Traveling is the best way to start with photography. You’ll be at unique and picturesque destinations, while you’ll have more time to experiment and improve your skills. And you don’t even need to be a professional photographer to create the most stunning shots! With the right equipment – from the perfect camera to accessories such as filters or an external hard drive – and the right tips, you too can make the most beautiful photos. To help you get started, we teamed up with other travel bloggers and photographers to make a list of the best travel photography tips for beginners. From choosing the right camera and tools to creating the perfect composition, these tips will take your travel photos to the next level!
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How to choose the right camera
#1 Start by using your phone camera
By Becki of Meet me in Departures
Even if you’re the world’s most talented photographer, or own the best camera, it’s totally irrelevant if you don’t have a camera on you. Some of the best photos often happen out of spontaneity, capturing the moment as it happens. Let’s face it, even a professional photographer doesn’t carry a camera about 100% of the time.
So one of the best travel photography tips is to know that the best camera, is the one you have on you, and for most of us, that’s our smartphone. Although it won’t have the technical ability, compared to a DSLR, you can still get professional-looking images, especially if you spend time learning how to use it properly and go beyond just taking selfies.
Modern smartphones come with multiple lenses and features so experiment to see which ones work best. The wide-angle lenses on some Smartphones are impressive, to say the least! Although you could use your smartphone to point-and-shoot, also have a play about with some of the manual settings to get the most out of it. As for composition, just like with all photography, focus on the composition, leading lines and rule of thirds.
Learning how to use your smartphone to capture professional-looking photos is also useful when you’re traveling and don’t necessarily want to draw attention to yourself. Nothing screams ‘tourist’ than an expensive-looking camera slung around your neck, so from a safety point of view, it can often be better to shoot images using your Smartphone.
#2 Go for mirrorless (and not DSLR)
By Holly of Globeblogging
The adage is true, the best camera is the one that you have. These days the quality of phone cameras is amazing, and I’ve taken some really exceptional photos on my phone. While everyone has a phone in their pocket, and it certainly meets the test of convenience, there will always be a limitation with the results that can be achieved, particularly when it comes to finer manipulations and zooming.
I had always been too deterred by the size and weight of a DSLR camera to take the leap to convert. I’m an active traveler and spend a lot of time hiking, the last thing I wanted was a heavy camera swinging from my neck and getting in the way when I was clambering up a rock face!
I was introduced to the Olympus Micro Four Thirds range of cameras and it was the ideal compromise. These have all the versatility and capability of an interchangeable lens camera, but with a smaller sensor and mirrorless technology which enables them to come in a package that is a fraction of the size and weight. They are also much cheaper than a full-frame DSLR, but still incredibly capable of producing excellent results and capturing color beautifully, making them the ideal camera for capturing travel memories. I started with the EM10 and shoot on an Olympus EM5 currently, which is the middle model of the range. Olympus is constantly refining its technology and the cameras are packed with easy to use features which can help with achieving great results, and plenty of options for equipment depending on what results the photographer is looking for.
#3 Learn what camera suits your type of photography
By Soumya Goswami of Nature Dairy
Create long-lasting memories by capturing images during your travels. Although it’s not cheap, photography is a great hobby and can be very rewarding. You can learn in different directions- landscape photography, street photography, event photography, wildlife photography, etc. Some photography styles require additional equipment, such as macro lenses or underwater cameras. However, a standard photography camera will do the trick for the most part. Here are some essential camera requirements for different types of photography-
- landscape photography: A high megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens is crucial for landscape photography. You also need a high range of ISO, as a higher light-gathering ability is needed.
- street photography: Continuous shooting speed and excellent autofocus are essential for street photography. You also need a compact, lightweight camera body to carry easily.
- event photography: Light and shooting speed play the most important role in event photography. For this reason, get a camera with a large range of ISO and shutter speed.
- wildlife photography: In this type of photography, you need to capture far-away wild animals. Thus, choose a camera with a full-size sensor, large depth of field with high ISO, and shutter speed range. A telephoto lens is often required in wildlife photography.
- sports photography: If you are a sports photography enthusiast, choose a high megapixel camera with a wide shutter speed and ISO range. A fast continuous shooting speed also contributes to capturing excellent sports photos.
Apart from the above points, you may also like macro photography, portrait photography, architectural photography, fashion photography during your travel. Once you master the fundamental camera settings, choosing a dedicated photography style will be easy.
#4 Limit your choices to the best-known brands
When choosing a camera, you might get lost with all the different options. How to select the best camera for you as a starting photographer? This tip will help you make this choice a little easier: limit your choices to well-known camera brands such as Canon, Sony or Nikon.
The well-known brands might appeal to you as a beginner, as you have already heard of them and feel confident about their quality. We understand that and did the same when picking our first camera. But even if you’re not buying your first camera, it is a great choice to opt for a well-known camera brand. We had several reasons to limit our choices to Canon, Sony and Nikon and eventually choose a Canon camera again.
The best thing about well-known camera brands is how common they are. Many people will have the exact same camera or at least a very similar one. This will make it very easy to find practical tips online about your specific camera. You’ll get to use YouTube tutorials and read photography blogs with details tips, so you can easily learn all about camera settings. Choosing a bigger brand will make it much easier to find help getting to know your camera in detail.
If you’re done learning about your camera and want to start using some more advanced accessories or lenses, you’ll also find how easy this is when using a common camera brand. You’ll know for sure that your Canon camera will work with all the different lenses Canon has on the market. You don’t have to look for an adaptor or double-check whether that specific lens fits your body. The bigger brands also have a wide choice of lenses. And if your budget is a bit more limited, it’s also nice to know that you can easier buy those brands secondhand.
After our first camera was stolen in Mexico, we found it very difficult to pick out a new camera. But one thing was always clear for us: it will be one of the well-known brands, preferably a Canon again.
#5 Choose the right lens
By Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad
When it comes to travel photography, camera lenses make a huge difference. You can have the best camera in the world, but you have to pair it with the right lenses in order to achieve the results you want.
As a travel photographer myself, I use the Sony a7III full-frame camera. It’s a very powerful device that takes impeccable photos. However, I make sure to switch lenses according to the kind of travel photos I want to take. Luckily, there are many incredible Sony a7III lenses out there.
Oftentimes, if I’m shooting grandiose architecture or majestic landscapes, a regular lens simply isn’t wide enough to capture the whole scene, especially if there’s no space for you to stand farther back. That’s where wide-angle lenses come in. With the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM wide-angle lens, I don’t need to “cut out” parts of the scenery from the frame.
If you want to shoot a dreamy starry night, you will need a lens that performs well in low-light situations. Wide-aperture lenses are great for this kind of photography. I always use the Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM to shoot dark skies, because its wide aperture allows a lot of light to come in, creating beautiful noise-free photos even in the dark.
If you’re planning to take photos of wildlife on your trip, consider a telephoto lens. These lenses have a very mighty zoom range and allow you to shoot your subjects from a far distance. They are especially handy if you want to shoot birds or other animals without getting too close. I recommend the Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 if you’re using a full-frame Sony camera.
#6 Experiment by using film
By Emily of The Mandagies
If you’re looking for a unique way to capture travel photography, try film! Film photography is such an incredible way to savor the moment and feel present when taking photos. When you have a limited number of times to click your shutter (the average film roll only holds between 34 and 36 captures), it really makes you stop and think about the photo you are about to take.
To shoot film photography, it’s important to practice with a few rolls at home and learn how to load and unload the film from your camera. There are plenty of youtube videos available for nearly any type of camera. Some of the best film cameras for beginners include the Canon AE-1, Pentax K1000, and the Nikon FE2. All of these cameras are easy to use, lightweight, and are very affordable when bought used.
One of our best travel photography tips for shooting with film is to really make sure you know the “exposure triangle” which is the relationship between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Unlike digital cameras, you can’t review the photo immediately after it’s taken, so you have to be confident (or at least pretty sure!) that it was exposed correctly given your lighting conditions
How to pick the right accessories
#7 Use tools to shoot your photos remotely
By Erin of Pina Travels
When I travel I always carry a wireless remote with my camera gear. I love having this little piece of equipment handy because it makes it much simpler to shoot photos of myself (especially when solo traveling), and it can be useful for shooting long exposures as well.
There are a couple of different ways that you can shoot your photos wirelessly. First, you can use your camera’s self-timer. In your camera’s shooting settings, you’ll find the option to set a shutter delay. This means when you press the shutter, you’ll have anywhere from 2 seconds to 30 seconds (delay times vary in different cameras) before the shutter actually releases, giving you time to get positioned for the photo.
A second option is to use your camera’s mobile app. WiFi-equipped cameras will typically have an app that you can download to your mobile device, which enables you to remotely control the camera’s shutter using your phone. For example, Canon’s wifi equipped cameras can use the app Canon Camera Connect.
The third option (this is what I do!) is to purchase a wireless remote that connects with your camera to trigger the camera’s shutter release remotely, and from a distance. I love using wireless remotes because they’re super small! You can discreetly hold it in your hand and push the button to shoot a photo, and because the remote is so small, it’s easy to hide so it doesn’t appear in the image.
Remote shooting is a fantastic way to get beautiful shots of yourself. It’s especially useful to be able to remote shoot when you are traveling solo, or there aren’t other people around to ask to take a photo for you.
#8 Get a ND filter for longer exposure times
By Val of Voyages with Val
One travel photography tip to level up your landscape photos is to use a Neutral-Density or ND filter! Neutral density filters reduce the amount of light that is let into your camera allowing for you to take longer exposures. These are popular pieces of landscape and hiking photography gear.
Long exposure can be useful in many situations! Long exposure photos of waterfalls make the water look silky. Photographing a lake at long exposure can give the water a glassy look with better reflections. Sunrises and sunsets also are beautiful with a long exposure to bring out the color in the sky.
There are a few types of neutral density filters. Some neutral density filters have a set amount of light they reduce. Variable neutral-density filters are popular and allow you to adjust the amount of light coming in and normally screw onto the lens. Graduated neutral density filters have a gradient in the amount of light that is reduced across the surface of the glass.
#9 Use a tripod
By Martina of PlacesofJuma
Probably one of the most important pieces of equipment for travel photography is definitely a tripod. No matter where in the world, a small, mega light travel tripod simply has to be in your luggage for great photos. With a size of around 30 cm, it fits in any small backpack or in a normal handbag. Many do not realize that a tripod is the must-have for every good photography. Only with that item, pictures become razor-sharp, you can make beautiful night shots or create great effects with long exposure. Also, a tripod is handy if you want to take some selfies or videos because you don’t always want to have to ask strangers for photos.
The best thing about a good tripod is that you can set it up almost anywhere. And, even better, some travel tripods can be wrapped around a pole or tree thanks to the flexible tripod legs! For taking photos, there’s a Bluetooth remote that works completely wirelessly, so you don’t have to ask strangers to take photos of you. It’s so convenient!
Recommended for small tripods is the Rhodesy Octopus tripod. But for professional photography, you can also opt for bigger ones. Great is for example the mega light tripod Sirui T-005KX/C-10S Traveler.
#10 Buy a GoPro Dome for half split underwater photos
By Paulina of UK Everyday
When it comes to taking half split underwater photography there are a few important things that you need to know. Light is very soft in the morning so it is the best time for taking pictures. Also, sand will reflect sun rays much better than rocks. However, there is no better place for shooting underwater photos than a swimming pool!
Calm water in a pool makes taking 50/50 photos super enjoyable. It is very simple to snap incredible pictures with GoPro Waterproof Dome. A large lens and water line guide at the back of the gear will help you take the best half split underwater photos.
One thing to remember is that you should always use burst mode on your GoPro camera when taking underwater photos. You don’t want to end up with just a few pictures to choose from. Another option is recording video so you can select any frame from it and save it as an image.
Pictures that show beautiful scenery above the water and marine life below the waterline are really impressive. However, it is very common to have water drops on the upper part of your picture. To avoid this you might want to use water repellent or just remove them in Photoshop later on.
Apart from the gear, you will also need a calm sea, colorful fish, a beautiful sky and good friends in the water. Such a combination will guarantee you amazing pictures. Don’t give too quickly as it takes time to master underwater photography skills.
How to make the perfect photo
#11 Use the rule of thirds to compose a photo
By Jen Ciesielski of Dabbing in Jet Lag
One of the most important elements in travel photography is composition. Simply put, it’s how a photographer arranges the elements in the frame. And it’s this arrangement that dictates whether a photo succeeds or not. It’s easy to overlook the importance of composition and place the subject in the center of the photo. This is, however, a common mistake in travel photography . More often than not, centering the subject creates an unbalanced composition and leaves the viewer confused. To avoid this, use the Rule of Thirds to compose your photo.
Here a scene is divided into thirds. Two horizontal and two vertical lines are used to create nine sections. Then, the main element, or subject, is placed at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines. Since the human eye is naturally drawn to these intersections, an image framed in this way is more visually appealing. And it helps the viewer identify the subject.
This same concept can be applied to the position of the horizon. The goal here is to place the horizon on either horizontal line. This allows you to emphasize either the foreground or the sky while adding an element of depth.
If you want to compose a photo using the Rule of Thirds, there are several ways to do so. The easiest is to use your camera’s grid feature. This allows you to compose your shot in-camera, thereby avoiding unnecessary cropping. But, if you don’t have this option, most post-processing applications have an overlay feature.
#12 Learn about shooting in low light conditions
By Erki of Genem Photography
Shooting in low light isn’t the same with a camera as it’s with a mobile. It needs more knowledge about camera settings, checking out surroundings, and how exposure works. Here are some tips on how to shoot in low light conditions.
First you need to understand the three pillars of exposure: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. It’s also called an exposure triangle and they work together to get as much light as possible without losing photo quality. You need to set ISO a bit higher, but keep in mind that the higher the ISO the more noise you can get on the photos. So it’s recommended to keep ISO at least below 1000.
The second thing is aperture. The wider the lens with a low aperture f-stop number the more light you will get to the camera. For low light photography, you should keep the aperture as low as possible, starting from f/1.4 to f/4.
Thirdly you need to slow down the shutter speed, so the camera has more time to get a light. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. When the camera is gathering information from surroundings you need to keep the camera steady as a rock. Even a gram of movement during the shutter period will cause motion blur.
To set exposure pillars as high as possible it’s necessary to use a tripod. It’s even impossible to shoot without it when lighting conditions are harsh. The alternative is wider professional lenses, but these are extremely expensive. Also when the photos turn out too dark at first, then it’s also possible to fix it in post-processing software. Just keep in mind to shoot in RAW to have maximum opportunities to adjust photos. Erki from Genem Photography.
#13 Learn about the white balance for taking underwater photos
By Eloise of My Favourite Escapes
The most important thing to know when taking photos underwater is that colors are different underwater. The deeper you go, the fewer colors you will see. Red is the first color to disappear. Your brain will somehow compensate for the loss of colours, but your camera won’t. So you may be disappointed to get underwater photos that are very blue.
There are a few ways to fix this. Adding a red filter is one of the easiest ways to add red back into your images. However, technically, you actually cut out some blue light. So a red filter blocks a portion of the light going through it. It may work, but it’s not the best solution in an environment with limited light.
If you don’t want to use strobes and your camera has a manual white balance system, you will get good results with ambient light by doing the white balance at depth. You’ll need to have a white object with you to point it towards to let your camera figure out what a neutral color looks like at your depth. As colors change according to the depth underwater, you’ll need to re-do the manual white balance if you go up or down (approximately every two to five meters).
You can also work on the white balance during post-processing. You sometimes get excellent results in one click if you can use a neutral colored item as a reference in the photo for the eyedropper (a scuba tank, white fins or white sand, for example). You may need to play with the temperature and tint settings to get better results. If you want quick and easy results, using the app Dive+ is one of the best underwater photo tips for beginners .
#14 Add depth by shooting through a foreground object
Playing with depth of field is a fun way to make your travel photos stand out. By placing a person, flowers or other objects in the foreground, you can make a photo more dynamic or frame your photo with an extra element.
When taking a photo, you’ll need to focus your camera on a subject. Your camera then measures the much distance from that subject and focuses at exactly that distance. You can see this on your camera screen or in your viewfinder. The colored boxes or dots in your view indicate on which object the camera focuses, so you’ll also know at what distance your camera does. All objects at that exact distance will come into focus and the rest of the photo will be out of focus, creating a playful shot with blurry elements.
We love to experiment with this and make a second playful photo of the same spot using a foreground element and depth of field. In the two photos below you can see a completely different photo of the same street. Our goal was to take a picture of the streetscape of the charming town Monsaraz in Portugal with its cobbled streets and white houses. In one photo, the camera focuses on the flowers, so the white houses and the church tower are out of focus. The result is a colorful shot of the Monsaraz streets, illustrating that picturesque atmosphere we talk about in our Monsaraz blog. The second photo focuses on the street, so the pink flowers are out of focus. The flowers create some extra color and depth, while the church, houses and cobbled street are in focus. It’s a matter of taste which photo you think captures the picturesque atmosphere best. Experiment with it and find out for yourself!
#15 Research your photos before at home
Beautiful photos are created spontaneously at the moment, but more often you’ll need some good proportions to get that perfect result you’re looking for. That’s why we love to research our travel photos before going out shooting, so we know exactly what we want to capture.
We don’t just read up on a place so we know what we like to visit. We also make sure to study some photos of our destinations. By looking at pictures of a destination online, we don’t just prepare ourselves for the next trip, but we also find the most beautiful places. For example, when we visited Porto in Portugal, we wanted to see those beautiful azulejos Porto is known for. By doing online photo research, we knew exactly where to go for the most beautiful tableaus of those famous white-blue tiles.
Your research will not just show you where to go, but can also help you decide what kind of photos would work for that location. Do you want to be in the shot yourself for a lively result and more emotion in the photo? Then make sure you are prepared for that. Don’t choose a black outfit when shooting a black rock wall, but adjust your outfit accordingly. Do you want to take a photo in a location with low light conditions and use a slow shutter speed to capture enough light? Pack your tripod.
It is also a good thing to look into the best photo angles by looking at others photos beforehand. By studying others photos of the location online – search for the location on ‘google images’ or view the photos of visitors on ‘google maps’ – you’ll get some inspiration. You’ll already have an idea of what it will look like on-site, so your creativity can be put to work in advance.
#16 Improve your wildlife photography by studying your subject
By Margarita Steinhardt of The Wildlife Diaries
Photographing wild animals can be equally challenging and rewarding, so here are some easy tips to improve your wildlife photography. First of all, set your camera to aperture priority mode (one or two f-stops above your camera’s max aperture) and set your ISO to the highest setting your camera can handle without introducing too much noise. This way you’ll always be shooting at the highest shutter speed your camera can master for any given light conditions.
Once you spot an animal, spend a few minutes watching it to gauge its reaction to your presence and to notice any patterns in its behavior that you can use to your advantage. Does the bird keep returning to the same perch? Is the animal alert and ready to flee or is it relaxed and can be approached closer?
One of the easiest things you can do to improve your wildlife photos is to get down to the animal’s eye level and photograph it at an upward angle. On my last trip to the Tasmanian wilderness, for example, I came across a very casual echidna. Since she wasn’t disturbed by my presence, I lay down on the grass in her path, and as she kept ambling closer to me, I had to swap my telephoto lens for the iPhone to photograph her.
The same idea applies to photographing whales from whale-watching boats. Try to get to the lowest part of the boat so you are as close to the surface of the water as you can be. Then, when the whale breaches, you will have a dramatic perspective of a giant animal propelling itself towards the sky.