8 mins

10 tips for better travel photos

Want to improve your travel photos - but have no idea where to start? You need this no-nonsense, jargon-free guide...

Travel photographer at Bagan, Burma/Myanmar (Shutterstock: see credit below)
Wanderlust reader Sam Shead attended a Wanderlust Journeys photography workshop in the hope of improving his travel snaps. What did he learn from pro photographer host Steve Davey? These 10 tips, of course...

Want to improve your own travel photos on a Wanderlust Journeys trip? This November, Wanderlust Editor-in-chief Lyn Hughes and professional photographer Paul Harris will host a Travel Photography Workshop in Marrakech, Morocco.

1. Learn the rule of thirds

When analysing a photo, it should be possible to divide it up into three clearly identifiable horizontal and vertical thirds. The key subject of the photo should be positioned off-centre or where the lines intersect. This will add balance and leave space for motion.

2. Look for leading lines

The natural eye instinctively follows strong lines when we look at a photo. They have the power to pull you in and guide you towards the subject or take you on a journey through a shot.

3. Engage with the locals

When shooting people, especially for portraits, travellers should always make the effort to engage. Steve Davey believes that carrying a camera provides you with the perfect excuse to approach someone that you would never normally be able to. It also helps you understand local people, their culture and their environment.

4. Cropping

It’s true. Even the professionals crop their photos. Steve said he crops roughly 30% of his photos once they are on his computer. As a general rule of thumb it’s best to include too much than too little in the original shot but don’t be wasteful.

5. Too much sky

After critiquing photos from several members of the audience, it became clear that many of us shoot our photos with too much of what is often an unspectacular sky. A blue sky isn’t always as interesting as you might think.

6. Histograms

Histograms aren’t as complicated as you might think and they can be incredibly useful. Standard on virtually all cameras today, they provide a perfect indication of whether or not your photo has the correct exposure levels. The general rule is that the histogram should not extent beyond the graph. If it does, it could come out over/under exposed.

7. Tripod

To ensure you get the maximum sharpness in your photos it’s important to use a tripod in order to eliminate camera shake. This is particularly true when using a telephoto lens as their weight and length naturally puts the camera off balance.

8. RAW

Shoot your photos in RAW mode if you wish to do any serious editing. They contain a lot more information and as a result take up more space but they can be more easily modified than JPEGs.

9. Patience

John Lorie’s tip of the day, was to take your time and not to snatch at shots. An erupting Icelandic volcano shot against the Northern Lights took five days for last year’s Travel Photo of the Year portfolio winner to capture. Sometimes patience pays off.

10. Compact/SLR

Some of the best photos are taken on compact cameras. The same basic principles of photography, particularly composition, apply to all kinds of camera and as a result it’s possible to capture a fantastic shot on a relatively cheap and basic model. 

Extra tip: When can you shoot?

Dawn and dusk are the only times you are allowed to take a photo. Wrong. The light is often best at these times of the day but it is still possible to get a great shot if you take a few simple steps. For example, it would be better to shoot a Bedouin man in the shadows than directly underneath the Egyptian sun.

Main image: Female traveler photographing temples at Bagan, Burma/Myanmar (Shutterstock)

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