4 Simple Travel Photography Tips and Examples for Beginners

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It’s hard to know where to turn with the overwhelming amount of information available about every topic imaginable, and travel photography is no exception. My friends and family know that I love both travel and photography, so I get a lot of questions about both topics. And I love it!

I’ve got some in-depth, crazy helpful resources in the works to help you take better pictures while traveling. Buuuuut…I also know that not everyone wants to dive deep into the world of photography. Not everyone is passionate about learning photography–most people just want to take photos that help them capture their vacation or road trip memories. So I wanted to share a few simple things you can do to improve your travel photos without needing to understand the technical side of things.

4 Simple #TravelPhotography Tips for Beginners - no technical knowledge required! Click To Tweet

 

1. Get close on detail shots and portraits

Sometimes as a new photographer, it can be intimidating to get close to your subject, especially if you’re shooting photos of people. You might have a tendency to shoot from wherever you are at the moment, but getting close to a detail that’s often overlooked can be really interesting. Things that most people would pass by in everyday life can bring your travel story to life, especially when paired with photos of the entire scene. Shooting travel portraits close up can show the relationship between you and the subject, and that human connection really draws people into your photo.

Bonus tips: If you have a background that is far away from where your subject is, and you either zoom in or move closer (“zooming” with your feet), you’ll get a blurrier background. Also, when you’re shooting travel portraits, I recommend chatting with the person and getting permission first. I wrote about how to get over your fear photographing strangers while traveling here.

2. Try different angles

Most of the time, we shoot from our normal eye-level vantage point because it’s easy. It’s also the most obvious. And it can get boring. I’m not saying you should ditch it completely, but if it’s the only way you ever shoot, try experimenting with a few different perspectives the next time you’re traveling.

If you’re in a crowded market, shoot from a low angle to capture the feet of passersby, which shows how crowded it is. Or, shoot from just above everyone’s heads–a sea of heads and faces helps convey how busy and noisy things are. Shoot from directly above something. Get eye level with kids. Shoot from below a flower to make it look giant.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! You’ll learn what works and get some really interesting shots when you think outside the box. Using different angles creates something unique for people who see your photo–it catches their attention and makes them pause when they see your image.

 

What other #travelphotography tips would you add to this list? Click To Tweet

 

3. Look for easy light

Without getting into all the techy details, there’s one thing I want you to remember: light is at the core of an amazing photograph. Without good light, your photos will suffer. Really understanding how to use light and how your camera sees it is an important element of photography…BUT I know you’re reading this because you want to keep things simple. Just know that if you want to create great photos in the more challenging situations (like in a dark chapel, at night, or inside a restaurant), getting comfy with the technical side of things will be necessary.

If you don’t want to dig into all that (or you’re just starting and still on the learning journey), I recommend looking for light that’s easy. What the heck does that even mean? We’re looking for light that is soft or indirect, natural (sunlight is our friend!), and plentiful.

Here are a few places you can find “easy light”:

  1. Open shade of a building or large tree–Cities with tall buildings can be great for this because there is often shade on the streets throughout the day. I also love traveling in Latin America because there are lots of covered patios (or outdoor hallways) in schools, restaurants, or other buildings. These create great shade, even shooting in the strong tropical sun in the middle of the day!
  2. Under an umbrella at a restaurant–If you want appealing photos of your food, opt to eat outside under an umbrella or awning so you get soft, natural light.
  3. Cloudy day–Medium to heavy cloud cover is fantastic for photographers because it’s like a giant diffuser over the sun.
  4. Inside a room that has LOTS of big windows (and no lights turned on)–There is lots of daylight coming in but it’s indirect.
  5. The “golden hour”–The first couple hours after sunrise and the last couple hours before sunset are ideal times to shoot landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, and just about anything. (And the morning golden hour will usually help you avoid the crowds!)

Bonus tip: Avoid extremes–If you’re in the shade, watch out for patchy bright spots in the background or on your subject because they can be distracting in your photo. Recompose your shot to eliminate the bright spots.

If you want to learn how to take great photos without diving deep into the world of travel photography, here are few simple things you can do to improve your travel photos without understanding the technical side of things. What other travel photography tips would you add to this list?

Outside at a restaurant in the middle of the day under an umbrella

 

If you want to learn how to take great photos without diving deep into the world of travel photography, here are few simple things you can do to improve your travel photos without understanding the technical side of things. What other travel photography tips would you add to this list?

Lots of open shade from the trees overhead

 

If you want to learn how to take great photos without diving deep into the world of travel photography, here are few simple things you can do to improve your travel photos without understanding the technical side of things. What other travel photography tips would you add to this list?

During the golden hour

 

4. Taking a photo of a person or animal? Have your subject look toward a light source.

So you’ve got your subject in that soft, “easy” light. Check. You’re close to your subject. Check. Now, make sure they’re looking towards a large light source, and you should see these gorgeous reflections in their eyes (called “catch lights”). Catch lights create portraits that really pop because they bring life to your subject’s eyes.

Bonus tip: You won’t see catch lights as easily in lighter colored eyes, but they’re still there! When you learn to see them in brown eyes, you’ll start noticing them everywhere before you know it. And lucky for us travelers, most of the world’s population has brown eyes.

If you want to learn how to take great photos without diving deep into the world of travel photography, here are few simple things you can do to improve your travel photos without understanding the technical side of things. What other travel photography tips would you add to this list?

See the reflections in his eyes? Those are catch lights! He is sitting in the shade and looking up towards the sky. You can even see my reflection in his eyes.

 

If you want to learn how to take great photos without diving deep into the world of travel photography, here are few simple things you can do to improve your travel photos without understanding the technical side of things. What other travel photography tips would you add to this list?

There is soft light from the open shade here, but no strong catch lights in his eyes.

 

If you want to learn how to take great photos without diving deep into the world of travel photography, here are few simple things you can do to improve your travel photos without understanding the technical side of things. What other travel photography tips would you add to this list?

Soft light from the cloudy morning in Guatemala, and gorgeous catch lights in Lucia’s eyes since she is looking toward the sky.

 

If you want to learn how to take great photos without diving deep into the world of travel photography, here are few simple things you can do to improve your travel photos without understanding the technical side of things. What other travel photography tips would you add to this list?

Because of the angle of Lucia’s head and eyes, there aren’t strong catch lights in her eyes. Notice how there isn’t quite the same pop as the other photo.

 

I hope these simple travel photography tips help you, even if you try just one of them on your next trip! I love sharing what I’ve learned along the way (through lots of trial and error!) and am working on creating even more practical resources for you. Feel free to let me know if you have questions anytime–seriously, I love getting them and am happy to help.

 

What other tips would you add to this list? Got any travel photography questions that I can help with? Want any feedback or tips on your travel photos? Leave your question or Instagram handle in the comments below!

 

Tips for beginners | Travel photography @roamtheamericas Learn how to take better photos without understanding the technical side of photography.

 

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    Grab the free quick-start camera buying checklist with 4 simple questions to ask before you research which camera to buy. This free guide will lay the foundation to help you decide which camera is best for you!

     

    • Brilliant tips. Lighting is SO important. It can sometimes be hard work getting a subject to look towards a light source though – but the effect makes those portraits pop with the catchlights.

      • Thanks, Juliette! Glad you found them helpful. 🙂 Light makes all the difference, and for me it was probably the most challenging thing to understand in the beginning (it seemed so “theoretical” and wasn’t as cut and dry as something like the rule of thirds). And you’re definitely right–you won’t always be able to get the catchlights because you have to work with what you have in the moment (and it’s very on-the-go when traveling, isn’t it?). Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

    • Thanks for the tips! I agree light is soo important, I still have a hard time to understand how to use light the right way. It’s a learning process, I guess!

      • It’s definitely a learning process so don’t get discouraged! Some of my best learning has come out of making (lots of) mistakes, for sure. 🙂

    • Love the catch lights tip! It does add a pop to the photo! 🙂

    • These tips are easy enough for anyone to follow. My favorite is looking for interesting angles. Shooting above below or through can really change the picture and make it so much more interesting.

    • Great tips and they are all so easy to implement! I love the close up shots that you got.

      • Thanks, Tonya! Glad you found them helpful and easy to implement–I love to hear that. 🙂 Appreciate your taking the time to read and comment! Happy travels.

    • Thanks for the tips

    • love this article. I’m always looking for ways to up my photography.

      • Thanks, Alexa! It was partially inspired by our conversation a month or two ago and your feedback about feeling overwhelmed by some aspects of learning photography. Glad you found it helpful. 🙂

    • Really great tips, thank you. I always have my camera with me, but I’ve never taken the time to become better at using it.

      And I really need to read your article on overcoming the fear of photographing strangers – I love taking photos of people, but I never have the courage to ask people – seems silly really!

      • So glad you found the tips useful, Karianne! I know it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start in learning photography (and, not everyone wants to learn all the techy stuff). Hope you can implement a few of these! 🙂 And it’s not silly at all to have that fear. If you check out my story of photographing a stranger for the first time, you’ll see I’m the exact same way.
        Thanks for your comment!

    • WanderingRedHead

      Great tips! I’m always trying to improve my photography!

      • Thanks, @wanderingredhead:disqus! Really glad you enjoyed them. I’m the same–there’s always something more to learn!

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    • Christa

      These are GREAT tips that I plan to use for an upcoming trip to Costa Rica. One of my biggest problems is getting the blurry background on a subject. Do you adjust aperture for that? Mostly I just use an auto or no-flash setting but I need to start experimenting with my camera’s features more

      • Thanks, @disqus_fEgORiG1F6:disqus! So glad you found them helpful–and so exciting that you’re going to Costa Rica soon! I studied abroad there but haven’t been back for about 12 years…love it there! And for the blurry background–yes, adjusting the aperture to a lower number (like 1.4, 2.8, 3.5) will give you a blurrier background. It’s a little tricky because a lower number actually means you have a wider or larger aperture, but that’s just how it goes, haha.
        2 other ways to get a blurrier background:
        –Zoom in or use a telephoto/long lens (like 80 mm, 100 mm, 160 mm)
        –Have your subject stand farther away from the background (generally only possible if you’re photographing a person 🙂 ). So instead of having them stand right in front of a bush, have them take a few steps out. The farther away from the background they are, the blurrier it will get.

        Hope that makes sense and helps a little! Let me know if you have any questions. Are you on IG? I’d love to follow you if you have a public account and see your photos from Costa Rica.

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