Travel Photography: 10 Simple Yet Practical Tips

June 28, 2010 · 23 comments

in Tips & Tricks

Travel photography is something we all get excited about. Sometimes we take a bunch of photos and come back to realize that our 500-something photos didn’t really capture the spirit of our travels. To ensure that this won’t happen to you (again), here are some quick tips.

The inspiration behind this post is that I do a lot of traveling myself. Although some travel photography tips online are extremely helpful, I find most of them to be like a Photography 101 tutorial. I’m going to steer away from technical composition and lighting rules and mainly concentrate on practical tips you can really use while traveling. The photos used are from my recent trip to Tokyo. Enjoy!

1.) Do a pack run-through

You’ve probably thought about what you’re going to pack on your vacation in terms of clothing and toiletries. However, what about your camera, lenses and accessories? Think about where you’re going and what you want to shoot. Would it be convenient for you to carry around a DSLR with a few lenses? If you’re primarily shooting landscape, maybe a wide-angle lens would suffice? Or maybe you would just like to stick to a simple point-and-shoot camera?

Also, don’t forget the little things. Like extra battery, additional memory cards, chargers and camera cleaning products.

Image thanks to  ~~Tone~~

2.) Getting there is half the fun

I believe that you begin traveling the moment you step out that door. So start snapping away your journey to the airport; touching down at your destination and being utterly confused; being tightly packed on a bumpy bus ride; the disappoint when your hotel doesn’t look like the picture on the brochure.

3.) It’s ok to be cliched

As photographers, we tend to want to take a photo that’s different. However, trying to frame every one of your travel photos to be ‘unique’ will either get you extremely frustrated, have you snapping up only 30 photos, or both. It’s fine to take a photo of the Eiffel Tower front-on, or the illusion that your friend’s pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

4.) It won’t be mundane one year from now

Like cliched photos, it’s also fine to take less than stunning subjects. The confusing currencies, the weird and wonderful signs, what you see while staring out the window. Don’t delete the ‘boring’ photos! They might seem mundane a few seconds after you’ve taken them. But you’d look back on them a year from now and realize just how well they’ve documented your travels.

5.) People spot

My friend Kelvin puts this nicely, “I reckon I can learn a lot about a country from looking at its people. The way they dress, how they walk, how they talk, the way they treat others, their emotions etc.”

If you need more tips, see our feature on candid photography.

6.) Shoot before you eat

I admit, I’m the type that gets extremely excited about traveling because I get to try new kinds of foods and dishes. And trust me, others get excited about that too. My friends couldn’t care less about the tourist sites in Tokyo but were rather interested to see what I had for lunch and dinner. Be sure to check out our food photography tips!

7.) Be creative, use props

The souvenirs and postcards you purchase, use them as props in your next photo. It’s a sure way to get you thinking out of the box and produce some interesting photos.

8.) Take notes

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it still doesn’t express how you really feel. Excitement? Culture shocked? Home sick? I tend to carry a small notebook around and just jot down a few sentences when I feel over-whelmed to do so, along with the image number.

A lot of cameras now allow you to even dictate a short speech over your photo.

9.) Ditch your friends and go solo (for a while)

Friends who aren’t photographers have a hard time understanding how you can spend a few minutes on one subject. Or why obscure objects might interest you more than monumental buildings. That is why you need to have a few hours or even a day to yourself where you can roam around freely and not feel rushed or pushed into taking photos.

I often like to revisit a favorite spot and see beyond the famous landmarks and sites.

10.) Put yourself in the photo

As photographers, we often forget to put ourselves in front of the camera. Don’t just shoot a self-portrait with your arms stretched out in front of you (yes, I’ve done that plenty of times too). Give your camera to a trusting-looking passerby and get them to a photo of you. Even if you’re carrying a complicated DSLR, just simply switch it to the Auto mode.

Do you have other travel tips and tricks you wish to share?

Article by

1 part ad agency. 2 parts freelancer. An avid urban photographer, traveler, and streetwear lover. Geeky curator of all things awesome. Sustains on Vegemite, meat pies and lamingtons. Follow me on Twitter or Flickr.

Yi has written 69 awesome articles for us at Photoble

  • http://unrealityshout.com/gerard-mcgarry/blog gerardmcgarry

    Brilliant tips, just in time for holidays too! We’re headed for Spain this year, and I fancy taking something other than the usual mundane snaps. Question is, how to ditch the whole family :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Hi Gerard,

    Thanks for your feedback! As for ditching your family, you can pull the good ol’, “I was lost excuse.” :p

    Look forward to seeing your photos from Spain. Let us know if you have a Flickr account I can follow!

    Cheers

    Yi

  • http://unrealityshout.com/gerard-mcgarry/blog gerardmcgarry

    Brilliant tips, just in time for holidays too! We're headed for Spain this year, and I fancy taking something other than the usual mundane snaps. Question is, how to ditch the whole family :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiie

    Hi Gerard,

    Thanks for your feedback! As for ditching your family, you can pull the good ol', “I was lost excuse.” :p

    Look forward to seeing your photos from Spain. Let us know if you have a Flickr account I can follow!

    Cheers

    Yi

  • http://twitter.com/SketchyFletchy Fletcher Thompson

    Hehehe, funny you should say it’s OK to take the same shot as others in point number 3 – I have a shot of Sensoji temple almost exactly the same from 10 years back. I went to Japan on a school trip for 3 weeks and Dad gave me his old Asahi Pentax SLR with a couple of lenses to take over and told me to go nuts. Came back with about 12 rolls of film to develop. :)

  • http://twitter.com/SketchyFletchy Fletcher Thompson

    Hehehe, funny you should say it's OK to take the same shot as others in point number 3 – I have a shot of Sensoji temple almost exactly the same from 10 years back. I went to Japan on a school trip for 3 weeks and Dad gave me his old Asahi Pentax SLR with a couple of lenses to take over and told me to go nuts. Came back with about 12 rolls of film to develop. :)

  • http://www.ejourna.com Ron

    Great advice! I just returned from a week-long motorcycle trip around Lake Michigan. I didn’t stop and take nearly enough pictures of places we visited, people we saw, etc. I really like suggestion number 2. Getting there is at least half the fun! Take lots of pics of the mundane stuff because it won’t seem so mundane to the people who didn’t go on the trip.

  • http://www.ejourna.com Ron

    Great advice! I just returned from a week-long motorcycle trip around Lake Michigan. I didn't stop and take nearly enough pictures of places we visited, people we saw, etc. I really like suggestion number 2. Getting there is at least half the fun! Take lots of pics of the mundane stuff because it won't seem so mundane to the people who didn't go on the trip.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Thanks Fletcher! I think you should get the films scanned and upload them. I still think film photos have so much more characteristics, would be interested to see how yours turned out. :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Cheers Ron and thanks for the feedback! Been reading your blog the past hour and would love to do a bike trip similar to yours. I really like the Jack’s diner photo:
    http://www.ejourna.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/P1020626.jpg

    Think it’d look pretty neat if you cross process it in Photoshop:
    http://www.photoble.com/photography-tips-tricks/easy-cross-processing-tutorial-in-photoshop/

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiie

    Thanks Fletcher! I think you should get the films scanned and upload them. I still think film photos have so much more characteristics, would be interested to see how yours turned out. :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiie

    Cheers Ron and thanks for the feedback! Been reading your blog the past hour and would love to do a bike trip similar to yours. I really like the Jack's diner photo:
    http://www.ejourna.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/

    Think it'd look pretty neat if you cross process it in Photoshop:
    http://www.photoble.com/photography-tips-tricks

  • Pingback: AnimHuT User Link Feed 2010: July01-04 » Design, Creative, Website, Create, Examples, Simple » AnimHuT

  • Tai Niu

    Great Tips and Advise!
    For No. 10, i rather use No. 7 to represent myself.
    I not that kind of guy love to take self portrait or group photo or rather said, i dun like take photo
    but yet i love photography.

  • Tai Niu

    Great Tips and Advise!
    For No. 10, i rather use No. 7 to represent myself.
    I not that kind of guy love to take self portrait or group photo or rather said, i dun like take photo
    but yet i love photography.

  • http://blog.exposedplanet.com/10-travel-photography-tips/ Harry, Exposedplanet.com

    Nice list of tips, quite different from usual lists. My final tip on my own Travel photography tips post was:
    - never follow any rules besides this one: forget all of the above and do your own thing, creativity is personal and can only be evoked by practice, not by copying.

    That’s also why my top 10 list has only 9 entries :)

  • http://blog.exposedplanet.com/10-travel-photography-tips/ Harry, Exposedplanet.com

    Nice list of tips, quite different from usual lists. My final tip on my own Travel photography tips post was:
    - never follow any rules besides this one: forget all of the above and do your own thing, creativity is personal and can only be evoked by practice, not by copying.

    That’s also why my top 10 list has only 9 entries :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Definitely agree with you Harry. I see tips as only tips and not as rules. And of course, rules are always there to be broken anyways. :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    I wasn’t a fan of taking pics of myself. But then including yourself or your friends/family added a more personal touch to some of the photos. Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with not liking portraits.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    I wasn’t a fan of taking pics of myself. But then including yourself or your friends/family added a more personal touch to some of the photos. Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with not liking portraits.

  • http://www.remarkablevacations.net/golden-gate-park-where-all-diverse-creatures-come-together.html Golden Gate Park

    These are really useful tips…
    Thanks for sharing the,m…..

  • http://www.fashionnarts.com jkar photography

    great tips Yi.  it’s not usual to hear what you have written.  I am sick of tips which tackles on technical aspects.  thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniela.uslan Daniela Uslan

    Thanks for sharing these tips. I am an avid traveler and photographer, and your advice is simple, sound and intuitive. I can’t wait to use it on my next trip!

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