8 Simple Ways To Drastically Improve Your Travel Photography (And Our Essential Gear Recommendations)

Post Summary: Travel photography tips and tricks for amazing photos.

When you’re going on a vacation, what’s the first thing you pack? If you’re like us, chances are that it’s a camera!

Going somewhere new can be exciting, and we love capturing moments to look back on years later. 

When Berty and I visit our parents (his in Indonesia and mine in Eastern Washington!) we always seem to break out the old photo albums and spend hours with our family re-living memories and hearing stories.

Travel photography and capturing moments doesn’t have to be an elaborate setup – in fact, it can be as easy as pulling out your phone and snapping away! (Read about how to edit photos on a smartphone here!)

Whether you’re an aspiring photographer or simply on vacation with your family, we’re sharing attainable and easy ways to improve your travel photography while exploring the world!

These are simple tips and tricks to capturing experiences you’ll remember for years to come.

8 Easy Ways To Enhance Your Travel Photography


1. Get Up Early

Getting up early is a simple practice, but it can end up being quite the challenge if you aren’t used to it!

Waking up early for travel photography is a triple threat of goodness.

You will generally find fewer crowds, softer natural light, and more time to capture moments. This is personally our favorite time to take out our camera and shoot!

Challenge: Schedule a day to go to a location and capture the sunrise.

Do your research, and maybe even visit it in the daylight to scope out where you want to capture the moment. Then, pack all your photography gear the night before and set your alarm for 1-2 hours before sunrise.

Prepare coffee, tea, grab-and-go breakfast, or whatever else you may need for an extra pick-me-up the night before. Preparation and anticipation are both key factors for an easy wake-up call!

Read More: How To Wake Up For Sunrise (For People Who Hate Mornings)

Half Dome at Yosemite - Travel Photography Tips
Painted Ladies at Sunrise - Travel Photography Tips
Sunrise at Delicate Arch - Travel Photography Tips

 

2. Notice the Small, Quiet Moments…

Sometimes, photographers (us included!) can get too caught up in the “epic” moments and often leave out or not consider the natural, quiet instances. This is especially true during the photography slow season – many people think that if they aren’t somewhere beautiful, the scene isn’t worth capturing.

These small, side experiences are important too because they can put a whole story together.

By “side moments“, we mean those times you’re packing and unpacking the car, cooking lunch before a hike, or even settling in for the night by a campfire.

A bunch of “big” moments (like those mountaintop views with the wind blowing, or that incredible sunset) are just highlights, but the small moments fill in those gaps and create the whole story.

It allows you to share images that your audience can relate to!

Challenge: Be more observant, and be open to picking up your camera when you wouldn’t necessarily expect there to be a “good” photograph. Try capturing candid moments in transition!

Don’t have a camera? Use your phone instead with this guide!

Emily at Alvord Hot Springs - Travel Photography Tips

 

3. …And The Busy or Unexpected Ones

Sometimes in the midst of chaos, a moment will catch your eye.

It can be something simple like a person standing still amongst a rushing sea of people, or a hiker caught in a huge windstorm.

Movement can be important for the photographer to share the experience with the viewer because it helps enhance the senses and bring a photo to life!

Looking for things outside the norm can create an interesting contrast. (Remember how much this unexpected photo caused a reaction?)

Example: A photographer and friend we admire, Joe Greer, was in New York when the solar eclipse was happening.

Instead of taking photographs of this probably once-in-a-lifetime natural phenomenon, he chose to turn his camera to the onlookers.

Check out his photos here and here for these unexpected photographs!

Challenge: Intentionally look for unexpected moments. Think outside the box, and don’t always focus on the obvious picture choice. Go to an iconic spot like Times Square and find a unique perspective.

Entertainer in London - Travel Photography Tips

4. Come With a Plan and Vision

One of the most important things we do when practicing travel photography is coming to a location with a plan.

It’s crucial to do your research because having an objective in mind for your day will save you time and energy. A plan will allow you to be efficient and be confident when shooting in an unfamiliar place.

Want Planning Tools For Your Next Trip? Read This: 10 Amazing Road Trip Planner Tools + Apps to Save You Time

Example: When Berty and I traveled to Banff National Park, we mapped locations on our phones and scheduled out our day to make the most of our short time in the Rockies.

We woke up early before the crowds and stayed up very late to be able to take incredible travel photographs!

We successfully came away from that trip with tons of beautiful photos and an assurance that we did the best job possible because we used our time efficiently.

Challenge: Going to Paris? The mountains? A new city? Spend a week reading blogs, saving Instagram posts you love, and maybe even saving locations on Google Maps (see how we do that in our road trip planner post!).

Save some inspiration, but remember to always create your own unique image!

Need an inspiration boost? Follow us on Pinterest for LOADS of outdoor inspiration for travel photography!

11 Incredible Things To Do In Kauai - TheMandagies.com

 

5. Roll With The Punches

This is opposite advice from the last point. Sometimes things just don’t work in your favor!

Weather could turn bad, people could not show up, or any number of problems can arise that are not under your control. Don’t get discouraged!

Instead of giving up on an idea or project, try shifting your expectations or even changing your perception of the situation. (

Also, read back to point #4, and maybe even have a backup plan or two if you know variables in your travels can change!)

Challenge: Stuck in a blizzard when you wanted to capture snow-covered mountain peaks instead?

While they are hidden behind the clouds, try photographing the storm, the fast-moving wind and snow, or even people attempting to go outside amidst the chaos!

The purpose of travel photography is to create the stories of the places you visit, and if that means entirely new experiences than you expected, so be it! That’s the joy of world travel.

Read More: Exploring Waterfalls at Sahalie and Koosah Falls

Blowing Hair at Waimea Canyon - Travel Photography Tips
Mount St Helens Fog - Travel Photography Tips
We were expecting to capture Mount St Helens but the clouds decided to roll in instead!

 

6. Reach Out To The Locals

It goes without saying that the locals know their turf better than you!

They know the hidden spots and special places because they’ve been there for quite some time.

We love connecting with locals because you get a richer experience. You get to understand the culture, food, and way life works in that area through someone’s unique lens.

We believe that making friends in other places allows you to appreciate the experience at a deeper level.

Challenge: Reach out to someone you admire on social media that lives in your destination city.

When we went to London, we met up with Instagrammer Dan Carter, a London native, and he showed us some of the best, hidden coffee shops right in the city!

You can even return the favor and share your favorite spots if they ever visit your city.

Read More: 8 Vital Reasons Why You Should Travel With Your Friends

Dan Carter - Travel Photography Tips
Dan Carter in London winter time!
Forrest and Friends - Travel Photography Tips

 

7. Be Patient

For certain travel photography niches, you may need to spend time waiting for the right light to appear or that perfect moment to come into your frame.

This includes sunrises, sunsets, wildlife photography, or even street photography. (See Berty’s street photography Instagram account here!)

A stellar example of this would be from photographer Zachary Hartje, who goes every summer to the San Juan Islands to capture the local foxes.

After some time, he spotted an eagle swoop down towards the fox and a fight over some prey in mid-air! It sure paid off for him to spend time waiting in the field!

Another Example: Patience is especially important for night photography. Our friend Mike Hollender from B&H Photo has a few things to say about the very time-consuming art of Astrophotography.

He says: “Astrophotography is very experimental. The night isn’t going anywhere fast so you can take your time to test and adjust your [camera] settings until you are happy with the shot.

Smith Rock SP At Sunset - Travel Photography Tips

 

8. Focus On The Details

Details are the senses of photography.

Capturing those small moments in photos can bring you back to that memory, that time, and that place. The details give you an opportunity to experience it all over again.

There’s a reason why wedding photographers love to capture those precious elements like rings, flowers, and food!

Challenge: Use all your senses when capturing travel photographs.

Even the seemingly small and insignificant details at the time might be some of your favorite images years down the road.

Camping Gear In Truck - Travel Photography Tips
11 Adventurous Things To Do In Kauai
Travel photography - details

Travel photography can look different for every single person!

Things will stand out to you more than someone else, and that’s what makes this art so special. We love seeing the way that different photographers capture the same places!

We hope that this post can encourage you to capture photographs that are important to you, and in a way that will create lasting memories for you and your loved ones.

Use these tips to enhance your experience on your next vacation!

Are you interested in travel photography? What are some ways you like to capture images while traveling? Tell us in the comments below!

Also…do you like these photography tips? Tell us about what you’d like to see next in the comments below as well!

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Want more travel photography inspiration? Follow our boards on Pinterest!

7 thoughts on “8 Simple Ways To Drastically Improve Your Travel Photography (And Our Essential Gear Recommendations)

  1. Thanks for sharing these tips! Being patient is hard for me, annnnnd I’m an early riser but getting up before sunrise in the summer in the PNW is tough — worth it though! 🙂 🙂

  2. Great article! Especially where you mention about interacting with local as they know their turf well, we can end up in exploring unplanned destination )….Sometimes shooting a scene at different angles and heights can give the better result than shooting in a default manner.
    Thanks

    1. Thanks so much for the comment Atul! Love the tip about shooting at different angles- that can make all the difference!

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