Looking to improve your photography? Here is our comprehensive guide to the best tips on travel photography for beginners that we have used on the road throughout all our travels across the globe
It’s early morning in the mountains.
You’ve gone hiking with a friend in the snow-capped mountains of Canada.
You’ve brought along your shiny new digital camera to take some epic photos.
You’ve pulled it out of your bag, taken the lens cap off, turned the camera on and pointed it towards the mountains and pressed the shoot button.
You go back home and realise your photo is blurry, unappealing and not in focus.
And you think to yourself ‘I could really use some tips on travel photography’.
We’ve been lucky enough to explore and photography some of the worlds most stunning natural landscapes, which have made us some pretty bad-ass nature photographers (in our opinion)
If your goal is to get better at taking amazing travel photography images, improve your skills and even turn your images into prints then read on and prepare to learn
20 Essential Tips on Travel Photography
1. Know your camera
With so many cameras on the market in 2021, the brand of camera you choose should always come second to learning how to use your camera.
Landscape Photography does not care for the brand or cost of your camera, but taking timeless and remarkable photos will require you understand the ins and outs of your camera.
One of our best tips on travel photography is to take the time to learn how your camera works.
Know the capacity and capability of your camera, in what situations to use which setting or function, how well your camera performs under certain conditions such as colder temperatures or warmer climates etc.
Does your camera produce a high level of noise at higher ISO’s (more on that later), is it a cropped sensor camera or a full frame sensor.
Play around with the buttons, functions and menus of your camera and you will quickly improve your landscape travel photography.
2. Wake Up early, stay out late
There’s a very good reason some of the best photographers in the world go out very early mornings, and stay out very late past sunset.
Not only are the lighting conditions the craziest early morning and late evening, its also a time of day when wildlife come out or return to their homes; so your chances of coming across animals and wildlife are at the highest at these times.
Amazing travel photography (most of the time) does not happen during the middle of the day when the sun is at its harshest, although not impossible..
Our top travel photography tip for beginners is to get out of bed earlier than normal, and stay out a little longer past sunset to see those amazing colours.
We still struggle to do this even now, especially when its super cold out and the last thing you want to do is get out of bed however our tips on travel photography come from the knowledge and experience of getting up early, and too late!
For some reference, here is a list of items we use on the daily
3. Golden Hour, Blue Hour, Astro…
What do all these mean?
These terms become SUPER IMPORTANT when we discuss landscape travel photography so listen up!
Let’s break it down into simple terms.
Golden Hour refers to the hour or so before and after sunrise and sunset.
That is, if the sun rises at 7 o clock in the morning then the golden hour period starts approximately one hour before and the same goes for sunset.
This period changes through the seasons, with the golden hour period becoming shortened in the winter, but the same rules apply.
After the sun has set and the golden hour is said and done, one of our most underrated tips on travel photography is to stay out even longer!
Blue hour is the period after the sun has set roughly half an hour to an hour later, and the sky becomes filled with a blue hue.
Fair warning it will get colder by this point, and you won’t see all the oranges, pinks and reds instead you will find hues of blue and purple, with a few stars out if its a clear night.
Some of our favourite photos and indeed famous photographers’ photos have been captured during these hours.
Soft light, beautiful composition and warm gloves are all you need.
Amazing travel photography cant go without mentioning one of the more niche and fun genres of photography.
Astrophotography is taking photos of the night time sky.
Astro is a whole new world of photography so for now we will focus on tips on travel photography (stay tuned for our new astro guide coming soon)
This can include everything from the Milky Way, a starry night, comets, planets and the moon.
Conditions have to be perfect for the best chance of capturing things like the Milky Way, such as next to no cloud cover, no rain and a new moon for the best chance of taking epic Astroscapes!
4. Research your location
Whilst it is fun turning up to a place and spontaneously pulling out your camera and shooting endlessly, the best images come from those who know the landscape well.
Researching where you plan to shoot, from what angle and at what time of the day can make the difference between an average shot, and a great shot!
That’s not to say that amazing photos can’t be taken spontaneously, in fact many are.
But knowing the most ideal times of day and location scouting can mean a world of difference to your final product.
Nature photographers do this ALL the time.
The reason they are able to capture the best scene possible is because they have pre-though, pre-organised and pre-planned almost everything down to the letter.
Often overlooked and underestimated in any articles we have ever read about tips on travel photography is the need to research and plan your shoot.
The element of surprise will come when the right light pops through the clouds or over the horizon, until then most other aspects are within your control.
5. Find Inspiration
Part of the fun of being a landscape travel photographer or nature photographer is being out in nature.
Being a witness to the beauty around you and taking it all in.
Choosing how you want your photo to look can be done in a few different ways.
Going online and scrolling through search engines like Google Image Search, Pinterest or Instagram to find images taken of a place you plan on visiting can be enough to spark ideas and creativity about your own image.
Try not to copy others though, this will ruin your creativity in the long run and turn you into an Instagram photographer. (sorry to say it)
Visiting your shooting location in advance is one of the best ways to learn travel photography and make yourself a well rounded photographer.
We talk about tips on travel photography as if each rule is more important than the next, and they are not.
They are all equally important as each other.
Composition is no different, but one than will make a huge difference to the appeal and charisma of your image.
There are dozens of rules used in travel photography that one should follow in order to take a good shot.
Lets just say that rules are meant to be broken.
But let’s keep two of these rules in mind that you should generally stick to.
Rule of thirds
Say we took a scene, landscape, wildlife or astro and we placed 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines through the image.
We now have 9 equal squares dividing up our image, essentially into equal thirds.
The goal with the rule of thirds is to place your subject (person, animal, landscape) onto one of those lines.
These lines are based on the premise that is conceptually most pleasing to the eye to view an image where the subject focus is on this imaginary set of 3rd lines.
The idea is to avoid placing your subject inside the boxes without touching most of one, if not two dissecting lines.
It is one of the more important rules in landscape travel photography and the most used rule of composition.
These tips on travel photography will be used on almost every image you take in the field so remembering them won’t be a problem for you.
In fact they are so common you don’t even recognise them.
One of the greatest travel photography tips for beginners is this one, learning to use leading lines.
Any time you see natural lines within a landscape, building shape, stroke of light or subjects, the leading lines are natural lines within the image that lead the viewers eyes to a point or subject within the background of the image.
Roads for example.
Roads are a terrific example of leading lines because they direct your attention into the scene to a particular subject.
A road that leads to a mountain range in the background is a prime example of the power of leading lines.
Your eyes are drawn along the road, through the image into the mountain ranges.
Once you know how to find leading lines, you won’t be able to stop seeing them.
It’s one of those tips on travel photography you dont easily forget.
7. Use a tripod
Your new best friend will be your tripod. Lightweight, compact and easily purchased from camera stores everywhere.
Nature photographers and landscape travel photographers use this almost every day.
A tripod allows you to set up your camera at a scene, in order to take images in low light, when you want to capture motion in an image or for taking panorama shots.
Tripods are a must have tool for those wanting to learn travel photography and experiment with creativity.
Tripods are essential in trying to capture motion in waterfalls, moving clouds or depict business or motion in your images.
One travel photography tip on a budget we can share is that you don’t need to buy the most expensive camera out there but you will need one that’s strong enough to support your camera’s weight plus the weight of the lens.
8. Wide Lens VS Zoom lens
We’re getting into the technical tips on travel photography here but it’s the best part.
Different lenses produce different results based on their focal length, i.e. 50-200mm lens vs 10-24mm lens.
Zoom lenses produce a compositoonal technique known as compression, making objecs appear closer than they are.
You can only achieve this effect by using some form of zoom lens in your brand.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on lenses but bear in mind that higher quality lenses do produce cleaner, sharper images.
They are also exponentially more expensive, but that’s not to say you can’t take amazing travel photography images with cheaper lenses; it’s all about technique and light.
People can spend thousands of dollars on camera gear to find the same results in their images from gear less expensive.
As you progress and get better then you can consider upgrading your gear but for now enjoy the process of learning and upgrade when the time is right for you.
9. Shooting timeless images
One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard from one of our photography idols, Chris Burkard was to “take timeless” images.
What he meant was to shoot images in a way that in 40 or 50 years time you wouldn’t be able to tell when the photo was taken.
It resonates with the viewer because it does not conform to a specific time or place in time.
Instead you’re encapsulated by the imagery in the photo without knowing details of it.
Amazing travel photography does just this; it invites you in without parameters of how or why.
Techniques and tips on travel photography come in many forms, but we’ve found through personal experience what helps us take timeless imagery is by using humans as subjects, grandiose scale and combining the two.
BONUS TIP: Make sure you protect your gear when you travel buy taking out Travel Insurance. If you value your tech gear and even make money from it then it becomes more than necessary to ensure you covered for loss or damage to your stuff.
We use World Nomads Travel Insurance to protect not only ourselves but our gear as well. We would only recommend companies we trust and have used previously so we highly recommend World Nomads Insurance.
10. Zoom with your legs
Bet you have never heard this tip on travel photography before.
Let’s say you’re trying to photograph a scene and you want to get closer or further away from it; naturally you reach for a lens that will accomplish this.
But what if you don’t have the right lens? Zoom with your legs.
In most situations aside from photographing wildlife (don’t try this with lions) you can achieve the desired zoom and reach from your lens simply by moving either closer to, or further away from your subject.
A quality zoom lens can set you back $500-$1500 dollars minimum…but legs are free.
We’re not saying don’t buy a zoom lens, but remember that changing your angle and distance to something can dramatically improve how the image looks.
11. The Exposure Triangle
The exposure triangle is a triangle used to explain the relationship between three key elements in photography; ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
All three elements change how much light hits the cameras sensor and ultimately how your image turns out.
They all affect different aspects of an image but also change the creativity and beauty of your image in very unique ways.
Understanding this triangle is the most important technical point in our tips on travel photography guide.
Aperture is how wide or narrow the blades of your lens are, and it dictates how much light hits the sensor.
It also does a couple other super important things like change how sharp your image is from back to front and change the depth of field of your image.
The next couple of tips on travel photography sections are going to get a bit deep and heavy so bare with us.
Your aperture is measured in F-stops, like f.2.8, f5.6 or f16.
The lower the number the wider the aperture, the higher the number the more narrower the aperture.
A wider aperture equates to more light onto the sensor but it also means subjects closer to the lens are in focus and the background is blurry.
This effect is called bokeh.
A more narrow aperture, will mean a higher f-stop like f16 or f22 and will produce a sharp, in focus image from back to front with no bokeh,
If you want to learn travel photography, or any genre of photography then getting the hang of this is key.
13. Shutter Speed
Think of aperture as the pupil of your eye.
Your pupils dilate in dark situations to allow more light in, and they constrict in bright, sunny situations.
If your pupils are the aperture, then blinking is the shutter speed.
Your shutter is a mechanical curtain that is the sound you hear when you press the ‘take photo’ button.
This too changes how much light hits the sensor but it also does one very important function and this is to either freeze motion or show it.
These tips on travel photography are starting to sound more like a biology class!
We’ll demonstrate this by the following image
As you can see the image shows the water moving in the scene, represented by the flowy, misty effect.
To achieve this you increase the amount of time your shutter speed is open to the sensor and is measured in fractions of a second, like 1/125th, 1/500th, 0.5 sec, 1 sec or 30 seconds.
The quicker the shutter speed the more action you freeze, the slower the shutter the more motion you capture.
Many landscape travel photography is done using both a tripod and slow shutter speeds to show moving clouds or to capture more light in a scene.
It’s such a great tip on travel photography because it allows for the most creativity in your images.
If you’ve ever heard the terms grainy or noisy in photography, they are referring to ISO.
ISO is a measure of how sensitive your sensor is to light, and you have direct control over that sensitivity.
Most modern camera technology allows for low ISo settings down to 50, but most default to 100; and this is where you want to stay at unless you have too.
You see the higher the ISO, the more noise and grain you introduce in your image, and whilst this can be a creative choice, it generally means a lower quality image.
If you do a lot of astrophotography then naturally you will have ISO’s upwards of 1600-6400 because you’re trying to introduce more light into the image to capture the stars.
The relationship between both Aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the most basic of all the technical tips on travel photography but mastering these will make your photography POP!
15. Manual mode photography
Choosing the right exposure for your image is what amazing travel photography is all about.
Most cameras will come with different shooting modes, like aperture priority, shutter priority or manual mode.
Using manual mode allows for full creativity and control of the camera but it also forces you to think about all your elements.
If you want to master the technique of photography then shoot in manual mode to consolidate your skills and knowledge in landscape travel photography.
16. Shoot in RAW
When you take a photo your camera stores that image in two sorts of files: RAW or JPEG.
A RAW file by nature is much larger in size because it captures an image without any processing or compression in the image.
When you edit this image in post you have a lot more data in the file to manipulate, such as details in the shadows and highlights.
Shooting in JPEG naturally produces a smaller file size because it has already processed the image in-camera and compressed the file before it’s uploaded onto your computer.
Whilst JPEG file sizes are much smaller they contain less information and therefore allow for less post-processing in editing software.
We’re beginning to get into the more advanced tips on travel photography so we will only briefly touch on this topic so the take home message should be to always shoot in raw.
17. Post- processing
If you’ve made it this far into the article thank you.
You’ve come a long way in your journey towards being a more knowledgeable photographer.
Post-processing is the art of changing your photos and bringing back details to suit a creative style.
Some people view it as cheating, but I can guarantee that every photographer manipulates their photo in some way, whether you’re recovering details from the shadows or highlights or cropping an image to highlight an aspect of it, these small changes are a part of the process.
If you want to learn travel photography be ok with the concept of enhancing your images in post production.
18. Find your niche
One of the most exciting aspects of the journey is finding your niche.
That could be anything from wildlife photography, travel photography, landscape photography, urban and street, portraits or astrophotography.
And whilst you don’t necessarily have to only stick to one genre at all, if you decide to make photography your job and lifestyle, it does help to be really good at at least one specific genre.
19. Have fun shooting
The art of photography is meant to be enjoyable.
Like we said in the very beginning, being out surrounded by nature immersing yourself in the natural beauty of nature is what it’s all about.
The process has to be fun. If it is not fun then you should reconsider your choice of hobbies and where you invest your time and money.
You will take just as many great photos as you will not-so-great.
Our tips for the beginner photographer is to stay motivated, stay hungry and love what you do.
20. Be patient
Like much of the tips discussed above, the art of photography takes time to develop.
We all don’t come out after a week taking photographs like a seasoned National Geographic Photographer.
This even applies to when on location shooting. You have to wait for the right moment to pass, the right light, the right moment the animal steps into your frame.
Know when to shoot, or when not too. These come down to patience; and if you enjoy the process enough then waiting should be half the fun of it!
We hope this general guide for Tips on Travel Photography has been helpful for you.
If you have any other questions about anything listed above or more we’d love to hear from you.
Remember to get out there and start shooting! Practice, practice, practice.
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