. 5 ways to take better travel photos right now : Budget Travel Adventures

5 ways to take better travel photos right now

kimolsonphoto-portland-head-lighthouse-maine-take better travel photos

Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine at Sunset

Recently, I’ve become fascinated with travel photography.  While I may never be a professional photographer, I do want to learn to take better travel photos.  Sure, I am an expert at how to make travel videos as evidenced by my recent zip lining video.  However, these simple tips from photographer Kim Olson will help you take better travel photos (with fewer clicks).

5 ways to take better travel photos right now

Have you ever brought your shiny new camera on the trip of a lifetime, excited to capture your adventures, only to come home and be disappointed with your photos?  Many people think just buying a new camera will help them take better travel photos.

If so, I feel ya. It’s happened to me and it can be pretty devastating.

Back in the days of film, it was much harder to know what you captured until you got home. With digital things are a bit easier. But just because you can instantly see if you got the shot doesn’t mean you’ll automatically start taking better travel photos. In some cases, it just means you’re disappointed more quickly.

Let’s try to remedy that.

Even if you can’t afford the best gear, it doesn’t mean you can’t start improving your photography skills today. Like, right now. Simple tweaks and tips can help you take better travel photos.

5 Simple (Yet Effective) Photo Tips

1. Hold Steady

A big mistake beginners make is to not hold the camera steady.

It seems simple enough, but you know how it is when you’re out exploring a new city.

Everything’s really new and exciting and you’re so eager to take photos of it all that you just snap away. But sometimes even the slightest movement – especially if the light is low – will cause your images to be blurry.

To fix this, simply take a quick moment to brace your arms so that you’re steady when you press the shutter. This should help cut down on the throw-away images.

New York City Times Square take better travel photos

This image of Times Square in New York City was shot handheld (no tripod). It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t kept very steady.

2. Take Your Time

Don’t just aim at something that looks good and snap.

Sure, with digital cameras you can pretty much take unlimited images, but who wants to spend time sorting through 2,000 crappy photos?

This image of the Kamogawa River in Kyoto, Japan, is OK, but there’s not much to it and is the result of not thinking about what I wanted to portray before pressing the shutter.

Kamogawa River Kyoto Japan take better travel photos

The Kamogawa River in Kyoto, Japan

The next time you see something you’re keen to take a photo of, first ask yourself, “What attracted me to this subject in the first place?” and “What is it about this scene that I want to portray?”

Lots of people try to get too much into one image, so the image fails to deliver.

Before taking a photo, analyze the scene and think about what you really want to capture and how best to do it. Then press the shutter.

The image below was taken in the same exact spot as the one above, but is more interesting and tells a better story. This time I thought more about how I wanted to capture the scene, and it shows more of what life is like in Kyoto, Japan, and how they utilize the riverbanks.

Japanese bicycles Kamogawa River Kyoto Japan take better travel photos

Japanese riding their bicycles along the Kamogawa River in Kyoto.

3. Get in Closer

This tip works in conjunction with #2 above. Many newbies like to capture a wide angle that shows everything. But showing everything is at the sake of having a strong central subject.

Here’s what I captured by trying to “get it all in.” It’s ok, but…

Kinkaku-ji Temple of the Golden Pavilion Japan take better travel photos

Kinkaku-ji (aka The Temple of the Golden Pavilion) is one of the premier sites in Kyoto, Japan.

…I think this one is much better.

Kinkaku-ji Temple of the Golden Pavilion Japan take better travel photos

Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, Japan

Many times zooming in or walking closer to your subject will result in a much stronger and more interesting composition.

4. Get the People and the Landmark

Have you ever asked someone to take a photo of you in front of some magnificent sight, only to find that the person basically took a photo of just you and totally cut out the sight itself?

Usually when we ask to have our photos taken when traveling, we don’t just want a photo of ourselves. We also want a photo of whatever main attraction we’re visiting.

So it probably is with others you’re taking photos of. If you’re traveling with friends or a stranger asks you to take their photo, be mindful that you’re really taking a photo of (2) main subjects: the person and the landmark.

New York City Rockefeller Center Christmas tree portrait landmark take better travel photos

The image on the left is decent, but the one on the right captures both us AND the landmark, the pretty Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in New York.

A good way to do it is to not center the person, and rather put them off to one side of the image, while positioning the landmark or attraction on the other side. A win win!

5. Change Your Perspective

Most people tend to shoot photos at eye level. The scenes they capture with their cameras rarely vary from their 5’5” or 6’ perspective. But the world can – and should – be seen in so many other ways.

A good way to create more dynamic and interesting photos is to change your perspective.

Lie down on the floor.

Stand on top of a chair.

Climb that mountain.

Shoot that subject from every angle possible and you’ll be surprised at the fun images you end up with.

dog grass perspective take better travel photos

This dog’s face was so adorable and the image just wouldn’t have had the same impact had I not gotten really low and crawled around in the grass with him.

Take Better Travel Photos – Keep Practicing

Hopefully you’ll be able to apply these tips right away and see instant improvements in your images. But with that in mind, photography truly is a complicated art and there are a gazillion things we can all continue to learn to keep improving.

It’s with practice, repetition and time that you’ll really start to see results.

Have fun and happy shooting since you now know how to take better travel photos!

Learn how to take better travel photos with these travel photography tips from The Planet D and as well as tips for better travel photos.

What photography tips do you recommend to take better travel photos?

 Kim Olson is a photographer, traveler & writer who shares simple weekly photo tips on her site http://www.simplerphoto.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @kimolsonphoto.

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RSSComments (16)

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  1. The best way is to just keep practicing, which is easy to do in the digital age!

  2. Cassie says:

    Great tips, Kim! Holding steady is huge, especially at night. I’ve never been able to hold a camera steady as much as I try to brace myself, so I often try to prop my camera up on a wall, rock whatever I can find. I recently started carrying a purse-size tripod (Joby GorillaPod-SLR) with me all the time. Comes in handy when there is nothing flat to set the camera against.

    • Kim Olson says:

      Thanks, Cassie! I also have trouble keeping my camera steady, but as you said, props definitely come in handy. One of my favorite things to do it lean against a wall or a tree – it helps quite a bit.

      And that’s awesome that the Gorillapod fits in your purse. I’ve heard great things about it but have yet to try one myself.

  3. Lance says:

    Solid tips. I often rush when shooting photos. It’s usually because I don’t want to look like a “crazy tourist” with my camera out so I try to snap it as quickly as possible and then go about my business. That’s such a silly thing to think about, though.

    • Kim Olson says:

      I actually feel the same way at times. There are certain places where I do feel a bit funny taking photos – especially with my big telephoto lens. It’s not exactly incognito which is one of the reasons I don’t use it much.

  4. Andrew says:

    Good set of reminders.
    I am really into low angle shots lately. Dangling the camera into the little road-canals in town last summer was great fun.

  5. Michael says:

    What type of a camera do you suggest for newbies? I use a small Canon point-and-shoot camera and the problem I have with those types of cameras is that they’re so small, every time I press the button to take a picture, it moves the camera.

    I do use a DSLR, which doesn’t move with the click, but I have no idea what all the settings mean and just put it in auto mode, which kind of defeats the purpose of an SLR camera.

    • I actually love the 4/3 cameras. I use a Sony NEX 5N. It is smaller than a DSLR but an upgrade over point and shoot with a lot of DSLR functionality. You can research which one would be best for you but http://www.dpreview.com/ is a great site for information on cameras.

      For me, I carry my camera, a 55 mm lens, a 200 mm lens, extra batteries and other camera accessories in a small bag. Fits easily into my backpack. Now if you want bigger gear you can get it but the 4/3 cameras are a great hybrid option.

  6. These are some great tips, but my favorite part of the article is the picture from Kyoto. I have bicycled along that river, but I never knew it’s name. Thank you for posting that it is the Kamogawa River.

  7. Peter Lee says:

    Practice makes everyone perfect. You need a lot of experiences to capture beautiful clicks. For me photography is no less than art and it enhances your creativity. Thanks for these tips.

  8. Charu says:

    Good tips! And sometimes, it does take 200 shots to get that perfect one!

    • Ugh! I’ve done this recently. I spent a lot of time taking photos of the same thing. I did this recently in Yosemite. Not something I typically want to do but since it was Yosemite and I was all by myself taking photos, I couldn’t complain.

      Have you really taken 200 shots of the same thing or just 200 shots of a place in general to get that perfect one? :)

  9. Carol says:

    Thanks for the helpful tips. I love taking travel photos and will think more about my composition and will pay attention to holding my camera steady. ..
    And the photo of the dog from his level was so cute! You have great photos.

    • It’s amazing how much you can change the look of a photo by just using a different angle. Composition is tough though as you need to find that right balance of color and light.

      I loved the photo of the dog too. If only all of them were that cute :)

  10. Kevin says:

    Thank you! This is just what my wife and I have been looking for. We spend our anniversaries in a particular romantic Seattle hotel and the view is breathtaking, but we have never been able to get really good pictures of it. We will try this next time we go!

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