Travel Photography Magic: Your Guide to Great Vacation Images

by Beatrice
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Vacation images are the pictures you’ll cherish for years to come. They will evoke your travel stories and fun memories, making you smile every time you open the photo album. So, take your time to think “outside of the postcard” to create candid and iconic images. We gathered travel photography tips to help you have the most incredible vacation photos!

What is Travel Photography

Even if this seems like an easy question, there is no easy answer to it. The answers can be subjective since all of us have the opinion of how art should look like.

However, the most objective answer will be:

  • Travel photography expresses the culture and characteristics of land, country, or place where you are.
  • These photographs tend to show events of activities specific for a place, people or culture.
  • They provide information about the environment and people of a foreign country you are at.
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Travel Photography Equipment – Camera and Lenses

Whether you are a professional or a beginner, you might want to know that not every camera is right for everything. That is why some pro photographers suggest the exact type, brand, and several lenses to travel with if you want to make your photographs look superb.

Travel as Light as Possible

There is no need to take 5 lenses with you on travel. You can choose three – wide angle, long age zoom, and quick prime 35mm or 50mm lens.

If you want to make your photographs look great, then you should opt for one, lightweight camera that has everything you need. Sometimes, it’s not an easy task, but when you do find the right one, you will know.

Some of the best small cameras are in our phones now. Use them if you are a beginner! If you like to make videos, GoPro cameras are a great choice – small and compact for traveling.

Use a Tripod

If you want to avoid any movement in a photograph, use a tripod. You will need to work on a shutter speed as well and to match it with the lens you use. If you use a 50mm lens, don’t handhold below 1/50 seconds.

Waterproof Cameras

If you are in doubt should or shouldn’t you buy a waterproof camera, just think about some things. Do you intend making photos near the sea? Or are you planning on doing it underwater? If your travel photographs are action-like, then you definitely need an entirely waterproof camera. Don’t forget your waterproof mascara, as well, and learn how to apply it perfectly!

Backup Equipment

When it comes to technology, you need to be prepared for anything. You remember Carry Bradshaw and her sad Mac when she realized all her work is gone for good? Don’t let that happen to you as well. Bring your laptop, SD cards, as well as external hard-drive,  to have all your photos safe and secure.

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10 Travel Photography Tips

While some people collect souvenirs from their travels, the others make wonderful travel photographs. They stay forever, as a memory of a good time you spend in some foreign country with your family, friends, or with yourself.

Every destination is different, but these tips are eternal for all people who want to bring some wonderful photos back home from traveling.

1. Start Slowly

Remember – it’s not about quantity, it is about taking good quality photos. If you are a professional photographer, then you would know how important planning is. You can visit as many places as you wish, but you need to plan well, if you want to photograph all the cultural monuments, specific sites, people, etc.

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2. The Human Element

Having people in the photo adds interest. You don’t want only pictures of the scenery. So, prove you were there! Pass camera around and don’t forget to take group images  – you’ll definitely regret not snapping a few shots of everyone in attendance. Be ready in every situation – a bit of highlighter will make you look perfect in photos.

Include even people you meet at the location – people who made you laugh, who were beautiful and interesting.

When photographing people, it’s best to have them looking into the frame, but you can capture great expressions and moments when your subject isn’t aware that the camera is pointed at them. Capturing candid moments will more likely evoke your memories than posing in front of landmarks, which can feel touristy and boring.

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3. Golden Hours – Blue Hours

You have probably heard about photographers saying golden or blue hours. Well, these are the times of the day when you will get the best results.

Blue hours – the time 1-2 hours before sunrise or 1-2 hours after the sunset. In the dawn, you will have much more freedom to photograph nature, mostly because people still sleep.

Golden Hours – 1 hour after sunrise and 1 hour before sunset. If you would like to photograph in this hour, your photos will have long and beautiful shadows. You decide where the sun will be – in front or behind you.

4. Get Closer – Details Matter

Taken literally, the closer you get to your subject, the more detail and interest you can capture. And details are the ones who snap some wire in our brains, and we start to remember smells, tastes, moods of the day.  

Zoom in on the details and feel the frame with the entire subject. You can fill the whole frame with a close up of one particular subject such as shells from the beach. Or maybe a flower, a basket of ripe fruit at a market, a table full of souvenirs, airline tickets or Spanish phrasebook in your hands.

5. Shoot Local Signs

Include signs by the road in your pictures. Names and prices at colorful markets written in the local language are great for travel photography. Find creatively painted store signs, a newsstand featuring local papers, city street signs, paint-chipped door, or an architectural window can capture the spirit of a place.

As a foodie, my great memories of vacations are experiencing local cuisine. Pick a table by a window or on the terrace and photograph your #foodgasm of local delicacies by using Macro mode, making a flatlay or zooming in tight on the dishes.

6. Fill the Frame

If you want to improve your photographs, 100%, move closer. Simple as that. The one sure way to keep from including too much extraneous information in a photograph is to fill the frame with your subject and nothing else.

As soon as you think you’re close enough to your subject, take a few steps forward. A common problem here is that we often believe we are filling the frame when in fact we’re not even close. As you’re concentrating so intensely on your subject, your brain is tricked into thinking your subject is closer than it actually is. So as soon as you feel you’re close enough to your subject, take a few steps forward.

7. Know Where The Sun Is

Think about the light, not the view.

The easiest way to flatter your subject is to put it in the best light. Consider the time of day.  If you want to catch the glistening of light in the ocean, take the photo when the sun is low enough to bounce off the waves.

There’s no time like sunrise or sunset to take compelling, interesting, and even stunning travel photos. Sunrise, in particular, can produce very striking images. That is in part because most people are not

awake at the crack of dawn, and so can still be surprised by a sunrise photo.

8. Legal Rules in Travel Photography

While in many countries, like Australia or the USA, you can take photos without asking, there are still some countries where you can’t photograph people in public without asking.

When visiting a foreign country, always read some of the most essential rules and legal regulations. For instance, if you and your friends want to bring a drone to your vacation, that might not be possible in some countries (India, Qatar, Sri Lanka or Fuji will not allow it). You will need special permissions to fly it, so be careful.

If you want to photograph people on the street, the best you can do is to introduce yourself and explain what you are doing. If they say no, that’s fine. Don’t take photos of children or people in need, unless you get their permission.

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9. Composition Rules

One of the basic rules of photography is definitely the rule of thirds. The easiest way to understand this is to imagine breaking the image into three sections horizontally and vertically. The key is to put all the crucial parts of photo into those sections.

All cameras should have the possibility of turning on the grid. It will be easier for beginners and amateurs to learn how to make perfect travel photography.

According to the Rules of Thirds, it’s best not to put the subject of the photo in the middle. Instead, be creative and learn how you can make your rule of thirds work perfectly for you.

10. Post-Production

Even though filters on Instagram can make photographs look pretty fake, all travel photographers use some of the programs in the post-production. Some of the most used applications are Photoshop, Lightroom, and GIMP. However, you need to learn how to use them properly and make your photos even better.

First of all, don’t overuse any of these programs. Use these programs and apps to improve light, contrast, color tones, and adjust exposure levels.

You don’t have to be pro to have perfect travel photos!

10 Travel Photographers to Follow

There are many photographs out there, and it is pretty hard to find the ones that are the best. However, we tried to feature the ones that photograph both tropical places and mountains, people, and places. Let’s check them out.

1. Chris Burkard

Even though we can’t say that by looking at his photographs, this guy is self-taught! Can you imagine? He takes fantastic travel photographs while surfing, including both nature, animals, people, and some exotic places. From Yosemite to Island – his photos will leave you breathless.

2. Eric Rubens

If you were ever wondering how golden hour photography looks like Eric Rubens has the right answer – his Instagram feed. He said that his late grandfather has inspired him to start doing travel photography since he was exploring the Cape Town with him. His photos of Amalfi Coast, French Polynesia as well as California will transport you right there. He catches the golden hour and makes wonderful photos that you should take a look at.

3. Chelsea Y.

If you like to see people in photos, then Chelsea is the right girl to follow. She includes herself in the travel photos, and they can’t be more perfect. From Finland and cold weather to Hawaii sea diving – you can find her anywhere where the incredible places are.

4. Lauren Bath

Lauren is the first Australian Instagrammer. Her photos are full of colors and very light. If you like travel photography to include animals, then Lauren is the right person to follow. You will simply fall in love with the photos of elephants, lions, and other wild animals. She catches the moment of joy and play that you will surely adore.

5. Renee Roaming

Light photos, a lot of seasides, and extraordinary nature – all these things can be found on Renee’s Instagram feed. She also writes a blog, where she explains the places she visits. Renee is an Australian travel photographer and blogger, currently living in the States. However, she travels a lot, so she is not easy to catch. Her photos are Instagrammable, great for your travel wanderlust inspiration.

6. Johan Lolos

This is one of those profiles that will leave you speechless. Johan photographs places, mostly in Europe and make them look perfect for his Instagram feed. He has another profile, where he catches portraits of people he finds on his travelings. He spoke on TED and wrote a book called Peaks of Europe.

7. Samuel Taipale

Samuel is a Finnish photographer, living in Norway with his wife and child. His photos are cheerful, full of colors, people portraits, as well as moments he captures with his wife. You can see their passion for photography since his wife has a popular Instagram account as well. You can shop his Lightroom presets if you want your photos to be like exactly like his.

8. Kiki

If you like to see photographers that are blogging at the same time, then this profile is great for inspiration. Her stream contains fun, colorful, and quite inspiring photos of places, people, food – simple moments she captures with her camera or drone. She is quite an adventurer – she scuba dives!

9. Alex Strohl

Alex is one of those must-follow travel photographers. His landscape and adventure travel photography will make you instantly fall in love with both his profile and photography. Minimalism, blue hour and a lot of snowy lands – that is what you can expect to find on his profile.

10. Kirsten Alana

On Kirsten’s feed, you will find less nature and more urban travel photography places. She is a New-York-based photographer with the addiction to traveling around the world. Her passions are city breaks, art, culture, and luxury. Her photographs are alive, with people, houses, and animals.

Travel photography is a great hobby. It also serves to remind us of moments we have spent somewhere, alone or with friends and family. Don’t forget to take pictures. Don’t count on them only as something to post online. Be present at the moment.

Nowadays it is usual for people to take photos with their phones. They stay in our clouds forever, and in the end, you don’t even know where the photos are. Hopefully, this guide has changed some views and maybe got you inspired to try new things while on vacation.

Take your camera and be creative. Small things around you can inspire you – photograph them! Every corner, every street, and every doorstep you pass by can be a perfect place for taking photos. Capture moments, people, and don’t ever let these things to be forgotten.

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