other people in some of your photos though, because it adds a sense of proportion to the photos and helps viewers feel like they know what it’s like to be at the destination. Try not to make your travel companions the focus, but rather have them be part of the overall feel of the photo’s composition.
- If you’re going to take photos of people that live in your travel destination, be careful. Don’t fetishize the local people in your travel photos; be culturally sensitive. You can take great travel photos without being obnoxious! If they want their photos taken, though, photos of people in your travel destination truly add to the readers’ understanding of what life in that town or country is like. They are interesting. Photos of people add a level of intimacy to your travel photos, too.
- Rule of thirds. Casual readers of nature photography hear this phrase flung around quite a lot, but it’s not an exaggeration to state the importance of dividing your subject into roughly thirds. If you can mentally divide your image into nine equal parts (and the Camera+ app helps guide this with its “grid” feature) the object of your photo should be right where lines intercept rather than square in the middle which is less interesting. It’s pleasing to the eye, because it helps with the balance of the photo’s composition, and focuses on the main subject.
- Try to avoid using flash. It flattens images and takes away the textures and depth that makes travel photos interesting.
- Talking about making photos interesting, when taking nature photos don’t simply take a photo of the larger landscape. Those panoramas are glorious, for sure, but really great travel photos have an extra “oomph.” If your photo is of a mountain range, for example, highlight or focus on the one crooked tree, or make the mountain lion tiptoeing through the snow the focal point of the overall composition. Focusing on a specific detail won’t detract from the overall gorgeousness of the mountain range.
- Don’t zoom. Instead, crop later. Zooming on phones negatively affects the quality of the resultant photo.
- It’s not cheating to edit your photos before publishing them! But be careful not to oversaturate the colors; readers can tell when a photo has been tweaked to the point of being unnatural. So, go easy on the photo editing.
These are ten very simple, easy to use tips to take great travel photos. However, there’s so much more that I don’t know. I’m not a professional photographer, which is immediately obvious to anyone who’s casually read The Vacation Gals. Honestly, a lot of this should be read as a “do as I say, not as I shoot” photo tips list! For more in depth, richer and deeper knowledge, take a look at The Travel Photography Academy. Members will really get a lot more knowledge than I have; it’s run by one of the more famous online travel photographers I know. When I finally want to know more than ten simple tips to take great travel photos, I’ll probably have to sign up, myself.