For many influencers, thought leaders, and business owners, travel photography lets us share our experiences in an engaging way on social media. It can also help us collect branded imagery for websites, videos, blog posts, and other promotional online content.
The quality of your travel photos will depend on your locations, timing, subjects, and editing. This brief guide will help you make the most of your business or personal travel shots in each of these aspects.
Research your locations
Type the location you’re visiting and “photography” into Google, and you’ll see blog posts and tips for these locations.
Create a list called “photography” in Google Maps, and save the locations you’d like to shoot.
You’re most likely going to popular destinations, so on a location’s Google Maps page, check the “popular times” section. If you save the location to your Google Maps list, you can add a note. You can use this space to note the ideal time to visit the location so that you can try to go when the location is less busy.
If you spend more time on Instagram, search for Instagram accounts connected with your city. These will help you find great parks, architecture, monuments, restaurants and cafes to check out.
Use Instagram’s “Save to Collection” feature to gather all of your favorite inspirations, then add them to your Google Maps list.
To take your planning to the next level, you can get exact coordinates, photography tips, and travel information for exact destinations from locationscout.net.
Photos from observation decks are very popular on social media. To get the best photos in these settings, I recommend shooting with an extreme telephoto lens. If you take my advice on getting a Sony APS-C camera, I’d suggest a compatible Sony E 70-350mm lens. This lens will give you a huge range of options, including some very extreme focal lengths that are extremely zoomed in on your subjects. (The 70-350mm APS-C lens gives you the equivalent range of 105-525mm on a full-frame camera.)
When you shoot through windows or protective glass, use an anti-reflection lens hood for best results. This will block window reflections and glare.
Shoot at sunrise and sunset
The easiest way to get stunning lighting is to shoot at the right time of day.
Sunrise is the best time of day to shoot if you want to capture settings without too many people in them. Not a lot of people want to wake up early to take photos. But if you get out and take some awesome shots, you’ll feel great about them for the rest of the day.
Afternoon photos often create sharp contrast between light and dark areas. In these situations, I recommend exposing to capture detail in the the sky, even if your main subject looks dark or your camera’s exposure meter shows you’re underexposed. You can always bring out shadow detail in editing by lifting brilliance or shadows, but it’s impossible to retrieve detail from bright skies if that detail is clipped in your shot.
Around 5:00 pm, crowds tend to thin as destinations start closing. This can be another great opportunity to get shots without many people.
Sunset is another fantastic time of day to take photos. It’s often better than sunset if you want to include more people in your shots or capture a sense of the local nightlife.
Most people shooting photos at a tourist location will leave after sunset. But actually, after sunset, you get “blue hour” – the time when your environment is illuminated by the sun’s light reflected off the clouds or atmosphere.
During and after blue hour, it’s best to set up a tripod to get the best results. This will make the difference between grainy night photos, and the magical nighttime shots everyone loves on social media.
Once your camera is on a tripod, set your ISO to 100 and your aperture to f/9 or higher, then expand your shutter time until you get a 0 or -0.25 on your camera’s exposure meter. This could require anything from a 1/4 second exposure to 10 second exposure, depending on your f-stop. At night, put your camera on a self-time for 2 seconds so that after you press the the shutter, your camera will have a couple seconds to become completely still before it starts taking your photo.
Find your unique spin
I think tourist spots are great places for photos. They usually attract tourists for a reason. If you decide to shoot phots at a tourist spot, the question then becomes: How can you differentiate your pictures from the thousands of others taken there?
If you have a personal brand, most likely the key differentiating factor is that the photo includes you, was taken by you, is attached to a post written by you, or includes a subject that your website, blog or social account focuses on.
If you’re starting out, you can try exploring a particular subject or format to unify your work.
- Take photos of the pets you see at your locations.
- Capture portraits of people you meet.
- Shoot the fashions you see people wearing.
- Shoot gimbal shots at 4k 60p and list them on stock videos sites.
- Shoot in HDR, black and white, or use a distinctive filter.
Lenses can help you get beyond the typical iPhone photo to capture something more memorable. You can use a wide angle lens to make a foreground detail a prominent part of your image, or to capture an amazing sky.
If there are too many distractions in your scene, or too many details that are unremarkable, then zoom in on a skyscraper or landmark and let your photo explore the details of that subject.
You don’t need too much gear to take amazing photos. Start the day by thinking about where you’ll be, and what kind of lens will help you capture shots in that location.
If you feel the need, you can carry one lens on your camera and an extra in your bag. More than this is probably overkill.
Think creatively beyond lenses. What vantage point have people not seen before? Perhaps you can get out a drone and take an overhead shot? Or you can lower your lens near the ground and capture the texture of a brick road?
Be mindful of how you frame your subjects. You can use arches, doors, trees, and symmetry to frame your subjects.
Leave space where your subject is looking. If someone is facing right, turn your camera to the right a bit so that there is extra space on the right side of the frame and less space on the left.
Leave plenty of space around your subject’s head. Ideally, there should be a non-distracting empty space behind a subject’s head. It’s especially important to make sure that there are no lines intersecting with someone’s head, like a telephone pole or a horizon line. To adjust your composition, you can move around your subject physically by kneeling, standing on something, or taking steps forward or backward.
If you notice a foreground detail, you can explore whether you can use it to frame your subject.
I prefer for people to act naturally rather than posing or smiling for the camera. I recommend turning off the shutter noise so that people don’t pay attention to when you take a photo. In addition, I usually take a series of shots… after the first several seconds, people will stop paying attention to you and go back to what they were doing. Then I capture a few images so that I can choose the most natural one when I review the photos later.
If you’re taking a photo of yourself, consider how you can use props so that you have something to do with your hands. Props can be anything that makes sense with your style or the place you’re visiting. Some ideas include food, a drink, sunglasses, a backpack, or a notebook.
If you need to take photos of yourself, you don’t have to resort to the selfie camera.
YouTuber CupOfTJ recommends using a compact “telepod”, which consists of a tripod and Bluetooth remote that connects to your phone. For smartphone photographers, her affiliate link recommends the Joby GripTight PRO TelePod.
With the telepod, you’ll first position your camera. Point the back camera at your subject for the best image quality.
Next, record a video of yourself moving around the frame to test out a few positions or poses. Review the video, and decide on the best place to stand or pose. Now, go out and take several shots using the pose you like best.
Edit your images
I edit most photos in Apple’s Photos app.
Color and Light Adjustments
I usually will start by bringing up brilliance, then shadows.
Saturation and vibrance can enliven colors; just be careful not to create a unnatural look. Saturation will exaggerate color globally in your image, while vibrance will bring up the saturation levels in just the parts of your photo that are not yet saturated. Because vibrance enhances color without over-saturating, I tend to use saturation sparingly and vibrance more freely.
I usually keep the black point where it is so that I don’t use any shadow detail. Often a slight contrast increase will make a photo pop, but in other cases, I’ve reduced contrast from its default setting in order to bring out more detail in darker areas of a photo.
Apple’s Photos app has a more advances white balance feature on Mac computers than what is available on the iPad or iPhone. With your desktop, you can use an eye dropper tool to select a color that you want to be your neutral gray.
Sometimes it’s nice to bump up the warmth in your images slightly, especially in outdoor shots.
Apple has a limited range of presets. If you want more distinctive looks, check out Lightroom’s community AI presets. In Lightroom, I recommend exporting your photo as a JPG without any compression, or using Quality 90% if you want to save space.
Depending on your taste you can use Retouch or FaceTune to enhance your pictures.
Retouch lets you remove people, litter, or other distracting objects. Simply touch “Quick Repair” and then draw over the material you’d like to paint out.
FaceTune lets you smooth your skin. Touch “Smooth” and you can start smoothing your subject’s face.
Personally, I avoid cropping my photos in editing. Instead, I concentrate on getting the composition I want while shooting. If you decide to crop a photo, I suggest keeping a consistent aspect ratio so that your shots feel consistent when you browse or post them.
How you crop your photos can affect how they appear online. Photographer Jason Vong recommends that, if you publsh on Instagram, you crop photos in your preferred photography app and avoid using Instagram’s built-in crop tool.