6 Ways to Improve Your Images and Take Better Vacation Photos

Have you ever been on a vacation only to return home disappointed with your images? Many people take pictures while on holiday but find they are unsatisfied with their results. You can improve your chances of capturing better vacation photos by learning the basics and applying a few simple techniques.

better vacation photos - trees in Namibia

1. Choose the right equipment

Firstly, you don’t need expensive equipment to achieve photos from your travels that are satisfying. If you’re looking to buy a camera, choose one that suits your needs and budget. Digital cameras now range from professional DSLRs to great compacts that can produce quality images. Even mobile phones can give you stunning results.

Generally, a camera with more megapixels will provide a better picture resolution and higher quality images when printed. Whichever camera you decide to use, choose a compact with a good quality lens and broad optical zoom or a digital SLR with a zoom or telephoto lens depending on the subjects and angle of view you want to capture.

For example, a wide zoom would help to photograph a wide sweeping landscape and a telephoto can be used to capture wildlife. Also consider the size and weight of your equipment and make sure you can carry your camera kit comfortably.

Lion's roar Ngorongoro Crater Tanzania - better vacation photos

2. Make mistakes

A common mistake people tend to make is to pick up a camera and shoot a scene without giving any thought to what they are actually photographing.

You can dramatically improve your images by learning from your mistakes and analyzing why an image may not look as good as the view that you saw when you took the image.

Appraise your work and think about how you could improve your images next time. It’s good to recognize your mistakes, such as poor camera technique and poor composition and improve on those things next time around.

Zhangjiajie China scene - better vacation photos

3. Improve your camera technique

A great photograph is rarely achieved without some initial technical knowledge and photographic skills. Learn the basics about your camera and how it works. Study your camera manual and read up on other technical areas such as depth of field.

Know the limits of your equipment and how to use it effectively to create the style of images you want to capture.

Handling your camera in advance of your trip can help familiarize yourself with the buttons and you will be more comfortable with how it works when you’re away. Time spent understanding your camera will help take your photography to the next level and make for a more enjoyable experience when on vacation.

town with mountains and a lake - Take Better Vacation Photos

4. Improve your composition

A thoughtless composition can let your image down. Too many different subjects can complicate a scene. Look for features, shapes and patterns that may work in harmony to strengthen your images. Take time to manufacture your shot, trust your instinct and aim for a composition that you like.

The image of trees and the towering sand dunes shows an example where the different subjects of the composition can work well together and strengthen an image.

Camel thorn trees Deadvlei Namibia - Take Better Vacation Photos

5. Focus on details

You can choose to photograph specific and interesting subjects to improve your holiday pictures. Focusing on details allows you to reduce the number of variables in the frame and concentrate on the different shapes and forms that can be found within your subject.

By shooting only a portion of a famous building or scene of nature, you can isolate an image to concentrate on the aspects that appeal to you. Try zooming in or moving closer to your subject to narrow your point of interest and make it stand out.

scenice view of a town with church steeple - Take Better Vacation Photos

6. Consider the time of day

The quality of light varies throughout the day and can have a huge impact on your final image. Most holiday snappers go on vacation for a break, rest in the mornings and go out and shoot during the middle of the day. However, bright sunlight at noon provides harsh shadows and flat lighting.

Try and shoot outside this time for better vacation photos and more dramatic light. Instead of sleeping in, set the alarm clock and get out early at least once when on vacation, or stay out late to capture the beautiful tones from the sun.

The light at this time of day can make a pleasing difference to your images. Be aware of the effects light can create and use it to capture better images. For example, look for shadows and highlights that may improve your images by providing contrasting shapes.

The Grand Canyon USA - better vacation photos


Taking photographs during a vacation is a wonderful way to improve your photography. By applying the tips above you can achieve better images while capturing lasting memories of the places you have visited that can give you immense pleasure for years to come.

Do you have any other vacation photography tips and photos? Please share them in the comments area below.

The post 6 Ways to Improve Your Images and Take Better Vacation Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Travel Photography Hacks to Get You Going Places

One of the joys of travel is capturing all the new and exciting destination sites from your own perspective. Sometimes you make conscious decisions of what to leave behind and other times you realize you forgot to bring something, only after you got there. Whatever the case, a few travel photography hacks can help you save the day!

view from a cave of the ocean - travel photography hacks

1. Pack Light

Many times, the biggest challenge in travel photography is whether or not you will be able to capture the essence of the place with the gear you packed. If you are going on vacation, you certainly do not want to take every lens you own. Other than adding weight, there is a chance that much of it will not be used.

 travel photography hacks - lagoon with trees and a boat

This is a good reason to research your destination is to help determine what images you want to capture. Are you going to shoot more landscape scenery or trying to capture the people living there? Your decision will affect what gear you take with you.

blue sky and beach -  travel photography hacks

Additionally, a great way to determine what to take is by reviewing your last trip. Look at what you captured then and decide if it is similar to what you hope to capture now. Many times you will find that most of your photos were taken with the same lens. You can use Lightroom’s filtering system to gather that intel.

For example, if you took both a wide and long zoom lens, but took most shots with the wide lens, then you can safely leave your long zoom behind.

2. Pack Smart

When you decide which lenses you need for your trip, pack well to protect them. It helps to remember that lenses are made mostly of glass, even when built with highly durable exterior bodies. An easy packing hack to avoid damaging your lenses is putting them inside thick socks. This cushions your lens during travel, whether inside your luggage (carry-on only, never check your valuable camera gear) or camera bag.

photo from an airplane window -  travel photography hacks

Optional: further secure your lenses by putting them (sock-wrapped) into shoes/boots.

3. Make a Shot List

You do not have to be a professional photographer to make a shot list. As you research your destination, there are no doubt certain things that you want to see and experience there. As you plan your itinerary, you can make a note of what you want to capture in that location.

b/w architecture image -  travel photography hacks

Take a note of your different points of interest and how you plan to shoot them. Sometimes this simple action can keep you from being overwhelmed when you get there. This will also help you determine what gear to pack (mentioned above).

4. No Neutral Density Filter, No Problem

If you did not pack neutral density filters for your trip, there is no need to kick yourself if an opportunity for a long exposure presents itself. It does take a little familiarity and processing in Photoshop, though. Compose your image and take between 15-20 shots with that composition.

beach shot -  travel photography hacks

15 shots taken of the same scene in short intervals.

You need to shoot in burst mode or ensure that the intervals between your shots are as small as possible. Download your images and load them into Photoshop as layers.

Photoshop layers -  travel photography hacks

15 shots loaded into Photoshop Layers.

Select Auto-Align Layers from the Edit Menu and Auto. Click OK when done. Next, convert your layers into Smart Objects. You do this by selecting the Layer menu, Smart Object and Convert to Smart Object. This step may take a few minutes to process.

When that is finished, go back to your Layer menu and Smart Objects. In Stack Mode, choose Mean (or Median also works well). This process also takes a few minutes to run.

15 images stacked in Photoshop - travel photography hacks

The result, silky smooth water as if it had been shot with a neutral density filter and really long exposure.

Bonus Tip: This method can also help you remove people from your photos.

5. Tripod or Not?

A tripod is that piece of gear that you benefit tremendously from, but when traveling you may be willing to concede. Again it comes down to when and what you are shooting. If you plan on capturing nightscapes or moving subjects, a tripod is a necessity. A good compromise is a tripod that converts to a monopod.

shot of leading lines of a theatre seating area -  travel photography hacks
Conversely you can leave the tripod at home. Depending on where you are going, a tripod can become a nuisance to lug around or may not even be allowed. This is when you have to get creative and make a supporting object your tripod. Tables, walls, rocks or anything stationary which supports your camera will stand-in for a tripod.

b/w statue -  travel photography hacks

6. Batch It!

Chances are that you will shoot a number of images in one location with the same lighting and conditions. A quick way to edit a large number of photos with your style is to batch process them. Batch processing is applying the same edit across multiple images. In addition to Photoshop and Lightroom, there is other photo editing software available that can help you achieve this.

7. Let’s Reflect

There is no need to walk with a bulky or expensive reflector on your trip. Buy a piece of foam board to bounce light into your shadows. This cheap trick can save you from packing more and you only need apply it to some situations.

city at night - travel photography hacks


With travel photography, most times you want to walk around with less gear (for both your comfort and safety). Once you have done your research and know what you want to achieve, there is no need to go with equipment that you will not use. Sometimes a few travel photography hacks can save you in a pinch.

Please share some of your favorites with us in the comments area below.

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Tips for Selecting What Gear to Take Along for Travel Photography

Travel photography is exciting. There’s always this sense of finding new and exotic places to capture. Of course, if you work hard you can find new and exotic places to photograph right near home. But there’s something about travel that truly sparks the imagination.  It’s really about capturing the look and feel of a place that isn’t your home.

Tips for Packing for Travel Photography

I used a 70-200mm lens here to compress the space between the sheep and the village beyond.

The thing is that it’s difficult to travel with camera gear, especially large DSLRs and their rather bulky lenses. Then there’s the expense. You could potentially be traveling with some very expensive equipment.

If you’re a hobbyist photographer, the loss of that gear could be devastating. I’ve known several individuals who have lost their gear while out traveling and have found that their insurance didn’t cover the whole loss. For these hobbyists, it was a blow from which they couldn’t recover.

So while travel photography with a DSLR can be exciting, it can also be stressful. That’s why every professional travel photographer will tell you all about the importance of packing wisely when traveling with your DSLR.

So without further ado let’s take a look at some helpful tips for traveling the world with your DSLR.

Be economical in choosing lenses

Weight is a factor if you don’t want to pay the fees for extra baggage. So when packing for travel photography, it’s best to economize your lenses. Instead of taking every lens you own, consider packing ones that give you a full range of focal lengths without doubling up.

If you have a 70-200mm lens why pack the 85 mm prime? Instead, a wise decision may be to take your zoom lenses. Choose a wide angle like the Canon 16-35mm. Granted the lens is heavy. The 70-200mm isn’t a lightweight either, but if you are only going to take two lenses then it’s not such a big issue.

Tips for Packing for Travel Photography - truck in a driveway

Shot with a wide angle lens. This image was taken from the rooftop of a hotel.

Choose lightweight lenses

Prime lenses aren’t a bad idea for travel either. They usually have a wider aperture which is great for low light, and if you’re visiting a dark castle somewhere in Europe that can be really useful. Primes are much lighter than their zoom counterparts, and with a little practice, you can get used to shooting with just prime lenses.

It takes a little more thought than zooming in and out but you can capture amazing images with prime lenses. If you’re going to pack a general set of lenses for travel your bag might include the following, a 24mm for wide angles, the 50mm for general shots and an 85 mm for a little more range.

Tips for Packing for Travel Photography - gnarly tree branches

I had to use a zoom lens for this shot. The tree just wasn’t accessible from up close and I wouldn’t have been able to shoot at this level if I were closer. The telephoto was essential for this shot.

Choose lenses for a purpose

The lenses you choose to take with you might also be determined by the type of photography you’re planning on doing while you’re traveling. Perhaps you’re going on safari to Kenya. If that’s the case, you’re going to be focused on capturing wildlife, so your longer telephoto lens is going to be essential, and you might choose to take something in the 100-400mm range. I would argue that adding a nice light 50mm prime to your bag might be all that you need in that situation.

I recently visited the city of Havana, Cuba. I knew I wasn’t going to be going outside of the city and that my focus was on shooting architecture and street scenes. So, in that case, I left my telephoto lenses at home. On the busy streets, it would have been difficult to pull out my 100-400mm and shoot comfortably. So I chose to pack a wide-angle lens and my nifty 50mm. That was all I needed within the cramped streets of Havana.

This is in contrast to a trip I took last month to Wales. I was going to shoot both landscapes as well as city scenes, and I was hoping to capture some images of birds as well. So I chose to pack a little more weight. I chose to leave my prime lenses at home and took three zoom lenses; the 16-35mm, the 70-200mm and the 100-400mm.

Tips for Packing for Travel Photography - garbage can in an alley with graffiti

Shot with a prime lens. Graffiti alley in Toronto is a great place to use a mid-range focal length.

Just use your phone

I know a number of travel photographers who challenge themselves to shoot just one trip a year using nothing but their phones. The results are truly beautiful and they love the ease of traveling with just a phone.

Many smartphones have fantastic cameras and can capture huge RAW images. So it’s definitely worth a try. Limit yourself to your phone and see what kinds of images you can capture.

Tips for Packing for Travel Photography - city scene

I took this shot using my phone. It’s 5000 px on the long edge, a large file. I could never have gotten this with the gear I had with me that day.

Embrace the excitement

Travel photography is exciting. Taking your camera to places that are new and different from home can truly raise adrenaline levels. It’s a lot of fun, and I highly recommend you get out there to visit other places and explore with your camera.

Embrace the challenges of packing for the trip as well. It’s part of the excitement. You’ll be challenged to shoot great images with a limited amount of gear. There’s nothing wrong with that. Take the challenge by the horns, pack wisely, and push yourself to try and capture great images of far-off places with just a few simple tools.

Tips for Packing for Travel Photography - forest shot

This would have been impossible to capture without my wide angle lens. We were just too close to the falls for anything mid-range.

The post Tips for Selecting What Gear to Take Along for Travel Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

4 Ways To Make Better Street Portraits While Traveling

One of my favorite things about travel photography is the opportunities it provides to meet interesting people in the street and make portraits of them. Here are some of the things that I have learned that you can put into practice when you are traveling and make street portraits.

Street portraits and travel photography

1. Ask people for permission

It’s surprising how you often get the best results when you ask people for permission to make their portrait. This doesn’t apply all the time – you might see somebody interesting who doesn’t notice that you are there and you get the opportunity to make a great candid portrait.

But more often than not you can get a better result by approaching people and asking permission. The good thing about this approach is that it gives you a great excuse to go up to somebody and ask if you can make their portrait. A good way to phrase it is to explain that you are undertaking a project asking interesting people to pose for you.

Problems can arise with this approach if you don’t speak the local language. But that doesn’t stop you communicating with good body language and a smile. You can point to your camera to indicate you are asking for permission to make a portrait.

It’s worth overcoming the challenges

An alternative approach is to work with a local person who can translate for you. This may be a local photographer who you have made contact with and who is interested in helping you out. Or it may be a fixer who you pay to help you communicate with local people and find photo opportunities that you are unlikely to come across by yourself.

Once you have somebody’s permission you have an immediate advantage that you can spend some time with them to work on creating a good street portrait. For example, let’s say you see an interesting person who is standing in the sun and as a result, the light is too harsh to make a good portrait. If you approach them to ask for permission you can then ask them to stand in the shade so you get the best light.

Street portraits and travel photography

That’s the approach I took with the portrait above, created in a mosque in Delhi. The man approached us in the mosque and explained a few things to us about what we were seeing. When we met him he was standing in the sun. After a few minutes of conversation, we asked if we could make a portrait of him and he said yes. It was easy to find a shady place for him to stand.

2. Photograph character, not beauty

It may be tempting to look for beautiful or handsome people to photograph. And who could blame you? But you’ll create more interesting street portraits full of character if you find interesting people. This means people of both genders and all ages (except children, see next point).

For example, I made the portrait below in the town of San Antonio de Areco in Argentina. This town is famous for its atmospheric bars and gauchos. While taking photos in one of the bars somebody told me there was an elderly couple down the road who loved talking to people and having their photo taken. We went to check out the situation and found the couple sitting out on the street. We had an interesting conversation and I made this portrait.

Street portraits and travel photography

This also shows how you should be open to opportunity. If people are friendly and make suggestions like this, go with the flow and see where it takes you. Interesting things often happen this way.

3. Don’t take too many photos of children

A few years ago I traveled to the town of Tupiza in southern Bolivia. We were walking through the town’s main square and noticed there was a lot of children. It turned out that it was a national sports day and as part of that event, local school children were in the square to participate in sporting activities.

Eventually one of the children noticed that I had a camera and started jumping up and down in front of me, asking me to take his photo. Of course, then other children joined in and soon I had a mob of kids in front of me who all wanted their photos taken. Which I did, and I have a nice memory because of it.

Street portraits and travel photography

Luckily a teacher came along and shooed the kids away. The point of this story is that kids are often easy to photograph, especially in places where they get excited whenever they see a foreigner. But they are not likely to feature in your most interesting or memorable photos.

As a subject, they are too easy. Plus, you have to consider that in some countries local people may view strangers photographing children as suspicious. You’ll get better results by avoiding kids and finding interesting adults.

4. Look for interesting backgrounds

My final tip is to look for interesting backgrounds or places and wait with your camera to see what happens. Have you noticed how some photographers walk rapidly from one place to another, taking photos of anything that catches their eye? The aim of this exercise is to get you to slow down and become attuned to the rhythm of the place you’re in.

If the background is interesting enough, you can wait for somebody to pass by and add an element of human interest. People will usually think that you’re photographing whatever’s in the background and probably won’t even realize they are in the photo.

Here’s an example of that. I found this beautiful scene in Guatemala and waited to see what would happen. Eventually, a man cycled by and I was able to make this photo.

Street portraits and travel photography


When you are traveling with the intention of creating street portraits it takes some work to get the best results. Following the tips in this article, and getting used to approaching people to ask if you can make their portrait will help you a lot with the process.

The Candid Portrait

If you’d like to learn more about street and travel photography then please check out my popular ebook popular ebook The Creative Portrait. Use the code DPS20 for a 20% discount on your first order.

The post 4 Ways To Make Better Street Portraits While Traveling appeared first on Digital Photography School.

6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried

Great travel photography has the power to take the viewer to that destination and make them feel like they are there. It can evoke memories of faraway lands and local people and culture that the viewer might have never seen.

You may have heard the usual advice about travel photography like “getting up early” and photographing at the “golden hour”. But here are six travel photography secrets that you have probably never tried that will help you capture stunning photos.

6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried

#1 Walk Around

Often the biggest advice for any prospective travel photographer is to simply walk around. It’s incredible how many different photo opportunities you will find simply walking around a city rather than getting in trains, buses, and taxis. Not only will you be able to get a better understanding of the geographical side of the city, but you will also notice moments that would often get missed if using transport.

Just get yourself a handy local map, set a route, and walk. Once you finish the route set another and walk again. Sometimes you might not see anything, and it will feel like a waste of time, but every now and again a photo opportunity will present itself that will make you glad you did walk.

6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried

#2 Find High Vantage Spots

Getting up high for an aerial view of a place is a wonderful way to capture great photos. But it can also help get an understanding of the layout of the city and aid you in finding potential shot locations. Often most places have well-defined lookout or viewpoints and there’s nothing wrong with going to those locations and capturing photos even though they have been done before.

But in addition to that, when you are at the location try to figure out if there are any other places that can help you capture great elevated shots.

The great thing these days is that you can find a ton of information online about every location. So always try to build in time at a location to capture some photos from a high viewpoint.

6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried

#3 Change Your Hotel

A great trick for photographing cities and being able to capture a good variety of photos is to change your hotel. So rather than staying in the same place for a week, aim to stay at two different hotels around the city.

By choosing your hotels carefully you may be able to capture photos from a rooftop bar or even from your room of different views of the city. Often these photos can work better than those from lookout points as only those people who have stayed at the hotel will be able to capture it.

But the other advantage of staying at a hotel in a different part of the city is that you will get to learn that area and naturally spend more time around there. This will mean rather than focusing most of your time in one location if you were staying in one hotel, you can now spend time in two.

Clearly, if the city is small you won’t need to do this, but in a big city such as Moscow or London this could be useful and help you capture more photos.

6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried

On a recent trip to Bangkok, I was able to my hotel room balcony to capture a cityscape shot.

#4 Speak to a Local Photographer

Let’s be honest, no matter how good of a photographer you are and how well you plan your trip, a local photographer will always have an edge purely because it is their home city. So why not use that to your advantage.

Contact a local and ask them some questions or get some tips about places you are looking to photograph. Obviously, the key here is not to try to copy their photos but get advice about anything you want to capture. The great thing about doing this rather than contacting a tour guide is that as a photographer they will understand your needs and can help you capture the shots you want.

You never know they may even tell you or show you around a few places that you never knew about. Just think of it as paying it forward, so if one day someone contacts you for information, do the same thing.

Note from the editor: Please do your due diligence and use normal safety precautions when meeting someone you do not know over the internet or in person. Always put your safety first over getting a shot.

6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried

#5 Hire a Translator

Whilst not absolutely essential, sometimes having a translator can come in handy. This is especially true if you are photographing anywhere that might be sensitive such as religious buildings or even women in some cultures.

Having a translator can mean that they can ask permission for you, speak to locals to put them at ease, and even help you get model release clauses. You could look to hire a translator just for a day or for the duration of your stay, but they can be a big help in capturing photos in a place where you don’t speak the language.

6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried

#6 Ask Tourists

More and more these days picture editors want photos of experiences rather than just another standard snap of the Eiffel tower. Sometimes you can capture those photos naturally with things that happen before your eyes. At other times you may need to set something up to help get that story across.

One of the best ways to do this is by using other tourists. Firstly, if they are from your country you will be able to communicate without any problems. Second, and most importantly, they would probably love to have some great photos of themselves from their trip for their personal use.

Just explain what you are doing and ask if they are willing to participate. Then take their email address and email them a copy of the photo when you get home. The bonus here is that you also have their email address and if one day you require a model release form, you can contact them.

Just be aware of time. No one wants to spend half of their day on holiday posing for photos. Work quickly, take a few photos, and let them get on with their day.

6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried


Travel photography often requires a lot of “out of the box” thinking as you’ll rarely encounter exact situations over and over again. Over time you’ll build up your own arsenal of solutions to potential creative challenges. In the meantime use the tips above to help you capture great travel photos.

Have you got any travel photography tips and tricks? Please share them below.

The post 6 Travel Photography Secrets That You May Not Have Tried appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

Whether you are traveling abroad or within your own country, there are several mistakes that I’ve seen travel photographers make that hinder the process of making memorable photos.

Five Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

Mistake #1: Not being aware of cultural sensitivities and laws

When you travel to another country it’s easy to forget that the people there may see certain things differently than you. For example, in China, you will see signs up in temples asking you not to take photos. So it should be fairly obvious that doing so may cause offense.

Others are not so obvious. Did you know that in Spain the law prohibits photographers from taking photos of people in public without permission unless they are taking part in a cultural event such as a festival? That’s right, Spain is not a great place to be a street photographer (although that doesn’t stop people from doing it).

Unless you know this, you probably think taking candid photos of people in Spain is perfectly okay (as it is in most other places). Once you understand the attitude (and the law) towards photographing people in Spain, you can adjust your behavior to fit in with local expectations and behavior.

If you want to create a street photo of somebody, it’s best to stop them and ask for permission. That way you protect yourself and (added bonus!) keep out of trouble with the police.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

I made this street portrait in Cadiz, Spain after asking the street vendor if I could take his photo. If I had tried to take a photo without him noticing it would have been illegal, and if he had called the police I would have been on the wrong side of the law.

Some countries have laws forbidding the photography of certain buildings, like airports. Did you know that photographers have been arrested, jailed, and accused of spying in Greece for photographing an airshow at a military base? If you’re going to Greece it’s a good idea to know which buildings are out of bounds for photographers. Make sure you’re aware of any legal restrictions in your country of travel.

Mistake #2: Being disrespectful to local people

When you travel somewhere new, especially somewhere that is exotic to you, it’s easy to treat people as if they were laid out, like colorful extras in a movie scene, for you to take photos of. That is not true, and it’s disrespectful and unkind to act as if it is. Imagine how you would feel if somebody from another country came and tried to take photos as you went about your daily life, without consideration for you and your feelings.

It seems to me that a big part of the problem is when people travel through other countries without interacting with locals in anything other than a commercial context, such as renting a hotel room or eating in a restaurant. Sometimes this is down to language – it’s hard to strike up a conversation in China if you don’t speak Chinese, for example.

But your travels (and life in general) can become a lot more interesting if you are open to non-commercial experiences with local people. Try having conversations with people about their hopes and dreams, what they do for a living, how they like living in their town and similar topics. You’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the places you’re traveling through when you do.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

A Spanish friend of mine invited me to see a farm owned by a member of her family. I would never have gotten to see the farm or make this photo if we didn’t know each other.

Language study is an excellent way to meet local people. I have many good friends in Spain and South America that I met online through websites aimed to help people learn other languages. I’ve met most of them in person and learned a lot about their culture and countries in the process.

Mistake #3: Not putting safety first

Another mistake I’ve seen photographers make is forgetting to take care of their personal security or failing to take appropriate precautions to guard their gear against theft.

Most photographers travel to most places without any security problems, but there is always the potential for something to go wrong, especially if you don’t put much thought into your personal safety and the security of your camera and computer equipment. Some countries are safe, others can be dangerous, so make sure you do your research beforehand and take any appropriate precautions.

A good travel insurance policy that covers your gear (check the fine print) will help give you peace of mind if the worse does happen.

Mistake #4: Taking too much gear

We’ve all seen the type of photographer that walks around with a large dSLR camera and telephoto lens, perhaps even two, swinging from their side.

At the other extreme are photographers who travel with just one camera and one lens. When I worked at EOS magazine we published an article about a photographer who traveled to India with one camera and a single 50mm lens. He made some beautiful images so the approach worked for him.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

During a recent trip to China, I calculated afterward that I had used my 35mm lens for 73% of the photos, including the one above. That tells me that I probably could have taken just that lens and still enjoyed a very productive journey.

There’s nothing wrong with taking lots of gear, especially if it works for you. Professionals often take lots of lenses so they know they are covered for just about any situation they may encounter. But there are a couple of things worth considering.

  • The first is that a large camera and lens combo is an obvious target for theft. Smaller cameras attract less attention and don’t look as expensive.
  • The other consideration is creative. If you have too much gear it’s heavy to carry around and you can waste time trying to decide which lens/camera combination to use.

The key is to think in advance about the subject matter you intend to photograph and what gear you’ll need for it. If you are into long exposure photography, for example, then you’re going to need a tripod, cable release and neutral density filters.

If you are photographing people, you need to decide what lens or lenses you are going to use for portraits. If you are photographing local architecture, you will probably need a good wide-angle lens. If you are going to walk around all day taking street photos, a small camera and lens are much less tiring than a large DSLR with a telephoto zoom.

You get the idea. Ultimately, you need to find the right balance between taking enough gear to meet your needs and taking too much. Also, if security is a concern, you may want to consider leaving your more expensive gear at home.

Mistake #5: Not doing enough research

If there’s one mistake that links all the others, it’s this one – not doing enough research. It’s important because it makes you aware of any local laws or cultural sensitivities you need to know (mistake #1).

As part of your research, you may get in touch with local people (mistake #2) who can give you advice or help you gain access to places or events you would never know about otherwise. Some photographers go even further and work with a fixer – somebody who introduces you to other people, translates if necessary, and acts as a bridge between you and the local culture.

Research alerts you to any security considerations (mistake #3). It helps you decide what gear you need to take, and avoid overload caused by taking too much equipment (mistake #4).

In other words, doing your research is a key part of avoiding the mistakes that many travel photographers make.

Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers

Research also helps you find interesting places to photograph, such as this ancient fishing village in north Devon.


These mistakes are based on my observations of other photographers while traveling. But what mistakes have you seen other photographers make? What mistakes have you made yourself? I’m looking forward to hearing your responses in the comments section below.

The Candid Portrait

If you’d like to learn more about street and travel photography then please check out my popular ebook popular ebook The Creative Portrait.

The post Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes Made By Travel Photographers by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Ways to Ensure That You Stay Ahead of the Travel Photography “Game”

There’s no doubt about it, the business of travel photography has never been tougher. More competition, an oversaturated market, falling license fees and limited client budgets mean that travel photographers have had to work harder and change their business models. Here are five ways to ensure that you stay ahead of the travel photography “game”.

5 Ways to Ensure That You Stay Ahead of the Travel Photography “Game”

1- Embrace Social Media

It’s hard believe that there was a time before social media. While some of us remember that time and have fond memories, there’s no doubt that social media has become a necessity for any business wanting to market itself. The opportunities to be able to speak to such a huge audience has meant that any brand that hasn’t embraced social media has been left behind.

Like a lot of other people, I was skeptical at first and didn’t really see the point or need for the likes of Instagram and Twitter. But slowly I have come to realize that it really isn’t an option and every photographer needs to embrace social media and maximize its potential.

So if you haven’t already started to do so, begin to learn about how to maximize the different social media channels available. It is integral to the success of your business.

5 Ways to Ensure That You Stay Ahead of the Travel Photography “Game”

2 – Think About ROI

One of the things that I always find interesting when I speak to people wanting to break into travel photography is their expectations of the industry versus the reality. Unfortunately, travel photography is an incredibly oversaturated market. That means there are more photos available than buyers actually need.

This, coupled with a few big stock agencies reducing prices over the years, has meant that the fee paid to photographers for a stock image is lower than it has ever been. The knock-on effect of this has also meant that the majority of clients who previously might have commissioned photographers are now turning to stock photos as it’s cheaper than hiring a photographer.

This means that as a travel photographer, you now have to really evaluate if a destination is worth the investment required. For example, a few years ago I headed to the Orkney Islands off Scotland (somewhere that had been on my bucket list for a while) and captured some great photos. But to this day I have not made enough sales from that trip to cover the cost of it, whereas somewhere like Abu Dhabi has paid for the cost of the trip a few times over. Clearly, a location like Abu Dhabi is a much more popular destination and so it is also more likely to be in demand for photos.

5 Ways to Ensure That You Stay Ahead of the Travel Photography “Game”

Obviously, this doesn’t mean you should never go anywhere like the Orkney Islands. But if you are building your business around those far-flung destinations you may find that you are simply not selling as many photos as you need to cover the cost.

3 – Expand Your Skills

DSLRs changed photography forever. Then smartphones came along and changed the whole industry. The explosion in digital photography has also meant that there is now, even more, an opportunity for unique photographs, but also more competition than ever.

So as a travel photographer, you have to be looking for ways to always expand your skills and repertoire. These days that might be by branching out into video, time lapse, or even drone photography. Whether we like it or not, these new innovations offer a completely new way of looking at the world and if you want to stay ahead of the game you need to try and expand your skills accordingly.

5 Ways to Ensure That You Stay Ahead of the Travel Photography “Game”

4 – Move With The Current Trend

Like most things, photography styles and trends move with the times. While it’s important to always keep your own style if you want to earn a living from photography you also need to ensure that you sell photos.

For example, these days more and more picture editors are looking for travel images that convey an experience or story rather than just a generic tourist type photo. In fact, I recently spoke to one of the stock agencies I work with and they said that their clients are now looking for more lifestyle type of travel shots that almost look like they have been taken with a smartphone rather than in a studio.

The key, as in any other industry, is to stay up to date with the current trends. Sign-up to newsletters, look at magazines and read industry news to ensure you know what is going on and where the trends are going.

5 Ways to Ensure That You Stay Ahead of the Travel Photography “Game”

5 – Re-evaluate Your Business Model

The biggest difference that amateur photographers notice when then move to being a professional is that they have to start treating photography as a business where every dollar is accountable. Like any business, every few years you need to evaluate where you are and where you want the business to go.

That means you might have to change your strategy, your marketing, and even as mentioned above your offering as a business (like video or time-lapse). No business can ever survive forever without changing with the times and photography is no different.

So if you haven’t done so already, think about your business and where it is and where it needs to go to to stay in the game.

5 Ways to Ensure That You Stay Ahead of the Travel Photography “Game”

Photographers are often some of the most creative people in the world. But very few often evaluate and relaunch their business to move with the times. Whether we like it or not, change is constantly happening in every industry and photography is no different. Unless you are willing to ensure your photography business can and will evolve, you might be left behind.

The post 5 Ways to Ensure That You Stay Ahead of the Travel Photography “Game” by Kav Dadfar appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Top Street and Travel Photography Tips 2017

If you’ve been reading over the last few of days you may have seen these already:

Top Street Photography Tips 2017

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Street Photography
  2. What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why
  3. How to Conquer the Biggest Fear in Street Photography
  4. Tutorial – Easy Camera Settings for Street Photography
  5. 7 Vital Tips to Improve Your Candid Street Photography
  6. 6 Reasons Why You Should Use a Standard Lens for Street Photography
  7. The Pros and Cons of Black and White Versus Color for Street and Travel Photography
  8. 7 Tips for Capturing the Decisive Moment in Street Photography
  9. How to Tell a Story With Your Street Photography
  10. 5 Tips for Photographing Street Portraits

Top Travel Photography Tips 2017

  1. 6 Reasons Why Your Travel Photos Don’t Look Like the Ones in Magazines
  2. 7 Non-Photography Items Which No Travel Photographer Should Leave Home Without
  3. 6 Practical Tips to Instantly Make Travel Photography Easier
  4. 7 Travel Photography Tips I’ve Learned from People in the Industry
  5. 8 Travel Photography Tips for Your Next Journey
  6. 10 Quick Tips for Travel Photography
  7. How to Backup and Manage Your Photos When Traveling Without a Computer
  8. How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish
  9. How to Plan a Street Photography Shoot When Traveling
  10. Tips for Taking Documentary Style Travel Photos
  11. 7 Realities That Hit Once You Become a Professional Travel Photographer

The post Top Street and Travel Photography Tips 2017 by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

“Fine Art” when it comes to travel photography is not an often used term and few photographers define themselves as “fine art travel photographers”. Genre definitions in photography can be highly subjective, and the fine art line can be very fine indeed. For me as a travel shooter, the fine art approach is just a natural extension of who I am and how I see and share the world through my images.

Vietnam is one of my favorite places to photograph, not only because of its remarkable aesthetic qualities but because of my great fondness for its people. And so when asked talk about my photography through the fine art lens, using Vietnam as the focal point was an easy choice to make.

Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography - Vietnam rice terraces

Flower H’mong mother and daughter walking a rice terrace berm in Mu Cang Chai, northern Vietnam. Exposure settings: f/4, 1/2000th, ISO 400, 70mm lens.

fishermen resting on Boats - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Fishermen resting. Shot from a bridge near Lang Co Bay. Exposure settings: f/8, 1/320th, ISO 800, 56mm lens.

The Fine Art of Travel Photography – People and Landscapes

Fine art photography, at least the way I see it, is about focusing on a specific style or look that reoccurs in every image with a goal to create aesthetically pleasing and engaging work.

Fine art travel photography implies that each travel-themed photo is of a very high artistic standard with consistent consideration to an effective composition, use of tonal range (lights and darks), and a balanced or focused color scheme throughout the photo.

Personally, I use natural light, and again, approach a photo to be a work of art. The goal is to create a visually striking image that looks similar to what a painter might have created, while still also looking completely like a photograph.

Fishermen in Halong Bay - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Fishing amidst the thousands of karst limestone formations of fabled Ha Long Bay. Exposure settings: f/9, 1/200th, ISO 800, 35mm lens.

Fishermen Ballet - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Four fishermen raise their nets on the Perfume River in Hue, central coastal Vietnam. Exposure settings: f/11, 1/160th, ISO 800, 30mm lens.

Showcase the people and culture

I aim to do this while still faithfully representing a country’s culture, with the goal to accurately, if ideally, portray the personality and lives of the people within the photos. I have always been most interested in the artistic side of travel photography, and less so in the traditional or documentary approach.

That said, I can see myself taking on more singularly focused projects in the future, where I can apply my artistic sense to the challenges of documentary storytelling within the travel space.

Vietnamese Monk - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

A Khmer-Vietnamese monk daydreams at his monastery window in the Meklong Delta region. Exposure settings: f/4, 1/125th, ISO 640, 40mm lens.

Set your intention of making art

Although it may seem obvious, I think it’s critically important when adopting the fine art style to have the intention of making art throughout the process – from preparation to post-production. I take this mindset into the field and shoot a variety of subjects in various ways.

Portraiture is my first love, but I also enjoy landscape, wildlife, and cultural documentary photography. The purpose is to showcase scenes of life and culture for others to observe and enjoy. And of course I enjoy it as well, or I wouldn’t be doing it!

Playing in the River - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Ladies from the Cham ethnic group in Phan Rang having their own water festival. Exposure settings: f/36, 1/15th, ISO 400, 90mm lens.

Lady in Conical Hat - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Vietnamese lady wearing the traditional white “Ao Dai” and Non La (conical hat), Saigon. Exposure settings: f/4, 1/125th, ISO 640, 70mm lens.

Have a vision and shoot with a purpose

In each work, I try to have a vision and understand what the photo will be about and how it will look in my mind before I take it. There is nothing in the frame that shouldn’t be there – everything included serves a purpose.

I also like to look for patterns in the scenes and feature these in the composition. Careful composition allows for clean backgrounds, no unnecessary distractions from the subject, and a clear focal point that is immediately identifiable against a complementary background that helps to tell the story or set the mood for the piece.

Below is some insight into how I approached photographing some of my favorite Vietnam images taken over the last few years.

Forever in Love

Forever in Love - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

“Forever in Love” – A loving couple in Hoi An share a moment of joy and happiness together in their garden as the sun sets. At the time of photography, they had been married for 66 years. Exposure settings: f/7.1, 1/200th, ISO 500, 50mm lens.

I met a fellow travel photographer who now resides in Vietnam, Réhahn Croquevielle, and he generously invited to show me around his hometown of Hoi An. I was lucky to meet a lovely old couple who live in his village. When I met them they were smiling widely and happy be photographed by us.

To take this photo, I first observed the direction of light. Then I made sure to position them in front of the setting sunlight so their faces would be bright and the details on their skin well exposed.

I also had to consider the background and overall scene, and I found an area near one of their vegetable patches which was clean (consistent colors and even patterns without clutter) while also providing context and a backstory for the couple. So I asked them to sit there. They found this all very funny and were laughing constantly as we kept the mood light and fun, which I think is important to help make subjects enjoy a portrait session.

Interesting subject matter is the most important element to a successful photograph, in my opinion, followed by good composition and lighting. But a background that complements and doesn’t distract from the focal point is also crucial for a powerful photograph, and perhaps too often overlooked.

Playing in a Sea of Fishing Nets

Playing in a Sea of Fishing Nets - Playing in a Sea of Fishing Nets

A happy boy playing in a blue sea of fishing nets in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. Exposure settings: f/8, 1/250th, ISO 500, 24mm lens.

I was in search of a workshop where fishing nets are made by hand in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. When I arrived, I noticed a boy and his friends were curious about my presence and wanted to meet me and help out if they could. They led me to the net weaving shop, which was a large open-ended structure with a corrugated tin roof.

Inside were seated ladies spread about busily creating these nets. I was immediately struck by the blue color and knew it would be very photogenic, but it was important to get the right light to make them come to life. I noticed all the ladies were in shaded, darker areas where the light wasn’t strong enough. There was an area that was close to an opening in the rooftop, under a natural skylight. I saw that the light was good there, but without a human subject the photo wouldn’t be so interesting.

Since I had created a rapport with the boy and his friends and they were still hanging around, I encouraged them to play in the fishing nets. Demonstrating myself, I ran and jumped into the nets, making everyone laugh, and the kids started to do the same themselves. I captured this photo knowing that the frame had to be filled with the blue fishing nets to bring attention to the boy. It’s his genuine smile and action that makes this photo all the more interesting and enjoyable to view.

Patterns on the Streets of Hanoi

Patterns on the Streets of Hanoi - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

A busy street scene in Hanoi photographed from a bridge on a rainy morning. Exposure settings: f/14, 1/40th, ISO 1250, 35mm lens.

It was raining one morning that I was to be exploring the city of Hanoi, which could have been considered a problem for photography. I went to the Long Bien Bridge after visiting a nearby market and observed the traffic passing by underneath me. I saw the potential for a really interesting pattern of cyclists with the high volume of motorbike traffic and the occasional bicycle. The rain had stopped, but the wet roads were creating reflections which would ultimately be beneficial and make for more dynamic lighting in the picture.

I waited a long time and photographed many combinations and patterns of commuters. I felt it was important to have an interesting focal point that was different from the rest of the scene. That was either going to be a person walking across the road or riding a bicycle amongst the sea of cars and other traffic.

I decided to use a slightly slower shutter speed to blur the traffic and capture the human subject sharper than the surroundings. It took a lot of patience and time on the bridge to finally capture an interesting pattern. It was fun to find the art in simple, everyday life.

Old Man with a Lute

Old Man with Lute - Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography

Exposure settings: f/4, 1/160th, ISO 1000, 70mm lens.

I met this old man in the small idyllic village of Ninh Binh where he was walking by a lake. When he learned that I would like to make his portrait, he invited me into his home close by. We drank some tea and I spent some time together with his family.

Before I photograph someone, I always look around the scene and try to find the right place where I will take their picture, depending on the lighting and the background. I noticed near a window there was strong natural light coming into his otherwise dark home, and I placed a chair in this spot for him to sit. There was enough light on the man to not require a tripod in this position.

I noticed an old lute hanging on the wall. I found out that it was his and he could play, so I asked if he could show me. As he played, I took some pictures, but I noticed that the light would be stronger on his face, which is the main focal point if he were looking out the window. The breeze from the window blew his beard gently to one side, creating some movement in this portrait of an interesting, old and very friendly Vietnamese man who I was privileged to meet and photograph.

Here are a few more example images of my fine art travel photography.

Fisherman at Sunrise

Girl with Blue Eyes

Lady with Fan

Mekong Breakfast

Running and Playing

Salt Harvesters


The post Putting the Fine Art into Travel Photography by David Lazar appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Video: Travel Photography Tips – Shoot with a Purpose

The challenge with travel photography is that you may not get back to a location again anytime soon. So many photographers try and squeeze out as many photos as possible. The issue is lack of attention to detail and having any intentions or purpose before shooting.

What do you want your image to show?

Waiting for the right gesture, or even right subject to enter your scene is critical.

In this image shot in Trinidad, Cuba I found some amazing light skimming across the cobblestone streets. But it lacked something.

By waiting for a subject, the couple, to enter the scene it is more of a complete story.

In this video, photographer Mitchell gives you some great examples of how to shoot lots of images but end up with better results than just rapid-fire shooting.

The key points mentioned in the video are:

  • It’s not about shooting as many images as possible, but to shoot as many as possible with a purpose and intent.
  • Don’t settle for one or two shots from each scene. Get out of the mindset of needing to get the perfect shot in as few frames as possible. It’s not a contest.
  • Don’t spray and pray. Have an idea of what you want to capture.
  • Explore different framings and camera settings.
  • See how the light changes from different angles.
  • Experiment with different perspectives.

Another example

Here you can see some shots I took of two men deep in conversation in Cienfuegos, Cuba. But it still wasn’t quite what I wanted. The first (upper left) was too busy. The second (right) was more focused on the med but lacked context of the busy street scene. The third (lower left) shot from across is getting closer. 

Finally with the addition of the cyclist I had the shot I had envisioned. It shows context, has layers of activity, and interest. To me, it really speaks about daily life in a Cuban city. 

Do you photograph with purpose? Slow down and think about each frame you shoot. Be intentional.

And come home with great photos!

The post Video: Travel Photography Tips – Shoot with a Purpose by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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