11 professional tips for better travel photography

Photography travel opens up a whole new page in life when it comes to crafting and curating images that capture the essence of life. Whether you are crouched in the mud in rural Kenya or exploring the million dollar coast of Monaco, better travel photography doesn’t come from the camera, but from the way you approach the shoot. These tips can help you to turn the corner when it comes to your next photo vacation and can ensure you think outside the box and bring a creative touch to light. Lighting makes all the difference Change the way you see the world by waking early and exploring in a different light. Catching the salt mist hanging low over the ocean, witnessing the sun crest over sleepy Parisian rooftops and watching the Grecian shepherd herd his flocks just before the dawn are all precious moments only captured in certain lights. Even though you may be torn between the idea of being on vacation and sleeping in, shake the dreams from your head early and explore in the rosy blush of morning, you are sure to be rewarded. Late afternoon is another time to trek with the camera in hand, the magic hour, when the sun hovers on the horizon is when the world is exposed to the ‘Midas touch’ and another breath-taking time to get snapping. Light in Paris Research your location Researching a destination helps you to get a feel for the place even before you have arrived. Whether its admiring images on the internet or perusing postcard shops to see what others have done, this all helps to build inspiration and familiarity. Everyone in the world may have snapped up images of the Eiffel Tower but by researching what others have done you may learn to see it in a new light which in turn will help your approach. Don’t be shy when it comes to asking locals to point out their favorite spots to get away from the well-trodden path and into the wild. Marseille Avoid distracting elements Painters may be able to pick and choose what the brush includes but for photographers you simply have to work with what is in front of your eyes. Whether you are shooting a group of locals playing chess beside the Danube or a wild orchid in bloom, you want to try and make the subject matter stand out from the crowd. Be sure that when looking down the lens nothing has crept into the background to make the image distracting. If the background is distracting, try shooting in aperture priority or manual mode. You could also try shooting wide open by using a larger aperture, such as f/2.8 or f/4, to help keep your subject sharp and in focus, while letting the background become blurry. Washington Hire locals/find a fixer Savvy photography travel is all about getting close to the locals and learning the secret spots that will make your portfolio standout. For travel photographers, it is incredibly important to hire the locals to be your guide through strange and foreign lands or to be your fixer. Shooting the local way of life, seeking sacred places and immersing your camera in the culture is a lot easier when you have someone native to vouch for you and to help your journey be respected and trusted by others close by. Havana Say hello Capturing the crinkled faces of Sicily, shooting the market traders in Mozambique and snapping the smiles of children in Taiwan can all make for fantastic photos that bring human culture and emotion brimming to the surface.  Before you point and shoot, you should learn how to say hello in the native tongue so that you can greet those you wish to photograph. This makes the process much friendlier and is a common courtesy of the travel photographer. Paris portrait Feel the place Discovering the story behind a place is about igniting all the senses, and this happens when you come out from behind the camera. To get a true feel for the place you are visiting you should taste the local food, lose yourself in the back streets, haggle at the bright and bustling markets and laugh over a drink with the locals. These moments help you to understand where you are and can bring a sense of honesty to your photos. Locals in Havana Travel light Exploring the world through photography travel isn’t easy when you are carrying the world and his wife along with you. Make sure that you pack light and bring only the essentials when it comes to shooting around the globe. Bringing only the basics like your camera, zoom lens and prime lens will give you the freedom you need to hike the hills of Tibet or to enter the dark heart of the jungle without having a load of extra weight holding you back. St Remy Don’t try to get it all in once Bustling to and fro with your camera in hand and trying to cram everything in won’t do your photos justice. To capture the true essence of the place, sometimes, it helps to slow down and take the time to explore and understand will bring out something special in your images. Running across the streets of Paris trying to capture all the iconic sites may fill out your portfolio but it’s better to capture one truly powerful shot as opposed to half a dozen mediocre pictures. Nimes Leave the camera behind sometimes Photography vacations are about capturing beautiful shots but they are also about taking the time to enjoy yourself. To truly experience a place sometimes you need to unburden yourself of the camera and simply sit back and enjoy the ride. Filling in the gaps is all about immersing and indulging in the time and the place, the sights and the smells and will leave you with memories that sometimes can’t be caught on film. Tokyo Find yourself a master Even though many travel photographers like to trample the globe alone you can learn a lot by watching a master hone their craft. Try to find a photographer whose work you admire and assist them for a while to learn new skills to bring into your own world. It doesn’t even have to be a travel photographer, you can learn a lot by watching fashion photographers or anyone with creative skills and an eye for vision. Provence Be human Don’t become the camera, you are not a machine you are human and it helps to bring this to the table when it comes to travel photography. If someone doesn’t want to be captured in front of the lens, then leave them alone. If someone wants you to send them the picture you took then be sure to follow through with your word. As a travel photographer, you have a duty to be good to people so that the person who comes next with a camera in hand will be received with a smile. Valencia Jerroid Marks is Founder of Band of Light. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. I am pinning this one. I always love learning more about photography, it’s the make and break of the travel blogger and holds your memories forever. I love the be human remark – always offer to send someone a memory – it will change their life.

  2. I totally agree about the very early morning shots where the light is so crystal clear. I love the talk to a local, personalise the experience – it does make that special shot. The one’s we struggle with are food by candle light. Love any suggestions. It is so difficult to try and shoot the photos and not offend the chef who has gone to such an effort. But, when you are being paid for a review people do want to see the food.

  3. I’m also a budding photographer and want to be a professional photographer.These tips were really helpful for me.Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Not so sure about leaving the camera behind entirely but I do occasionally only take a small camera that will fit inside my handbag rather than my whopping great DSLR. That way I can relax and enjoy the moment but still have a camera to hand if there is something I simply can’t resist.

  5. Every tip a good one Jerroid. Especially the Human comment. Feel the same way about travel in general, everything we do leaves a memory. I love taking photos in the afternoon light. Your image of the Paris rooftops is so beautiful and dreamy.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Alison! Glad you enjoyed the article.

    Kathryn, like you, I’m rarely without a camera. Leaving our cameras “behind” is really about remembering that we have the option to let a moment play out before us rather than documenting it. Choosing to take a time out can be liberating!

    You’re very welcome, Rishulgupta! Thanks for your comment.

    Thanks so much for your comment, Erin!

    Paula, photography by candlelight can be tricky sometimes. Assuming your camera offers manual settings, select the widest aperture available (with 1.8-2f being ideal) and the highest useable ISO (“useable” meaning the grain isn’t offensive.) Practice holding your camera steady (tucking your elbows helps!) and you should be OK! As for the chef, he/she is probably used to it by now. :)

  7. Love reading posts like this. One I would add is simple rules of composition (rule of threes, making sure the entire subject is captured not half cut out etc). We are travellers but opted for a Panasonic tz60 which has an excellent zoom. Don’t think we’d be able to cope with a large slr and all the equipment for it in our backpacks.

  8. I love to take photos just before sunset as the light is gorgeous. The way we feel the place and respect our enviroment is as important as shooting the photo….it can immortalise our feelings and the place forever.

  9. Great tips! Thanks for sharing these. Really helpful! I love that you mentioned about taking a breather from taking photos and just be in the moment because we sometimes tend to get so absorbed in living behind the lens that we forget to live in the moment. Would apply on my next travel. :)

  10. All excellent tips. The magic hours in the morning and late afternoon really do wonders for photos. Now I just need to keep working on adjusting the settings so it becomes second nature and less of a guessing game. Practice, practice, practice!

  11. Really i like your pics you gave nice tips for me .
    Actually i am not that much good in photography but i like taking photos by reading this blog i learnt so many tips .When ever i will go for trip i use these tips.
    Thanks for sharing and keep on giving some good tips :)

  12. Thank you for all the great tips, but after I’ve mastered that then what? Where do I sign up? Who do I talk to to start? What’s the next step? Do they cover the cost of travel or do I?

  13. Love this post! I always try to explore early in the morning or at around 10-11am as I find the light mist interesting. So great tips I’ll be pinning for later ☺️

  14. I am also a travel enthusiast like you and love to share memories of travel. Loved your ideas for best photography. It will help me in my future journeys. Thanks for such a valuable tips.

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