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.
While I love sharing in-depth resources to help you take better pictures while traveling, 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 travel photography tips for beginners to help you improve your photos without needing to understand all the technical jargon.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 or a portrait that includes some of the surroundings (called an “environmental portrait”).
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.
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 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”:
- 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!
- 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.
- Cloudy day–Medium to heavy cloud cover is fantastic for photographers because it’s like a giant diffuser over the sun.
- 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.
- 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.
What other #travelphotography tips would you add to this list?Click To Tweet
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.
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 travel photography 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!