Travel Photography – Top 10 Tips

Travel Photography is no longer just the pursuit of professionals and intrepid explorers of distant lands. The rise of incredible camera phone capabilities and more affordable DSLRs has made photography accessible to the masses, and where they go their cameras will follow!

The rise in popularity of travel and photography has made it increasingly difficult for aspiring photographers to make money from travel photography alone; at the same time the opportunities now afforded to you by social media and easy-to-use blogs have made it possible to put your images in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers at the click of a button.

Finding the winning combination of spectacular images and online exposure can be tricky. I’ve put together my Top 10 Tips for Travel Photography to give you and your images the best chances of standing out from the rest, and to help you capture the world like never before:

The Sun sets on the horizon behind some of the most iconic structures in the World – Paris at possibly it’s most beautiful.

#1 Dawn to Dusk and Beyond

There are no lazy mornings for a travel photographer!

Many of the best opportunities to capture incredible lighting and awe-inspiring skies happen as the Sun breaks the horizon at dawn and of course whilst setting at the other end of the day. This of course means you need to be set-up, composed and ready to shoot in good time before the Sun actually rises – and the same applies at Dusk.

When shooting at Dusk, make sure you don’t stop shooting when the Sun sinks below the horizon – wait for the beautiful pinks, purples and mauves to illuminate the clouds and give good time for any lights in the landscape to add a little extra sparkle to your shot!


#2 Terrible Weather, Amazing Photographs

You need your images to be unique. A sure way to capture something completely different, is to explore your location in terrible weather – afterall, who else would be crazy enough to venture out into the wind, rain and hail with their camera in-hand?

The behaviour of people and tone of the environment changes drastically with the weather, and though most will explore only on sunny days; I encourage you to don a waterproof (for your camera at the very least) and change your perception of a rainy day.

A chef grills skewered meat for the locals in Tokyo, Japan.

#3 Scout it Out, Sit it Out

If you’re somewhere new or just a little less familiar to you, make sure you spend ample time exploring and looking for future photographic opportunities. It isn’t all about ‘chance encounters’ and many of the most iconic travel shots have required a great deal of patience – find the setting and then wait for the subject.

Whether it is a winding alley in the backstreets of Istanbul or a picturesque Parisian cafe; don’t settle for an average shot. Spend some time lingering, get comfy and wait for the right moment to shoot your image.

#4 Show Your Sensitive Side

You should try to be as unobtrusive as possible, so that you impact your surroundings and subjects as little as possible. Be friendly and adhere to local customs, consider whether your clothing is appropriate for the environment and make sure you’re not making anyone uncomfortable with your camera.

Considering simple things like this can make all the difference, dissolve any hostile or uncertain feelings towards ‘the strange guy (or girl) with the camera’ and allow you to shoot a much more natural photograph that captures the true nature of the place and people.

A combination of two exposures shot at around 5am overlooking the Seine River in Paris, France.

#5 Visualize in Manual

Imagine the image you want to capture before lifting your camera. Consider the atmosphere you want to create and the story you want the photograph to tell. Think about the composition and lighting options available to you and adjust your camera settings accordingly.

Never rely on your cameras auto mode to shoot the image for you; every situation will be different and only by knowing your camera and equipment intimately will you be able to capture the world as you really see it.

#6 Lighten your Load

Travel can be tiring even without all of the photography equipment, so a well-planned kit list is essential for every travel photographer.

The equipment you’ll need will be different for each and every location and preparation is always important. Drill down your kit list to only the items you really need, so that you are light, mobile, and comfortable carrying everything for many hours at a time.

Comfort isn’t the only reason to travel light; in many places it will be beneficial to blend in with the crowds and look less like a tourist. This will help you to capture more natural images without making people feel uncomfortable.

Fisherman set passed the Sunset and into the early evening off the shores of Koggala, Sri Lanka.

#7 Get Lost

It is great to have a plan, but don’t let that get in the way of your curiosity and spirit of adventure!

Some of my favourite shots have been those that were unexpected, after following an unknown path or the suggestion of a local. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and leave time to explore the places you visit – the photography is important but so is the experience!

#8 Composition is Key

Travel photography relies much more on your instinct and reactions to different situations than other forms of photography. You won’t always be able to introduce new light sources or ask subjects to move or look a certain way, and a lot of the time you simply have to make the most of the scenarios you are presented with. Sometimes there will just be a few seconds for you to capture the image before it’s too late…

Always try to remember your different rules of composition, and apply them when shooting. You’ll find that over time you develop your own style and preferred compositional techniques – whether following the rule of thirds, golden ration or using leading lines.

Ensuring that compositional rules are always in the back of your mind will help to instantly improve the aesthetics of your image and drastically reduce post-processing time!

A small temple in Kyoto, Japan.

#9 Immerse Yourself 

Take time to really get to know a place. Spend time wandering the streets, sitting in the cafes and talking to the locals. Explore the markets, do some people-watching and enjoy the cuisine.

Immersing yourself in the day-to-day life of locations your shooting will give you an insight into the true spirit of the place and help you to be a better photographer; by understanding the culture, the people and their values, and allowing you to capture more honest and intimate imagery.

#10 Take Note and Stay in Touch

This last point is often easily overlooked, but definitely one of the most important…

Make sure that as you travel and capture your incredible images, take notes of everything from the place names and restaurants to the hotels you stay at and the streets you shoot in.

These notes will help you to write about the images when sharing online and to tag relevant places and locations on social media.

Similarly if you’re taking photographs of people, make sure that you get their name and contact details! Send them a copy of the photograph, maybe add them as a friend online and share your work with them.

Networking is a vital in the life of a travel photographer.

Hopefully these tips will help you to achieve some fantastic images, whether you’re an enthusiastic traveller with a camera or hoping to become a pro.

If you have advice of your own, why not share it in a comment below?

If you’d like to see more of my images please visit www.aaronnorthcott.com or click on the links below.

Aaron NorthcottOther articles by author

A multi award-winning photographer, Aaron has a diverse portfolio of powerful, inspiring imagery and an impressive résumé of clients and commissions.

Specialising in Wildlife, Travel & Landscape photography, the work Aaron produces has been seen around the world and has been used for everything from Tourism and Conservation to Outdoor Living, Lifestyle and Adventure.

Aarons passion for photography, his subjects and the world around us is always evident through the images he captures - and pushes himself constantly to be one of the most versatile, creative and innovative visual artists working in the photography industry today.

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