Over the past decade, photography has been my favorite way to remember a place. Some people like to go to souvenir shops, some might even like to keep museum or exhibition tickets but since most of the time I’m living off my cabin size luggage, I cannot give myself this luxury. I know that many of you, regardless the reason, like to have good travel photos to document and remember your travels. I’ve decided to write a post with easy tips about shooting better travel photos to make your memories better and to talk a little bit more about the gear I use.
If you’re following us on Facebook or Instagram, you may have noticed that we put a lot of effort into taking the best photo we can. Even though I’m a professional photographer for as long as I can remember, it is always a new challenge, always a new destination. Photography is an ongoing learning process and if it is not, you’re doing it wrong. To get better travel photos you will need to put some effort on it.
I’m aware that our early photos are not the best photos ever but that just makes my last statement even truer. And the better the photos got, the higher the number of likes and followers. We went from 0 to over 14.000 in a little more than 2 or 3 years. A nice sign that I’m doing something right.
I’ll break down everything you need to know to get the same results in photos and on Instagram, starting off with my equipment and finishing with some useful and easy tips.
Let’s start the talk about better travel photos with the equipment I use.
If you read my previous posts about what I bring along with me and other posts from the Photo Tips session, you know my gear already. If you don’t I suggest you take a quick look at those since I won’t go deep into that again.
But just for the sake of it, I’ll try to sum it up everything I praise in a camera. But remember that you do not need to spend the amount of money I did if you don’t earn money with your photos, ok? Like I said: read the older posts before anything.
I chose the Canon 5D III for a few reasons. Reasons that maybe will make sense just to me but still, you need to love your camera and feel comfortable with it. Even if you phone is your camera. Does not matter and an expensive gear will not make you a better photographer. I think this is key, to be completely honest. To take better travel photos rarely a photographer needs to spend money on a new camera. We get the best cameras because sometimes is a matter of how much the equipment can handle. It is more about how much clicks per second and if it is waterproof of not, definition or even the size of the image later, and not so much for the clarity of the picture or the prettiness of it – I know some people do believe that a camera is responsible for the outcome but they just don’t understand a thing.
My 5D is the love of my life because of the way she (yes, she!) works in low light situations, can handle bumps and sometimes falls – a travel photographer’s camera suffers a lot! – and has an easy menu for me. I’m using 5Ds for the past 11 years, so when I tried to change it, didn’t work. My previous camera is with Felipe now. Felipe in the other hand uses more his iPhone than the heavy camera and his photos are only getting greater. To make better travel photos you need to understand what works for you!
Read a lot before you get your camera and research for days and weeks before you upgrade. I like to always give a look at Photography Bay and see the reviews there. I also type the name of what I want to get on youtube and I spend hours watching review videos. If you need an extra help, get in touch with me in the comments or on our facebook group and I’ll try to help. I don’t know how to answer questions like “What is the best camera?” because this is too personal and I only use Canon, but I can give a look at the functions and “translate” to you what everything means.
Another useful tip I cannot stress enough is: always think to upgrade your lenses before you think of a new camera! Spend your money on lenses!!! Clear and good quality LENSES! We’ve reviewed a few for this blog, take a look at some of the posts on Photo Gear Review. Those little fellas are, maybe, the responsible for better travel photos.
And speaking of lenses…
Long Exposure + Wide Angle Lens
Always have a wide with you for landscape and/or travel photography. The images are outstanding and if you take one like mine – a 24-70mm – you basically won’t need another one.
All those photos wouldn’t have been possible without my 24-70mm to capture the entire scene!
Next on my list is a 14mm, the one I reviewed here, it makes my Faroe Islands’s photos incredible! Wide angles will always make the entire frame richer and give the viewer a better experience. It will give you more room to make better travel photos because you can have almost all the beauty around you. It allows extra details that normally would be cut off if you’re using a 50mm. 50mm is what your eyes see, anything below falls into the wide angle range.
Travel photographers usually rely on wide-angle lenses and that’s why your eyes move around the entire photo and you see more than you would in one frame. These lenses create a cool warped effect around the sides that makes clouds look like they’re stretching out into space. Of course, you can edit out afterward with software like LightRoom but sometimes they give that little extra to your photo.
Usually, a good lens will cost the same or even more than your camera. And this is the reason why if you have limited resources, go for the lenses. Cameras are just a black box with a hole to capture the light. Modern cameras are just fancy black boxes with ultra-tech features and a tiny hole to capture the light. Better travel photos need to pass through good lenses, good lenses will give you more options on what and how to capture what you want.
Action Cameras and more portable cameras
And on the matter of wide-angles, let’s talk about my Legria and my Action Cam. They have an even wider, fisheye lenses that are perfect for capturing everything you need. And the Action Cam is waterproof, perfect for videos and photos in places where I don’t dream of taking my 5D. Both are fantastic in their own way. But do you need them both? No! Choose one and be happy.
My Action Cam is in the same family as the well-known GoPro and the Legria is perfect for shooting videos where you need to be on the frame. Both are terrible in low light situations so keep this in mind. You will have to use them only during daytime or inside when there’s a good light situation happening.
But what they lack on low light, they show how practical they can be and how easy they make your life.
The Legria is easier to make stable videos since you can hold it in the palm or your hand. Its format is easier to maintain the position than a regular camera. And the Action Cam can fit in your pocket and it is perfect for adventures. Both have a good photo and video quality but the colors are not even comparable to a proper camera or even my iPhone 6+ camera, ok? It is more about the opportunity of the photo than anything else. Even tho Felipe show some incredible pieces with it, like these photos inside a Russian Church here.
Out of all the other gear I have, they were the cheapest but also the most resilient. When in snowy or wet situations, I usually have to leave the other cameras at the hotel and I rely only on them.
The heart and soul of all good travel photos: Composition and shooting techniques
Let’s start with the basic here. First of all: Stop shooting in jpg now! Shoot your images in RAW format. Also, pay attention to when you go out to take your photos, aim for the golden hour or the blue hour or the pink hour. In other words, sunset and sunrise. Study a lot and get really close to your camera. Let her (yes, her) be your BFF. Only then you will learn how to get out of the automatic setting.
And please do not forget to look for symmetry, lines and all that same Bla Bla Bla you will read every article out there about composition. You know the deal already.
Golden, pink, blue hour and other amazing things
If you’re already familiar with travel photography terminology, this will not sound weird. Golden, pink and blue hour, the hour after the sun rises and the hour before it sets, is an ideal time for photos as well. Let the sky be your muse. The names come from the predominant colors in the sky when it paints everything pink or blue or gold when the sun starts to dip below the horizon and creates an ethereal look to photos. But don’t panic if you can’t make it, you can have clouds making a great show any time of the day!
And if the not even clouds in the sky are exciting or if it’s the noon and everything is mega bright and the shadows too hard, try to meter your camera in the middle point, where you think it is 50/50 between the brightest part and the darkest spot. And use always the lowest ISO possible so you can correct the photo later on LightRoom without too much damage.
Train Your Eyes
What differs a good photographer from a bad photographer is this. And since we know better than believing in “talent”, we have to train our eyes to be always better in what we love. What I mean by that is, how you frame and compose your photography. Something that every photographer will tell you, there are many ways to train your photography eye to make better travel photos, these are just some of them:
- Follow people on Flickr, 500px, Instagram and other social networks who you consider to be way better than you in photography. Fill your feed with photographers who take amazing photos, and look at what they’re doing. Try to get those awesome angles and styles.
- Spend some time on YouTube. Watch a lot of tutorials from your favorite photographers, subscribe to their channel, make this a habit. Keep an eye on posts like this one for more tips and always try them out before to see what works for you and what doesn’t. If you want to get good at something just keep trying and learning, you will get there! I’m sure.
- Only post your best work.
- Move closer to your subject, move away from your subject. Don’t always rely on focus or your wide lenses. Go up that rock or down there, get dirty. Show your audience the scene from a different angle. Get their attention.
- In the beginning, you won’t really know what looked best until you get home and look at the photos on your screen. So get yourself some extra memory card and take a bunch of photos. The more the better when you’re learning.
- Keep learning
If you have a friend next to you, show them the photo and ask “Is this photo awesome enough to make you go WOW?”. If they say yes, you post it. You don’t actually need them to tell you, you can tell by their faces usually. If the response is not satisfactory, think twice before posting it. You need people to feel something when they look at your shots. If there’s a reaction to them, you’ll see it online.
And if you’re alone, make the rational decision. And always check what gives you better results on your feeds. With time and persistence, you’ll learn the tricks and your account will bloom.
Get out of your comfort zone
To get your photography to the next level, you need to be able to be uncomfortable. Sometimes you need to hike 20 km to get to the top of that mountain, sometimes you need to spend 3 hours until you get the perfect shot, sometimes you have to wait for long periods of time to get the perfect show with your tripod and low light. Photography is no easy-breezy task, you need to put up some work. And travel photography is one of the hardest since you rely a lot on what nature gives you.
That’s the kind of dedication that will earn you the trillions of fans you want.
And please do not get frustrated if all of this seems a bit too much. It’s a long process, and every single one of your beloved photographers you love had to climb the same uneasy path you have to through persistence, learning, diligence, and or course by practicing.
I strongly hope these tips help you get there. If you liked this post, consider joining our family. We promise we won’t spam you, we will only send 1 email per month.