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.
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.
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.
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…
…I think this one is much better.
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.
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.
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!