8 Simple Ways to Take Stunning Travel Photos


Having beautiful photos of your trip is one of the best mementos you can bring back with you, to share with friends and family, and to look back on fondly. Whether you're an experienced photographer or you're just trying to get a nice shot on your vacation, here are some tips for capturing the best images possible on your trip.

1. Consider Your Subject

The first step is to think about what it is that you want to capture. This could be anything, including a person, a building or landmark, or a landscape.

Instead of just snapping shots randomly and hoping that one will come out the way you like, take a moment to assess what it is you hope to communicate with your picture. A shot of a lone tree on a dry prairie communicates something very different from a candid photo of locals laughing while they play mahjong in the park.

When someone looks at your picture they should be able to identify what it was you were trying to portray.

2. Lighting Is Everything

When you're taking a picture, you are always working with light, since that is how your camera is able to capture an image. Different lighting can dramatically alter the mood and clarity of your subject.

Many photographers recommend you to take pictures an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset — the so-called golden hours — because the light at these times is soft, diffused, and flattering to most subjects.

However, you can still take pictures during the rest of the day. Especially if you are working with a camera in automatic mode, utilizing the ample light during the day can help you to get a great shot.

Be cautious about taking pictures that are backlit. A backlit photo is any shot where the sun is behind the subject that you're shooting. Used intentionally, backlighting can produce gorgeous silhouette images. To do that, you'll need to expose for the background, making the subject dark enough that most detail is lost.

You can also use backlighting to create an effect where the subject is exposed correctly, but the background is overexposed, giving it a dreamy, faded look, sometimes purposely accented by sun flares. You might want to use a "fill flash" to fill in shadows on the subject as well.

If those backlit effects are not what you're aiming for, position yourself so that the sun is behind you, the photographer, which will ensure that your subject is properly exposed. Sometimes positioning the subject at an angle to the sun helps ward off the harshest shadows.

3. Sometimes Less Is More

At times it can be tempting to try to capture everything in one shot, but the usual outcome is a cluttered photo that ends up not really portraying much of anything.

One thing you can try is to identify one poignant detail and highlight that detail by framing it tightly. That's how our vision naturally works, and you can replicate that in your photography for eye-catching shots.

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In addition to taking a wide shot of a baroque cathedral, why not snap a few close-ups of detailed carvings, scenes from stained glass windows, or parishioners leaving or entering the building? At a market, rather than trying to capture the whole chaotic scene, focus on one vendor, or even one pile of brightly colored vegetables.

By capturing little quirky details from your trip you are also expressing something about yourself and your interaction with those details, which can be helpful when trying to weave together a story from these visual cues.

4. Pay Attention to Patterns

If you are going to take a busier photo, think about the natural patterns that may be appearing. Repetition — of fence posts, or trees in a row, for example — can often create a rhythm that's visually appealing in photography and this can help to guide the composition of your photo.

5. Follow the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is another guideline that can help when you're thinking about how you want to compose your photo. Imagine your photo with a grid of two lines horizontally and two lines vertically traced over the image that you are taking.

A viewer's eye is naturally drawn to the intersections on this grid, so instead of putting your subject right in the middle of the photo, you can play around with a more visually interesting layout by lining your subject up on these crossing points. Many digital cameras can overlay a grid on the viewfinder to help you.

6. Experiment With Different Points of View

A straight-on shot in which the subject is facing you at a 180 degree angle can be fine, but also try shooting from above, below, or at a different angle to the subject. Experiment with wide, medium, and close-up shots, too. The results are often more dramatic and dynamic than a straight-on point of view.

7. Start Looking at Photos With a Photographer's Eye

A great way to improve your pictures without even using your camera is by examining photographs that you like. The next time you open your Instagram feed, instead of mindlessly scrolling through the shots, take a few extra minutes with the ones that really catch your eye.

Identify three to five elements of the picture that make it special to you. This could be the color, the composition, a certain detail that pops or the repetition of certain elements. Whatever it is, once you've seen a successful example in a photograph, it will be easier for you to recreate the effect when you're out taking your own pictures.

8. Take Plenty of Shots

When you are out experimenting with your camera, take a variety of shots so that you can choose from them once you get home. Don't just take the same shot over and over. Change it up so that when you see the pictures later, you can figure out which way worked the best.

Remember to enjoy the process and take a playful attitude! You will be surprised at the beautiful results you can get just by taking a more lighthearted approach to your pictures.

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