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How to Take Better Travel Photos

Mueller Hut Trail in Mount Cook, New Zealand one of the best places to visit on the south island

This is a guide with examples on how to take better travel photos including different compositions and editing software. It also includes links to many useful youtube tutorials on using photo editing programs and exporting your photos for social media. 

How to Take Better Travel Photos

When you travel, one of the best ways to capture your favourite moments is with a camera. Photos are a living memory of your trip and also something you can show your friends and family. They freeze those perfect amazing moments while you’re travelling or on holiday.

I have been travelling for the past few years and in that time I developed a passion for photography. By no means did I have any idea what I was doing before that nor did I have much of an understanding of technology. In fact, until I got my first camera 2 years ago I hadn’t taken many photos before.

The reason this is important is that when I did start to learn, I found that this elusive industry was actually not that hard to pick up and learn.

Often photographers like to over complicate things. People like to think no one could do what they do, and maybe for some of the most elite photographers that is true, but, to take and edit a great landscape shot to post on social media or show your friends – it’s really not that hard.

I’m going to show you how to take better travel photos in this guide by explaining what makes a great shot and how to edit them.

Related Read:   Where to Take the Best Photos in Mount Cook National Park

Composition

A good composition is the most important factor for getting a great travel photo. The composition is what the photo is made up of, or what you include in the frame. Basically, it’s where you point the camera and at what.

Here are some great examples and styles of good composition’s to improve your travel photography.

Using the foreground

One of the best tips for creating a really engaging photo is by placing something in your foreground. This helps with depth of field and really makes images look more engaging to the viewer. It has the effect of putting them in the moment or taking you back to that moment. See images below for examples.

How to take better travel photos
Using a log in the foreground to create depth of field
how to take better travel photos
You can also use a person or yourself!

Human Scale

Using human scale is another great way of showing just how amazing the place you are shooting is. By putting someone in the frame far away you can really gauge the size of the place you are visiting. This is best used in large shots of valleys, mountains, etc.

How to take better travel photos
Showing the full scale of Mount Cook National Park
how to take better travel photos
Using human scale and silhouette
Related Read:   Backpacking as a Couple: How to Survive Travelling With Your Partner

Symmetry

I love composing shots with perfect symmetry. There is something so soothing about looking at a shot that’s perfectly symmetrical. This works great with reflections and you can see by the examples below.

how to take better travel photos
Reflections are my favourite!
how to take better travel photos
More reflections


Leading lines

Using leading lines is one of the most powerful tools for directing someone’s eye to the subject. Leading lines are essentially anything in the photo that leads to something. This can be footprints, logs, roads, rivers etc. When out in the field looking for a shot, keep an eye out for anything that directs your eye to something. See some examples below.

how to take better travel photos and tips
Using the road and line markings to lead to both the person and the mountain!
How to take better travel photos
Using a bridge to direct immediate attention to the subject

Silhouettes

I love shooting silhouettes. They are great during early sunrise or late sunset. They also help the viewer imagine themselves in that location. A great tip is to focus on body shape. If you stand with your hands by your side and feet together you’re going to look like a blob. So keep your arms and legs out and your silhouette travel photos will be looking good!

how to take better travel photos
Keeping some light moving through our bodies for a better effect
How to take better travel photos
Same thing again! Late sunset light between the body!


Allow for Cropping

If you are shooting a photo from social media then you need to consider that in your composition. Let’s take Instagram for example. The best crop for Instagram is a 4×5 ratio. This allows your photo to take up the most of someone’s screen making it stand out more. No camera takes photos in that ratio so you need to allow for the cropping of your image in your composition.

If you shoot landscape, then you will only be able to use a small amount of that photo when you crop to 4×5. However, if you shoot in portrait you will be cropping less of the photo. This is why I almost always shoot in portrait when I am shooting a photo for Instagram. It makes it a lot easier to get a good composition.

How to take better travel Photos
Cropping a landscape shot for Instagram at a 4×5 ratio
How to take better travel photos
Same crop but in portrait. Notice much less of the photo is lost!

Editing

Yep, it’s true! Almost all the photos you see on social media are edited, but it’s not always what you think.
Many photographers shoot in RAW instead of JPEG. This means that your image has not been processed at all and needs editing. A JPEG is essentially an edited RAW photo but it’s been done by your camera (as opposed to a person.)

So, don’t get too angry when someone says a photo is edited as any photo you take on a smartphone is edited by a highly smart internal computer!

The benefit to editing yourself is you can put your own spin on an image and be more particular about what you love about it and what you don’t. If you really want to take amazing travel photos then consider shooting in RAW as it means you can edit an image more without losing quality. With that said, you can edit JPEGs perfectly fine too.

Editing Software

The best editing software for beginners is Lightroom by Adobe. In Lightroom, you can make all your general adjustments and well as many more! You can get the Lightroom app for free, however, you do have to pay a monthly fee for the software. You can get Lightroom on mobile and desktop for as little as $9.99 USD per month.

To me, the program is good value and the Lightroom only plan comes with 1 terabyte or 1000gb of cloud storage.

There are two Lightroom programs. One is Lightroom CC, this is the app based editing and can be used on phones and desktop. It’s slightly simpler and easier to use version.

The other is Lightroom Classic CC. This is for desktop based editing and is a little more complicated but still very easy to use. It comes with a few extra features. There is a package that includes both Lightrooms and Photoshop for $9.99 per month.

I honestly use Lightroom every day and love the software. It improved my travel photos a lot.

If you do decide you would like to download and use Abobe Lightroom, then using this link helps us out! You pay the same and we make a small commission to keep our blog going! Thanks!

how to take better travel photos
Lightroom edit before and after. Notice how bland and dull RAW images are. This is why they need editing.

Learning how to use Lightroom

The best way to learn is on Youtube – this is how I learned. There are countless videos that show you how to use Lightroom, and to be honest, once you learn the basics it’s really easy. The trick is to develop your own style and it helps bring out the artist in you. Some great videos are:

Editing guide to Lightroom CC Mobile 
Editing Guide to Lightroom Classic CC
Export settings for Instagram Lightroom Classic CC 

Related Read:   The Hard Truth About Travel Blogging

Get a tripod!

Travelling with a tripod is a great way to improve your travel photos. When it comes to getting the right composition a tripod really helps but it also helps keep your photos as sharp as possible no matter your shutter speed.

When it comes to using it for composition, it is a great idea to switch from your eyepiece to your LCD screen so you can see a live photo of what you’re shooting. This means you can really visualize the shot and make small adjustments. It’s crazy how the most minor adjustments can affect your photos.

Of course, tripods can be bulky so it best to get a lightweight travel tripod in order to make travelling with it easy. Some great options are below!

Stop putting pressure on yourself!

I really believe that your mood shows in your photos. If you’re stressed about getting an amazing shot it just won’t happen. Shooting should be done with a smile and a positive attitude. Just remember that there are plenty of times to shoot again.

I always get the best photos when I’m happy and relaxed. I find myself far more creative and inspired! So relax, smile, and enjoy capturing beautiful moments without worry!

How to take better travel photos is a big topic online. Honestly, there is no magical answer just a few techniques that can help you improve. The best way to learn is to take some of the examples I used and copy their different styles in the field. This will be great practice for you and will help get you on the right track.

I hope you found this article helpful! If you have any questions about taking or editing photos, or a great camera to get please leave them below in the comments!

-Daniel

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