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5 Essential Travel Photography Tips

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 will be great. Maybe even an award winner.”

Then when you get to a computer and 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 developed a few tricks and techniques to ensure my photos turn out the way I want them to.

A lot of these suggestions may seem pretty 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, here are five essential travel photography tips.

Photography Tips

1. Direction of Sunlight

Again, this may seem rudimentary, but how the sun is positioned in the sky significantly affects 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 forget to consider the sun's position. I just snapped photos and assumed they would turn out great. Well, I was wrong.

The sun either washed out many photos or created a lens flare. Not desirable in award-winning images.

So keep aware of that big bright thing in the sky, and you'll be much happier with your photos.

2. Polarizing Lens

Going hand in hand with the sun is a polarization lens. A polarizing lens is probably the best investment I've ever made for my camera.

So what does a polarizing lens do? 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 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 and is also great for getting clouds to “pop” in your photos.

Clouds often blend in with the sky, but you get a distinct contrast with a polarizing lens.

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, and 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 steady your camera, 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 of 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 the 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, looking for scenes with high contrast gets a positive reaction.

I found that sunsets are incredible because you have a sharp contrast between a lit-up sky and a darker foreground.

Also, dark objects against a cloudy sky or a landscape with the sun on your back tend to get positive reactions.

In the end, it's all about you. But if you can think of new ways to make your photos more attractive to the audience, you will 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, and not when I'm worried about how theimageo will turn out.

If you stress about how your photos will turn out, it's probably not doing you or your photography any good.

Let things happen naturally. It will happen if it's meant to be, 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 to combine his love of travel with work. If you like his stuff, subscribe and follow him on Twitter: @RyanMartin07.

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Thursday 10th of January 2013

Awesome advice, I ALWAYS get caught up in the moment of the picture and snap away without thinking about sun placement! About the polarizing lens: for DSLR cameras, I would assume you'd need to buy a completely new lens with the polarization feature built in? Any feedback on DSLR and polarizing lenses would be welcome (i.e. experience, prices, thoughts).

Linda McCormick

Thursday 16th of February 2012

Great tips, thanks! I must get me a polarizing lens... tomorrow. Loving the effect.

Jenny Graham

Friday 29th of April 2011

I have really a great passion for the travel photography.You have really become source of inspiration for me.I really liked the information you shared very much.Thanks for sharing it so wonderfully with us.Great post!

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Emy @ Lake WylieMarinas

Tuesday 22nd of February 2011

I like photography. want to learn more on it. Thank you for sharing these tips Dave.

Joshua Johnson

Saturday 19th of February 2011

Agree with Andi...that is some major rock hops!

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