Have you ever been to a truly incredible place or captured a perfect moment?
If you had a camera in hand, you probably snapped a photo. After taking that photo, you probably thought, “This is going to be great. Maybe even an award winner.”
Then when you got to a computer and took a look at the photo, it's nothing like you expected. And not in a good way.
Don't worry; you're not alone.
While traveling, that happened to me countless times. And over the years, I've come up with a few tricks and techniques to ensure my photos turn out the way I want them to.
A lot of these suggestions may seem fairly simplistic and basic. However, if I have one word of advice, it's STICK TO THE BASICS.
Often when traveling, you look past the basics in photography. So many things are going on around you that you forget.
But if you keep the basics in mind, your photos should turn out just how you like.
So without further ado, five killer travel photography tips.
1. Direction of Sunlight
Again, this may seem rudimentary, but the way the sun is positioned in the sky has a huge effect on your photos.
Preferably, you want the sun to be at your back so that it illuminates the subject of your photo.
However, sometimes you don't have the luxury of waiting until the sun is in a perfect position.
That's when you have to get creative.
You can try to block the sun with one hand while taking the photo with the other or use something in the natural environment to shade you.
This could be a house, a tree, a rock—just anything to keep the sun's glare off your lens.
You could also invest in a lens hood that blocks the sun unless you're pointed directly at it.
Often when traveling, I forgot to take into consideration the position of the sun.
I just snapped photos and assumed they would turn out great. Well, I was wrong.
The sun either washed out many of the photos or created a lens flare. Obviously not desirable in award-winning images.
So keep aware of that big bright thing in the sky, and you'll be a lot happier with your photos in the end.
2. Polarizing Lens
Going hand in hand with the sun is a polarization lens.
A polarizing lens is probably the single best investment I've ever made for my camera.
So what does a polarizing lens do?
Quite simply, it blocks the sun's glare, just like polarizing sunglasses. And by blocking the sun's glare, you get crisper and less washed out photos.
This type of lens will allow you to see through the water instead of getting the annoying glare off the surface.
It's perfect for shots at the beach, lake, or river.
It's also great for getting clouds to “pop” in your photos.
Many times, clouds will blend in with the sky, but with a polarizing lens, you get a distinct contrast.
In reality, it makes your greens greener and your blues bluer because you're eliminating the washing out effects of the sun.
And only for $50. That's a worthy investment if you ask me.
3. Use a Tripod
I know. Carrying a tripod around is probably the last thing you want to do when traveling.
However, it's essential if you're serious about photography. This is especially true at night.
A camera must gather light to take a picture.
So at night, the shutter needs to stay open longer.
And if your camera is not on a tripod, it tends to move even the tiniest amount, which causes blurring.
There's no way around it. Even if you use a railing or rock to hold your camera steady, you still get some degree of shake.
Sometimes you may get lucky and hold it steady enough to get a good night shot, but most the time you don't.
Trust me, I know from experience.
And it's not only applicable to night shots.
During the day, a tripod is the best way to capture time-lapsed shots and to get the best degree of clarity.
So if you're serious about your photos, bring a tripod along. You won't regret it.
4. Be Creative
Try the same shot from different angles.
Play with your settings on your camera. Just try to take a picture that everyone and their mother hasn't done before.
Of course, there is a limit to this. But for a second, put yourself in the shoes of the people viewing your photos.
What do you think will grab their attention? And what's the best way of doing that?
Sometimes you may get it right, occasionally dead wrong. But you can't succeed unless you try.
Typically, I found that looking for scenes with high contrast gets a positive reaction.
I found that sunsets are great because you have a sharp contrast between a lit-up sky and the darker foreground.
Also, dark objects against a cloudy sky or a landscape with the sun to your back tend to get positive reactions.
In the end, it's all about you. But if you can think in new ways to make your photos more interesting to the audience, you're going to have great success.
5. Have Fun
This may seem obvious and unneeded, but it's true.
The best photos I've ever taken are when I'm having a good time and relaxed.
Not when I'm worried about how the photo is going to turn out.
If you stress about how your photos are going to turn out, it's probably not doing you or your photography any good.
Let things happen naturally. If it's meant to be, it will happen, and you'll get that perfect moment to snap a shot. If not, there's always another day.
Trust me. The more fun you have, the better the photos. Always!
So kick back and enjoy it. Because life's too short not to have fun.
About the Author: Ryan has been backpacking around the world since 2005 and has recently launched FollowMeEverywhere.com to combine his love of travel with work. If you like his stuff, feel free to subscribe, and follow him on Twitter: @RyanMartin07