Travel Photography Tips

If you’re getting ready for Spring Break, or starting to dream about your summer vacation – these tips are for you! As always, if you want to practice any of these tips, please join a Fetching Photos Photography Tour.

Why do I put travel photography in its own category? Largely because it is “one and done” photography. Your trip to Disney with your kids at age 5 only happens once. No do overs, no reshooting next weekend. Also, for most of us, travel photography means vacation. It means sleeping in (or trying to!) and working with the light and weather conditions that you’re presented with during the day. Finally, it may mean putting together an album at the end of the trip, telling the story of your wonderful vacation.

Tip #1: Use your shooting time wisely and plan to take different types of shots throughout the day

We all know dramatic light makes a photo.  Your best landscape shots, or any shots from a distance, are going to be during the “Golden Hour” (the hour after dawn or the hour before dusk). Mid-day shots can be hard to make interesting, particularly if you’re trying to shoot landscapes. How do you use your time photography time wisely throughout the day? Plan to shoot different types of photos.  Use time early or late in the day to shoot the scenery, augmented by dramatic shadows. Use time mid-day to shoot the family or get close ups. Move the family into the shade so that they’re not squinting too much, and they’ll look great. Mid day can also be a great time to shoot silhouettes.

Tip #2: Adapt! Work with the weather, it’s not like you’ve got a choice

Adjusting to the weather is critical in travel photography. If the weather is misty or rainy, switch to black and white mode and the lack of color becomes a mood-enhancing asset.  If it’s just flat, gray light then use it to take flattering “soft light” portraits or eye popping color macros. And if it’s bright light with great shadows, shoot away in color.

Tip #3: (Almost) Never shoot from eye-level

We see the world from eye-level.  Changing perspective is one of the easiest ways to instantly make photos more interesting.  A non-eye-level perspective offers a viewpoint seldom seen.  Bend down and get the camera one foot off the ground, shoot from your knee if you’re sitting, or even hold the camera above your head.  A swiveling display on your camera will help, but I did this for years without one.  

Tip #4: Focus on one feeling and repeat it to weave a story throughout your photos

A lot of places have a look or a feel. Use it in your photos repetitively to tell a consistent story, which also makes for a great photo album. Photography classes and websites will tell you to research your travel destination before you try to photograph it. There’s a lot of truth to that, but who’s got time? Here’s my simpler version: focus on the first thought that comes to mind when you get to a location and emphasize it in your photos.  New York City is all about being a bustling metropolis. Don’t try to crop strangers out of your photos – include them! Use them to emphasize the constant motion. Consider shooting a long exposure with someone standing still to emphasize the constant flow of people. Alternatively, the Caribbean is defined by gin-clear water.  Don’t shoot from the beach – get in/on/under the water.  Better yet, if you have a waterproof housing, use it liberally!