Travel Photography Tips and Inspiration

You see it everywhere – stunning travel photography shots. Cities shining brightly as though bathed in light from within. Women, their dresses and hair floating on air, breathless beauty surrounds them. Then, inspired, you pick up your own camera or phone and the result is nice – but not quite as nice. Truth is travel photography is not hard at all. Today I’d love to share some of my favorite travel photography tips with you. And I hope to provide a little inspiration too! Let’s get started.

Please Note: This blog post may contain some affiliate links.

Packing Travel Tip:

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Travel Photography Tip: Consider the Light in the Picture

It might feel anti-intuitive, but whether shooting nature or people, very harsh, bright light is not your friend. In order to get the most beautiful shots, a sky that is cloudy or slightly overcast is the best. The reason for this is simple – harsh light means deep, dark shadows. Some parts of your picture will be too bright, and others too dark. Take a look at this example.

The light in the first picture is harsh, unforgiving. The shadows are too dark, and the light colors just too bright. The shadow is too defined. Even if I played around with this image in photoshop the effect would never be all that nice.

The sun is too strong in this image – and the shadows create too much contrast.

I came back in a few hours when the sky was overcast. In the second image, the shadows are much lighter, and the colors pop more. The shadow lines are subtle and interesting. If you are shooting with a phone, your software will likely compensate for the very bright light. But it won’t be perfect. For truly stunning nature or people pictures in broad daylight check out my cheat.

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The overcast, cloudy sky, created a much better light situation for this picture.

Travel Photography Cheat:

Buy a lens filter (it works like sunglasses for your camera) and even in bright daylight your shadows will be softer, and your pictures more beautiful. If you take pictures with a phone, buy an inexpensive filter and hold it against your phone’s camera to get the same effect.

Travel Photography Inspiration:

Next time you are on vacation, wake up very early one morning. Sunrise is a magical time and few people will be out then. The light and views will be very different than during the sunset. If you are staying on the beach, watch the sun rise slowly above the horizon line. If you are staying in the city, watch the city come to life. When the sun is just visible snap a few pictures. The memories and pictures of this morning will likely stay with you long after the vacation is over. To help create the best sunrise pictures, consider a small and light tripod to help you stabilize your camera or phone.

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Hawaii at Sunrise.

Travel Photography Tip: Placing Your Main Subject

All great pictures share one thing in common – they have a main subject. But a lot of beginner photographers put their main subject right in the middle of the photograph. This is often a mistake. By using the rule of thirds you can usually make your picture more interesting and more dramatic.

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This is a nice picture but my subject is centered.

Take a look at these two photographs. Although the two pictures are almost identical, the main subject is in the center of the first. The photograph is nice, but a little boring. On the other hand, once we place the subject on the thirds line the entire picture livens up and becomes more interesting.

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This is my favorite version.

To apply the thirds rule, mentally divide your picture into 9 squares, and place your subject at the crosshairs. Place an important horizontal line or the horizon on one of the horizontal lines. Try not to place your horizon in the middle of a picture.

travel photography tips and inspiration - a visual aid
Travel photography tips – visual aid

Sometimes, however, the 3rds rule doesn’t apply. For instance, here, I place my subject (the boardwalk) squarely in the middle. The two sides on the left and the right of the boardwalk are almost identical and almost feel like reflection. The boardwalk helps your eye travel from the bottom of the top – and voila. A good picture. When you shoot a road, a bridge or a pathway, often placing your subject right in the middle works well.

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Travel Photography Inspiration:

Next time you take a picture in front of a big landmark (the Eiffel tower in Paris for instance), place the person on the thirds line. You will have a much more dramatic result! And then, wandering quaint Paris city streets, make the road your subject. Place the pathway in the middle, and allow the sides to “reflect” each other for a beautiful effect.

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In this picture, I combine the two techniques. My subject (the woman) is on a thirds crosshair. But my second subject (the building and square) is centered.

Travel Photography Tip: Use a Human to Show the Scale:

When traveling, I am so often in awe. I see mountains that easily dwarf me, and buildings that inspire me. But if I don’t use the right technique to take the picture, you may not be in awe when looking at it. One of the best ways to show the incredible scale of nature is by placing a human in front of it. Consider this, one of my favorite pictures from my last trip to Hawaii:

travel photography tips and inspiration - use a human to give the viewer an understanding of the scale.
I placed myself in this picture in order to give an idea of the scale.

Now, take a look at the same picture, but with a bit of photoshop magic, without me. Feels very different, doesn’t it? This travel photography tip is very simple. If you really want to give the viewer an idea of the incredible scale of nature or a city, place a human in front of it.

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Once you take a human out of the picture its hard to understand nature’s true scale.

Travel Photography Inspiration:

Next time you are taking pictures on a secluded beach, move back. All the way back, when your subject (the person) is only a tiny figure and the ocean engulfs the frame. Place the subject onto a two-thirds point, and the horizon onto a thirds line. The view and the photographs may just become one of your favorites.

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I hope you have enjoyed this article! If you did and would like to see more tips please leave a comment. Don’t forget to subscribe and remember by purchasing through the affiliate links you are helping to support this blog at no additional cost to you.

Thanks for reading, and see you on the road.

Viktoria aka TravelTipster

Travel photography inspiration and tips. Whether you are taking pictures of nature or people, these simple rules will help you create better photographs. Prepare for your next vacation and be inspired - learn better travel photography techniques.
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