Taking and sharing photos has become such a big part of the travel experience. Whether you’re sharing your travel photography on social media, emailing your pictures back home to Mom and Dad or capturing memorable moments along the way for your own photo collection, vacation photos are, in my opinion, the best souvenir you can bring home from any trip.
But how do you capture that perfect photo? The kind that truly captures the beauty of what you’re seeing with your very own eyes? Whether you’re sporting a fancy-schmancy DSLR or just using your smartphone, there are tried and true travel photography tricks that will help you take better pictures.
How? I asked 10 photographers from Flytographer, the company that offers vacationers professional photographers to capture their travels, for their best travel photography tips. Here’s what they had to say:
1 What’s the best time of day to shoot travel photos? Why?
(Waki in Tokyo)
I have two favourite times. Early morning is the best, as the lighting and atmosphere are great when it’s sunny. Shooting early in the day makes it easier and I feel it is a more special time, even though I am not good at waking up early. My other favourite time is right after sunset. I love the combination of a dark blue sky and the neon on the streets when I travel around a city. Both day and night always gives me different and exciting results and different memories of my trip.
2 How do you find the best shoot locations in a particular destination?
(Roberta in Rome)
The first thing I look for in choosing a location is the light, whether that particular spot is hit by the light of sundown or sunrise. Another thing I pay attention to is whether that place is busy or not. Having a lot of people around while shooting hinders you when choosing the framing, although it’s not impossible. The third element I consider is geometry, what is defined by the architecture of that place. Based on the surrounding buildings, I build up the image by allowing the subject to have a dialogue with the geometric elements of buildings, monuments, statues and squares, things my city of Rome is abundant in.
3 Best camera for the occasional photographer to catch gorgeous shots? Why?
(Lauren in New York City)
My recommendation for the best all-around camera for a photo enthusiast is the award-winning Sony RX100 (current model: IV). Sony has been making terrific point and shoot cameras for years; one of their early models was my very first digital camera! While the RX100’s sensor is smaller than that of a DSLR, it is larger than most other point and shoots and it performs considerably well in low light. The colours straight out of the camera are great, which is important to me when I’m traveling so I don’t have to spend a lot of time editing to get the look I want! My favourite feature on the RX100 is the pop-up viewfinder, which not only saves battery (as you’re not using the LCD screen) but also allows for much better vision in very bright sunlight. There is a saying, ‘The best camera is the one you have with you.’ The RX100 operates very quickly from waking up to focusing and shooting, so it’s definitely a camera you can always have ready.
4 How do you find the most interesting angles and perspectives to shoot from?
(Olga in Paris)
Why do most people who buy good digital cameras for travelling have the same photos? Because they are always shooting at the level of their eyes. To make interesting images, just change the position of your body. Try sitting down, kneeling, lying on your belly or on your back to give you a new image of the same place. When I shoot walking people in Paris, I’m circulating around them all the time. My legs help me to get closer and farther away, creating new perspectives. Patterns such as lines or recurrent objects always look wonderful. You can use them in order to accent the subject. Generally, the lines are the magic part of the frame. If you use them correctly, they will attract the viewer’s eye to the subject like a magnet. When I walk around Paris, I pay attention not only to beautiful architecture, but to any action that takes place within these streets: how light is diffusing, how people’s reflections appear in the coffee shops. All these details are so important if you want your photos to tell stories.
5 What are your top travel photography dos and don’ts?
(Gonçalo B in Lisbon)
Plan your trip, so you can be there when something special is happening (best light, cultural events, tree foliage … )
Choose (whenever possible) the appropriate time for best light in each location (yes, that means getting up early!)
Choose a subject instead of trying to shoot everything you see. You will end up with an interesting selection of meaningful photos that tell a story, instead of a random all-over-the-place group of snapshots.
Be respectful of local customs and sensitivities.
Know when to put down the camera and experience the surroundings.
Photograph everything (and the kitchen sink) on your trip. You will spend more time choosing the lens to shoot with than actually making pictures!
Store your camera bag in the trunk of your car in plain sight (thieves love this). If you must leave it in the car, store it before arriving at your location and don’t open the trunk again.
Be loud and obtrusive … unless you want photos of angry people!
6 What photo editing tools do you use and recommend?
(Orlando in Barcelona)
I edit my photos very simply. I don’t take too much time, although I did before, but now my practice is pretty simple. I always start by selecting my best photos in Photo Mechanic, as this software is amazing. After this, I use Lightroom to edit lights, shadows, saturation and temperature. When I have completed this edit, I apply the Red Leaf Boutique presets. The one I love so much is called Fernweh. After editing with this, I apply the last touch of colour, style and sharpening that I want for each photo in Alien Skin Exposure. With this last touch, I have my photos ready! For black and white, I use Silver Efex Pro with some tweaks in every photo.
7 What are the differences between shooting at a beach vs a busy city vs a safari? How do you get the best shots in each location?
(Natelee in Dubai)
The beach is always a gamble, as it could be secluded or completely packed. I always try to find a spot where it’s a little more private; this gives your clients a better opportunity to relax with a beautiful backdrop. My favourite time at the beach is at sunrise; it’s quiet, and with beautiful soft light and the relaxed environment, it just makes for the most beautiful images. Shooting in the hustle and bustle of the city is always fun and you never know what’s going to happen next! The best part of shooting in the city is that you’re able to capture the culture, surroundings and life happening around your subjects, while they are taking it all in. With a safari, you have more control over the locations, and the vibe is more relaxed. With these beautiful wide-open spaces, it brings the entire focus of your images on your subjects while they are interacting with each other and having fun.
8 What are your best tips for shooting at night?
(Bayu & Vony in Bali)
Position the person near any source of light (such as a street light). Minimize movements to avoid blur and shake in the photos.
9 How do you add visual interest to a photo so that it doesn’t seem like something that’s been seen a hundred times before?
(Chelsea in Honolulu)
For me, the visual interest is the subject themselves, no matter what the surroundings. I absolutely tie in the location – we’re Flytographers of course, and these fine folks are on vacation – but every person brings something different, sweet and new to the session, and in turn, to each photo I take. I like to bring out as much from my clients as possible that is happy and true to them so that they fill the photos. Once we’ve got that fun, authentic energy established, I do more work on my end with framing, different points of view, and making use of different planes of focus. For example, shooting through the trees, shooting through my hands, shooting from high above or below, and taking a moment to create space with a wide shot. Locations are a huge part of any Flytographer shoot, but it’s the people in them that make them special.
10 Photo filters: Friend or foe?
(Hector in London)
One filter won’t save a bad picture and a good picture can be ruined by a filter! Saying this sounds like they are a foe, but generally speaking, I think a photo filter is a friend. If used in moderation and tweaking to your taste, it can enhance aspects from an image to make it better. Still, it is about photography and not the editing apps for me. We photographers do use software all the time to make our photos pop, though, so … yes, whether you call it filters on your phone or presets on your computer, if used nicely, a good picture can get better with some filter/preset editing work.