10 Humorous & Helpful Tips To Improve Your Travel Photography!

As nothing more than an amateur photog, I’ve hardly got all (or even any) of the answers when it comes to improving one’s photography; however, as someone who has become more passionate about taking photos, I have over the years learned a few things along the way.

It seems almost comical that just a few years ago I circumvented my way around Asia for nearly 6 months with nothing more than a tiny Casio point and shoot camera set in automatic equipped with a humble 4 gb memory card. These days, on a glorious day of shooting, I might exhaust that same memory card in mere hours.

It’s an addictive hobby, I’m telling you! However, with that being said, it’s no coincidence that many of the top travel blogs feature stunning HD photos that capture the imagination and spirit of a particular place, region, culture and/or people.

I offer the following 10 travel photography tips as a way of hopefully inspiring others to take their photography a little more seriously.

10 Tips to improve your travel photography

10) Primp & coif your photos as you would yourself before heading out to work

If rolling out of bed and heading to work (or some social event) without a shower, brushing your pearly whites and/or running a comb through your hair sounds like a bit of poorly hatched plan, it’s equally as obscene to think about doing it with your recently taken photos.

A few basic editing techniques and skills such as cropping, modifying your exposure and straightening your photos are the travel photography equivalent of showing up to the dance sharply dressed.

9) If you’re dressed nicely put your camera away

With all the talk about looking immaculate in point number 10, it might come as a surprise that I suggest you wear your worst while taking photos.  If you’re not prepared to climb, get down on your knees or twist your body as if playing a game of drunken twister, chances are you’re missing out on some great angles and vantage points that ultimately lead to stunning shots.

8) Think before pressing the shutter

A lot of us have grown up a little trigger happy.  I remember my first ever video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System was Duck Hunt.

I know I’m pre-dating some of the today’s youth with tales of such games that are more likely to be found in a museum or attic than in actual use today; however, I was rewarded greatly for standing as close to the television set as possible and blasting away, yet that kind of technique is not something that is going to improve your travel photography.

Believe it or not, I suggesting one ought to think a bit before pressing the shutter button.  What is your subject?  What are you trying to emphasize?  Have I selected a fast enough shutter speed to capture a sharp photo?  What kind of selective focus (depth of field) do I want to achieve with this photo?

These are just a few questions you might want to ask yourself internally before doing the digital deed.

7) Delete More Photos Than You Keep

I totally get it!  The fifteen photos in a row of you gorging down on that piece of cake are priceless and should forever be kept in storage.  Actually on second thought, maybe not?  Honestly, one of the things that has helped me to improve my photography more than anything else is to be my own biggest critic.

I feel as though one should delete roughly half of the photos they take if not more.  Ideally, I aim for 70% or more.  Why am I keeping this photo is a question I often ask myself?

6) Lose your camera in style

Seriously, if somebody wants your camera bad enough they’ll find a way to pry it out of your precious little hands or safely stowed backpack.  It’s amazing what a lethal weapon invading your personal space will do to change your mind about what is important in life.  My motto is that I’ve bought it to take photos and I’ll lose it in style shooting as often as I can.

This doesn’t mean that I think your camera should be dangling off of your neck at all times; after-all, proper discretion applies in certain circumstances.  However, if you’ve purchased your camera to take photos and not collect dust, my suggestion is to use it and not live in fear.

5) Conquer your fear & dare to be bold in the process

I’m shy by nature.  I used to hate taking photos of people.  What I’ve come to realize is that by stepping out of my comfort zone personally it’s had an equal if not great effect on my photography.  I now take shots of people with confidence – both in candid situations and with posed portraits.

Any excuse that’s holding you back from taking better photos is best left behind in the rear-view mirror.

4) Hitting the bullseye is great in darts, not as ideal in photography

If you’re nailing the bullseye time and again with precision one might call you a talented shot in darts.  In photography if your subject is situated in the dead centre of all of your shots chances are you’re taking lousy photos.  Compositional dos, such as the rule of thirds suggest one place their subject away from the centre.

It’s certainly ‘just fine’ to have your subject positioned dead centre from time to time, but one thing I’ve noticed about some galleries from those just taking up the hobby, is that this is happening far too often.

3) Notice the world in a different way

Do you remember when you bought that shirt you thought was unique only find out every 10th person you passed down the street seemed to also be wearing it.  Quickly look around the room where you’re reading this article right now and notice something red.  Have you found something yet?

Okay, let me know what you found in the room that was green.  The fact is that we see the world in a selective manner and this bias is reflected in your photography as well.  Try going out and trying to capture certain tones, colours or shapes as an exercise for the day.  It will not only help you to see the world more creatively but it makes for a fun challenge.

2) Reduce the shots of YOU

Remember the example of those splendid shots of you eating cake from point number 7?  You’re going to hate me all over again.  Honestly, the name of the game when it comes to improving your photography is not to shove yourself into every single frame your ever take.  I’m so sorry.

“My sage like piece of advise (coming from a fool) is to start noticing everything in front of you instead of having to be in front of everything.

1) Learn as many rules about composition as you possibly can & then break them all…OFTEN

There are a plethora of compositional dos and don’ts one can potentially learn to improve their photography.  I suggest studying them all and applying them in appropriate situations; however, I can’t stress enough to also be prepared to break them just as often.

Photography is about emotions and feelings as much as it about technical skills.  Ultimately it’s about doing what feels right.

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  1. Great post Samuel. All of them are great advice. I am terrible at #5. I shy away and miss so many moments with people or I hesitate and the moments gone. I totally agree with #3. We spent a few days with a professional photographer and he mentioned about different shapes in the shot, colours, framing, lighting and the height of the camera. Best tip he did give us was “Use your feet as much as your eye”.

  2. says: Samir

    Those 10 tips cover almost all I’ve learnt about photography in the past 2 years or so. Whether you’re shooting insects (my 2nd fav) or clouds (#1), contrast is everything.
    My only problem is my lack of possession of a HUGE aperture camera. The panoramic mode is great for clouds, but low intensity shots are just worthless in capturing what I actually want! Using even the simplest of programs like Picasa lets me make up for the contrast and intensity, but the resolution just isn’t there.
    Lack of a discernible focus anywhere in the frame is especially bad.
    Shooting videos of evolving low-alt clouds is extremely taxing due to high wind speed.
    Though I’m not much of a traveler, and people are not my subjects of choice at all, those tips are great 🙂

  3. Great tips man- i especially love the one about being bold and taking pictures of people. I recently have gotten into photography and have fallen in love with it! I’ve noticed that some of my best pictures have been candid of random people from places I’ve been. Overall, snapping pictures of unsuspecting people is one of my favorite strategies for getting pictures. Its great except when you are in a country like Ghana where they REALLY dont like people taking pictures of them.. they think you are trying to exploit them which is frustrating because that is not the case at all. I literally got yelled at by Ghanians when I was trying to take some pictures. Luckily, you can still always play the dumb tourist card 😉

  4. Some excellent advice here, especially point number two. Now if you want to make a monumental contribution to humanity (possibly even Nobel Prize worthy), you’ll have that point translated into Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

  5. says: Mike Grube

    Great advice – I especially agree about the deletion rule. It describes what I’ve been doing for years. Anyhow, you forgot an importan, 11th rule:

    TAKE PHOTOS! The moment won’t come again, maybe you’ll never be at that location in your life, maybe the subject you wanted to capture will be gone in a minute/tomorrow/next time. Even if everythings seems so static and there forever – experience teached me that it might no longer be there after just blinking an eye. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about snapshooting, all your rules apply. I am talking about not being too lazy to take that shot NOW.

  6. Awesome! There is never too much of photography tips or advices, in my opinion. I’ll try to follow your advice and go out trying to capture certain tones, colors/shapes for a day!

    We use to get complaints that we take too few photos of ourselves…. ha ha…

  7. says: Derek

    Wow.. number 7 would be hard for me! Deleting more pictures than I take?! I think you just described me.. but its definitely a tip I’ll start working on. I know more than half the pictures I take aren’t that great.

    Glad I found you!

  8. I like your comment about reducing the “shots of YOU”. I barely have any really good photos of myself in places because I’m usually the person behind the lens. Meanwhile, my friends get tons of great shots to run home and show the folks.

    1. I’m the same way! I suppose the tip is really only for those who have to be in every photo. I’m rarely in any of mine to the point I should try to make more of an effort.

    2. says: Davide

      I usually travel alone, so it’s a bit hard to take self portraits on the go 🙂
      Also, clients don’t want to see my face in their images XD

  9. says: Davide

    Nice tips! I’d add a couple myself:
    1. work your subjects: don’t limit yourself on a shoot per subject, keep shooting and experiment framings and compositions;
    2. prepare before leaving: study guidebooks, look at other photographer’s pictures and so on (I’ve blogged about it recently).

    1. Those are great additional tips Davide. I personally studied a lot about photography in 2009. I’m really busy these days so I’ve let that slide a bit. I need to get back into the books.

      1. says: Davide

        More than books, I’d say photo books. You need just one good technique book, after that you should keep developing your vision.
        You have to train your eye, and photo books are the way to go.

  10. says: Sabrina

    Good tips! I need to work most on conquering my fear and put myself out there more often and actually ask people if they wouldn’t mind being photographed…

    1. Hey Sabrina,

      That’s honestly not always easy. I find though that if you can get comfortable with hearing ‘no’ it really helps because that’s honestly the worst that is likely to happen.

  11. Best photography tips list I’ve seen in quite a long time… Great advice, Samuel. You’re so right: the digital age has made it so easy to be wasteful and thoughtless, and the expense of gear keeps people from taking it out and using it on the streets .Edit, delete more than you keep, use your camera/don’t live in fear, don’t be trigger happy. All terrific advice…

  12. Love the comparison to the game Duck Hunt!

    I have created so much extra work for myself by taking a bazillion photos. Because I am still learning, I am still experimenting, so it is important to take a lot of shots. But you are right that you still have to think before pulling the trigger.

    1. LOL, did you up playing that as well. I would love to find some of the old games I played as a child just to test out again now. I don’t play any video games these days but I’m sure I could get hooked again.

  13. says: John

    Excellent summary of tips Sam! My roommate makes all sorts of fun of me for bending down and contorting my body all in the name of a perfect composition, but he just doesn’t understand it at all. I’m glad you do!

    1. Hey Andi,

      That’s awesome to hear that 🙂 Those who aren’t photographers might be wondering what you’re doing but anybody who loves to take photos would totally get that.

  14. Good tips! Very practical and applicable for those that really think about photography from a professional perspective. There’s one that I disagree with you on – photos of yourself. I take entire trips, can shoot hundreds of photos, and then realize I am only in 5 of them. I need to make more of an effort to make sure I am in more photos!

    1. You know what Jeremy, I’m guilty of that as well. I rarely take any shots of me either. I think we had better make a special rule just for us which is exactly the opposite.

  15. says: Amer

    Great tips Sam! Though, I rarely delete my travel photos (unless it’s really crap and I choose to delete it on site), maybe because I haven’t travelled as much but with the prices of storage devices these days, I’ll keep em all just in case. The problem though rises when you need to choose photos to write a post or show it to your friends – too many photos to go through.

  16. I really like number 2…people seem to take too many shots focused on themselves instead of what’s around them. Noticing everything in front of them is similar to what I tell everyone in that they should “open their eyes” and look at the details. I personally find that the details are what makes a great picture….in most cases! 😉

    1. Hey Ron,

      I really like that! Opening your eyes and noticing the details is crucial. I’ve personally found that I’ve trained my eye a little better with some conscious effort.