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Ithaca, New York

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How can I take better travel photos?

Do any experienced photographers have tips or resources for beginner photographers? 

I love taking photos as a way to remember a place but I don't know much about how to handle light, focus or editing.


12 Answers

top answer by
Elliott from San Francisco

The best tip I can give you is called "The rule of thirds."   

Divide the scene into threes.
If you put something right in the middle of the frame, the photo is about that thing. Another great tactic for creating visual interest in a somewhat routine shot is to frame/crop  the shot such that your subject is not in the dead middle of the photo, but is placed off-center in the frame. An easy way to think about this is mentally to divide the frame into three sections (left, center and right), and put the main subject of the photo either entirely within the left or right section, or perhaps right on the line dividing two sections.

How to choose on which side to put the subject? This is easy -- put it on the side that has the least background interest in the overall frame. This way, the viewer can be tricked into thinking you took a photo of both the subject and the background activities, with equal emphasis on both.

When combined with the tactic of taking a vertical shot, this can be very powerful -- a vertical shot with the subject 1/3 of the way from either edge is one of the easiest ways to compose a compelling photo with minimal effort.

You can also divide the photo vertically into threes as well so that you have a grid of nine squares total to work with. This tactic has a name, long called the Rule of Thirds.

When taking a photo of a person, emphasize the person.
When taking photos of traveling companions, it is easy to prop them up in front of something interesting and then take the picture. If you go to some effort to get the attraction behind them, but cut off the top of someone's head, or include a sloppy untucked shirt, or cut the photo off at someone's socks, you have a good photo of the sight and a terrible photo of your friends. In this case, frame them first and then worry about the background.

I find that very often a decent photo could have been a great photo if I had just moved a little bit, whether to reframe the photo slightly, or to put something interesting into the background. This can involve moving a few steps forward or back, shifting to one side or the other, or crouching down. As a photographer, you have much more control over what you are doing and where you are standing than you do over the subject matter; if you just stand lead-footed in one spot, your photos will reflect this.

Zoom in and out until you like what you see.
If your camera has a zoom feature, and most do these days, you can help yourself to "move" by zooming in and out on your subject. I find that when you do this, at the point the scene becomes most interesting, your eye will notice it -- that is, you'll just like it more intuitively. That's when you take the shot.

Pay the most attention to the edges and corners.
A great photo is as often defined by what is left in as by what is left out. You have considerable control here, and while it is normal human behavior to look directly and in a concentrated way at the things that interest us most, the camera behaves otherwise.

Very often you can take a photo that seems like it might turn out extremely well, but when you see the print of a photo, your friend is a speck in the middle of a nondescript background. Take all that stuff out, and you have a great photo.

In the same way, if you zoom in very closely on someone's face, and cut out the monkey standing on her head, you missed the shot.

When zooming in and out, or moving around while looking through the viewfinder or at the screen to frame your photo, the first thing to scan is the sides and corners of the visible area. Is there anything of interest there? If not, consider moving again, changing the zoom, or tilting the camera up, down or to one side. When everything seems to fall into place, fire away.

At familiar sites, emphasize something other than the subject.
If you are photographing the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, Mount Rushmore or any other frequently photographed site, you would often do better to buy a nice calendar than take yet another point-and-shoot photo that will just take up space on your hard drive until it crashes.

But if you make it a photo about something else -- your companion's goofy hat with the Eiffel Tower in the background, or a bobby in front of the Tower of London, or a motorcycle gang parked in front of Mount Rushmore -- then you have a great photo.

Take control.
When I take photos of people, almost invariably they try to set up the photo themselves, arranging themselves and companions in a way that they think might make a good photo. And as often as not, they arrange themselves such that I would be shooting straight into the sun, or with half of the group in shadows, or with one person almost completely obscured by another person. None of these will make for good photos. You're the one with the camera -- you set up the shot.

Look, then think, before you shoot.
Before taking a photo, if you just take a quick look at your surroundings, and give yourself a second to think about anything interesting that might be happening, you will get a much higher percentage of interesting photos than if you simply pull your camera to your eye and snap without planning what you want to capture.

Try to take photos where you didn't "have to be there."
If you want to take a great photo and not merely a snapshot of your traveling companions in a certain location, think about how a complete stranger would react to seeing your picture. Photos that are thereby intrinsically interesting will enhance and retain their interest to you as well.

Use your sense of humor.
Do not underestimate the value of capturing or expressing a little humor when taking travel photos. Travel is usually as much about how we felt and thought while traveling, not just where we went, and photos that capture some humor often bring back the strongest memories and sensations as time goes by.

3 thanks

answered by
Justin from Phoenix

1. Get a camera. Not a smartphone. A camera. It will increase your chances of taking a good photo 10-fold. That's because smartphones have teeny-tiny image sensors that are at a disadvantage no matter how many megapixels they claim. They're also super-slow to focus.

2. Take photo classes. Watch in particular for composing shots, setting white balance and adjusting your ISO. Those will be huge. Even understanding just those three topics somewhat will make a big difference in your abilities.

3. Always use a Class 10 memory card.

4. Ask good photographers for tips. I learned most of what I know while working as a news reporter. I used to question the photographers all the time. They were all awesome in sharing their knowledge.

3 thanks

answered by
Christ from Denver

For good photography, imagine that you are looking in the view of your camera. Look for natural frames to place around the object you are photographing. As natural pictures are good background for photographing. I always keep a collection of photography through printing from this site. I have formed this collection just to check how much improvements, I have made in my work .

1 thanks

answered by
Spencer from Los Angeles

So I wouldn't recommend one camera or camera brand over the other, though if you want to get serious, I would recommend just getting a DSLR body. Doesn't have to even be brand new or top-of-the-line. The lens (beyond just a kit lens) really makes all the difference for a DSLR. Then take a decent class. I've noticed a lot of hotels and destinations are doing packages that are hands-on photography classes while you're out exploring the city or out in nature. 

1 thanks

answered by

I wouldn't be too concerned about what your equipment is, but, rather what kind of travel photos you want to take. I would practice, practice and practice and try to visualize what you want to accomplish. From iPhones to high dollar systems I have seen and made good photos. It's not the equipment but rather your eye and imagination. Practice, Practice, Practice.

1 thanks

answered first by
Nelson Perez

Your question includes a ton of subjects about photography. My suggestion is do the baby steps, start from a beginners topic and practice a lot. Here is a link that will help you get started.  

good luck

1 thanks

answered by
Tonya Russ from Charlotte

If you are using a phone or point and shoot, turn flash off!  Except of course, if it's pitch black.

answered by
Sneha from Gurgaon

Well, a lot of points have already been addressed.As described by Elliot,Rule of third is very important in photography.Start practicing it.They are few other notes which i can start as amateur photographer:

Art of Observation: When you reach a place, first try to understand a of place.Observe the activities going around.Try to think what you do you like most about the place whether its nature,people or architecture, every place has its own beat.Catch the spirit of place and start clicking.

Camera: According to me, it does not matter whether you own a high quality dslr,iphone or simple digital camera.Photographers best camera is their eye and view point.There is no point taking a bulky dslr if you dont want to be a serious photographer.

Learn the art of composition: Composition is soul of any picture.Try to master art of composition.You can learn few tricks online and start practicing it.

Look and analyse your pictures: we are best critic of our pictures.Be strict to yourself.Analyse your picture.If its good congratulate yourself and if it is bad, look for the reason and tryy not to repeat the mistake.

Practice Light: Read and understand about light and start observing the light.

At the end photography is nothing but an art of observation and combination of skills.

Happy Clicking !!

answered by

Im afraid that we cheat a little...we have a great camera and have been on quite a few big trips...but sometimes its grey and rainy and the pictures aren't I always buy some postcards and take a picture of them and leave them behind for someone else....or from a book...sometimes you just cant get a good shot of something you really want ...too many people in the way...but postcards are un for us!

answered by
Kemkem from Malaga

This is one of the statues Piazza Navona

Rule of thirds as described before.

Make sure you wait that extra second or 2 for the camera to focus before taking the picture

if you are taking a picture of a person, make sure not to cut off their arms or feet, or place them so it seems like a tree or Eiffel Tower is growing from their head.

Shooting a stature for instance, try shooting from a different angle, like from the bottom for instance, makes the picture more interesting. Taking the extra minute to get a better, complete picture is better than having to deal with loads of photoshop.

If the camera won't focus, take the light from somewhere else and hold the shutter button lightly, then take the picture. It usually helps.

Practice, and more practice. My husband is a photographer, and even he constantly learns, as do l as an eager semi-pro. Good luck.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Piazza Navona (attraction)

answered by
Peter from Munich

This is a very compley question. I never took a photo class but i did a lot of research online and now its even easier. My tip is get an account at meetup and look for local photography groups. There you can get hands on experience with other people, ask questions and go out and take photos in a group.

But other than that, I also would recommend to get a good camera. It doesnt have to be an DSLR. I know you can take good pictures with smartphones too nowadays, but a real camera made for taking pictures has way more advantages. Of course you always can use your smartphone to take pictures if you dont have your actual camera with you.

I carry a backpack with my 5d mk II and a lot of euqipment to everywhere i go. Its not always convenient, but I take way better picutres with my camera than with my phone.

It also depends what kind of pictures you try to get. I guess you want to capture the moments when you are traveling. Since nowadays everything is digital, dont be shy and just take a lot of picutres of the same place/situation from diffrent angles, distance and positions. Later on you can decide which one you want to keep.

I love photography and for me photography is to go out with a goal. Like I set my goal to capture that sunset, so I know where I want to be and arrive early enough before sunset to get set up. In the beginning I was doing the same, I traveled and took pictures along the way. There is nothing wrong with that, but for great pictures you go out to take the picture. That helped me a lot to improve myself. 

It also depends on your style, what kind of photos you want to get. But as mentioned before, practice is key. Go with different people, go by yourself, whatever you like more.

I could talk for hours about photography, because there is so much to tell.

Maybe a friend of yours has a DSLR, ask if you could borrow it or if he/she would show you. Just to get a feeling for it. But as I said, it doesnt have to be a dslr. Maybe you already have a camera...

answered by
Erin from Kimberly, Wisconsin

I'm not a professional photographer but I'd say try to take pictures at different angles. Try to take pictures with one foot back, or by taking a picture kneeling, or from laying down. With whatever camera you have, do research on the best ISO setting for day pictures, sunsets, and night photos. When you get back from your trip you can always edit your photos using Adobe Lightroom. It's quick and easy.

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