5 Travel Photography Tips from the Pros

One of the best parts of traveling is taking pictures that tell their own stories. But how can they tell a compelling story if they’re out of focus, clichéd, and pixelized? Up your travel photography game with these tips from people who travel and take pictures for a living.

by Nathan Arciaga, 26 June 2017

You spent hours in a cramped van, battled seasickness on a small rickety boat, and risked being stuck on a deserted island to take that perfect magic hour photo at the “must visit” sandbar du jour, only for the photo to come out out-of-focus and barely worth 20 likes on Instagram. Bummer, huh? If your travel pictures always end up in the “Reality” column of an “Expectation vs. Reality” post, and you can’t seem to take a good travel photo to save your life, fret not. Here are five tips from people who travel and take pictures for a living that could help you take Insta-mazing snapshots.

Plan your shots

This is basic for any traveler, especially if you’re going somewhere for the first time. But doing an Instagram and Google Image search on the place you’re visiting could help you plan your shots. This is important for two reasons: A) you’re informed of the most picturesque locations and/or sights that could become your subjects, and B) you become aware of the most common shots or angles people take in photographing them so you can avoid them and make your pictures truly original. Travel blogger Matthew Karsten of Expert Vagabond even recommends coming up with a “shot list”—this helps him do further research on his subjects like when are there fewer tourists around, what the weather would be like, etc. Read more about travel and photography at www.expertvagabond.com

Master Your Camera

Most people buy really expensive, state-of-the-art cameras and don’t bother to read the manual. You may have been using your camera for quite some time now, but chances are, there are a few nifty tricks your camera can do that you didn’t even know about. It would also help to read photography blogs and watch YouTube tutorials on how you can maximize the power of your camera.

Tell a Story

Mt. Fuji has been shot a million times, so has the Petronas Towers, so has Willy’s Rock. What will make your shot unique is you—your perspective, your story. Take Murad Osmann, a Russian photographer who trended worldwide with his #followmeto pictures. By foregrounding his travel photos with his girlfriend, her back turned to him and holding his hand, he managed to make his destinations seem more romantic and alluring. Tinker with your cam’s settings, use props, put yourself in the photo—do anything that would evoke a reaction and would make your picture uniquely yours. To see samples of Osman’s #followmeto pics, click here: https://www.instagram.com/muradosmann/?hl=en

Don’t Be Afraid of Getting Lost

If you only go to tourist-y places, you will only take tourist-y pictures. Don’t be afraid to explore and be around unfamiliar people and things because that’s when you become more observant and keen about everything around you. National Geographic’s Robert Caputo wants you to “wander down alleys…just set off down a street and see where it leads.” Maybe it will lead to that amazing photo. Marvel at some of National Geographic’s most gorgeous images at www.robertcaputo.com

Forget About Your Camera

Writing for The College Tourist blog, Kevin Walsh says that you should put your camera down every now and then. You might think that’s crazy, how is not using your camera going to help you take amazing pictures? Remember, it’s all about telling a story. At the end of the day, you travel to take in new experiences, to gain perspective, to know your place in this vast and crazy and beautiful world, NOT to get Instagram likes. For more photography and travel-related articles, visit www.thecollegetourist.com