Tips for Creating Better Documentary Travel Photos

The post Tips for Creating Better Documentary Travel Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Good documentaries tell a story, often with the help of a narrator. To add interest to your travel photos you can employ the same techniques.

Showing your family and friends endless pictures of your recent adventures may seem exciting to you. You were there. You had the experience. They didn’t. If you want them to sit through your latest travel slideshow, you need to make it interesting.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Happy Market Vendor

I had a lovely conversation with this man. He and his wife come to sell vegetables at their market stall each day. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Here are some tips on how to add more interest to your photos and create better documentary travel photos.

Tell a story with your photographs

Planning your trip took time and effort. Deciding where you wanted to go, what you wanted to see and how long you would stay. Why not include your photography in the planning stage as well?

Think about why you’re going and what you’ll be doing. How can you turn this into a story? Think about adding a connecting thread of what interests and attracts you most to each location you’ll visit.

Make a list of some themes you can follow. Each day you are traveling, check your list and make sure to include some of the items in your photos.

You might want to photograph:

  • specific architectural aspects
  • local artists working
  • old people’s faces
  • coffee shops
  • street signs
  • advertising hoardings.

Consider what’s most relevant to the places you’ll go. Which of these interest you the most and will make the best photo opportunities. Plan to spend more time at these locations.

Bicycle Close Up Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

Many tourists choose to rent bicycles for sightseeing in Chiang Mai because the city is mostly flat. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Get the whole picture

One trick I learned when starting out in video production was to always capture wide, medium and close-up angles. This allows for more flexibility to build up the whole picture when editing. The same works when creating documentary travel photography.

I often encourage our travel photography workshop participant to imagine they are working for a magazine. They need to produce a series of images for their editor to show the essence of each place they visit.

Only capturing wide or close-up details is not going to build a complete picture.

red chillies Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

Close up of large red chilies. The larger the chilly, the milder it is. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

You need to get in close. Show the texture and patterns.

Muang Mai Market Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

Muang Mai Market in Chiang Mai is the biggest and busiest food market in northern Thailand. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

You need to stand back to encompass the whole scene.

Fruit Vendor Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

Owners of small shops, restaurants, and household shoppers all come to buy produce at Muang Mai market. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

You need to come in tighter and capture what’s happening at that place.

Include your travel companions

Traveling with other photographers usually makes life easier. You can take your time rather than being hurried along by someone taking snapshots with their phone.

One way to make the most of your time with non-photographer travel companions is to include them in your photos. Make them part of your story.

I don’t mean for you to just take cheesy social-media-styled pictures of your partner. Put them in the story. Show what you’re doing and the interesting aspects of the places you visit. Having the people you’re traveling with in some of your photos makes them more personal.

Including them in some activity helps tell the story. Photograph them ordering meals or coffee. Take pictures of them boarding the boat or rickshaw. Make photos about what you are doing together, not only of what you are looking at.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Myanmar Village Friends

My wife and I enjoyed meeting the locals at Pompee village when we traveled to Myanmar. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take time out

If including your travel companions is not possible, take time out for photography. Arrange time each day to spend time with your camera with no other objective.

Rushing from place to place without taking the time to engage in your photography story is frustrating. Give yourself permission to enjoy using your camera.

This may mean having to wake up earlier than others you’re traveling with. It might be ducking out of the restaurant while you’re waiting for your lunch or dinner to be prepared. You will find it’s worth it because you will get better photographs when you can take your time.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Wat Pra Darapirom

This ornate temple complex on the outskirts of Chiang Mai includes examples of Lanna and Shan temple architecture. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Book a photography workshop

Many popular travel destinations offer opportunities for travel photography workshops or photo tours.

Investing in either of these will undoubtedly mean you will come away with better photos. You’ll be experiencing the location with a photographer who knows it more intimately. They will be able to take you to the most interesting places at the best times for photos.

Taking a photography workshop you’ll also learn some new skills. Being on vacation is a great time to learn because you can put into practice what you learn immediately.

A good travel photography workshop will incorporate teaching camera and photography skills. You’ll also learn local cultural information which will improve your photography experience.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Photography Workshop Teaching

Kevin Landwer-Johan teaching a photography workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Pansa Landwer-Johan

Take more photos and edit them

Take more photos than you think you need to. Then choose the best.

Don’t go crazy and make snapshots of everything you see. A good subject does not make a good photograph. You don’t want to return home with hundreds of photos you could have made with your phone.

When you find something interesting to photograph, look at it from different angles. Consider how it will look from different points of view. Walk around and make a series of photos. Wide, medium and close up of the same subject.

Taking time to do this will mean you have more to work with to help tell your story. If you’re not taking enough photos, you may regret it later when you see gaps in your narrative.

Weeding out the rubbish photos and only showing the best ones is important. No one will want to look through all the photos you take. Be discerning and be selective about which ones you choose to share. This will help you in taking better photos next time you travel too.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos Tuktuks

Tuk-tuks are an iconic part of Chiang Mai’s public transport. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Caption your photographs

Captioning your photographs is like adding a narrative to your story.

Include details of the location and maybe the time of day when it’s relevant. Think about how you can add information which will enhance your photograph. Don’t always include the obvious. You don’t need to describe what can already be seen.

A caption may be a few words or several sentences. Your caption should be succinct and informative. Don’t waffle or include irrelevant information. Use your captions to support your photos and enhance your story.

Documentary Travel Photography: How to Add More Interest to Your Travel Photos

I found an alternative point of view to take this photo of a tuk-tuk. © Kevin Landwer-Johan


Vacation travel is usually exciting. You see and experience new and interesting things more frequently than when you’re at home. This trends for more interesting photographs.

You want to put together a documentary travel photography story that will not put your family and friends to sleep. Tell your story well and you’ll inspire them to travel too.


Tips for Creating Better Documentary Travel Photos

The post Tips for Creating Better Documentary Travel Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

How to Travel Light With Your Photography Gear

The post How to Travel Light With Your Photography Gear appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

For the longest time, one of my dreams has been to live away from home and travel with my family for an extended period of time. I used to dream about all the places I could travel to, and how much fun I would have living a nomadic life. Of course, then I would wake up, and the realities of my responsibilities would take over.

Travel light with gear Karthika Gupta

A couple of years ago after a major life setback with the loss of my mom to cancer, I decided that my life was too short not to make my dreams come true.

That year, after several months of discussion and planning, my husband and I decided that our little family would spend our summer in India – traveling and visiting family. Somewhere along the way a trip to Ladakh, London, Zurich, and Rome got added to the roster. Pretty soon I was in charge of planning and packing for a life on the road for two and a half months. We’d be living out of just four suitcases – one for each one of us. As a photographer, I knew that somewhere in those suitcases I had to pack my camera equipment along with my essentials.

Since that year, my family made a conscious decision to take time away from everything over the summer and spend at least 3-4 weeks traveling. Last year we spent two weeks in Utah, and back-country camped for a week in the wilderness of Denver. As the official photographer (both for personal reasons as well as professional ones), I have had to nail down the task of packing my gear and traveling as light as possible to make the most of the trip.

Here are a few things that helped me make the most of my time away from home. It is very likely that I have missed some key photographic opportunities, but overall I am pleased with my gear setup, the opportunities that my family has experienced, and the images that I have created. As a bonus, all the camera equipment I take along make it back without any significant mishaps along the way. If traveling has taught me anything, it is that not every moment needs to documenting and not every piece of gear needs to be used at the same time!

1. Gear choices

Let’s face the reality of life as a photographer – we all love and want all the gear that we think we need wherever we go. As I pack, I realize that as a photographer I always have so many things I want to take. However, often the need for gear is quickly overruled by the need for practical things like clothes, shoes, and books. After a few days on the road, showers are not an overrated thing, they become necessary! I narrow down my list based on where my travels are taking me and what gear I could realistically carry and transport safely without any damage.

This is my typical kit for most travel adventures

  • A wide zoom lens – my go-to is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8
  • A simple point and shoot camera (yes, this is my backup as weight is a concern on most trips)
  • One telephoto lens – I have the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8
  • One camera body – Canon 5D Mk III
  • 3 camera batteries
  • 1 battery charger
  • A small travel tripod – this is my latest addition and it fits in my carry-on bag
  • A remote trigger
  • 7-8 camera CF cards ranging from 8GB to 32GB
  • One compact 2TB External Hard drives (backup photo storage)
  • Two generic lens and camera cleaner kits

All of these things comfortably fit into my REI brand hiking backpack. I use this bag for everything and store my gear in individual soft-cover bags inside the pack. This is what I have done since day one and something that has worked well for me.

As a mom of young kids, my backpack not only carries my gear but also snacks, extra t-shirts, books, color pencils and at a minimum, 5 matchbox cars of many colors. Just as the camera is my toy, my kids have their own toys that have to make it on every trip.

How to travel light with your gear Karthika Gupta

My most recent trip to Portugal had very limited gear because we were traveling light. So I had to get creative with my 24-70mm lens around town as I was enamored with all the beautiful tiles all over Lisbon!

The one thing I always wish I’d taken with me is a rain cover for the camera itself. My backpack has a rain cover, which I use when caught in a sudden downpour, but without a separate rain cover over my camera, I am not able to use it in the rain – which can be disappointing. Somehow, I always forget to buy one before my trips.

2. Organize and plan your trip

For me, being prepared and organized includes having a rough idea of where I am going and the kind of environment I am going to expose myself and my gear to. Before I leave for a trip, I jot down all the serial numbers, make and brand for my camera equipment, and store them in a document on my cloud-based Dropbox account. This gets updated and checked multiple times in the year as I sell and buy new gear. Just add this as one of your to-dos before you depart on your trip. All my external hard drives are stored off-site at a friend’s place as well as the remainder of my gear.

Now, obviously, this is a friend I trust. But another option would be to lock it in an off-site storage facility. As part of your research, another good thing to keep in your back pocket is the name, address, and contact information of authorized service dealers for your gear in the country you are visiting. Sometimes things go wrong no matter how prepared you are. Having information about services centers and authorized dealers for your gear is a time saver – especially when you are traveling in areas where internet connections are not very reliable.

During my travels, my gear choices depend on the activities planned and the kind of travel we are going to do. When traveling with my family in Rome and Zurich, we traveled everywhere either on foot or used public transportation. So I just carried my camera body and the 24-70mm lens among other daily necessities in my backpack. The rest of my camera equipment was either packed away in the hotel room safe or locked away in my suitcase.

When we hiked and camped in the Himalayas, my camera, along with both my lenses, were always on my person. The tripod was handed off to the porters that were carrying our camping gear. For my camping trips, I just carried all my CF cards and ditched the charger and external hard drive at the house where we were staying because it was highly unlikely I’d find a charging port on the journey.

Sometimes, if I ask nicely, my husband will carry my gear bag but only because it is not too feminine!! Also, it doesn’t scream camera bag.

How to travel light with your gear Denver Colorado Camping Trip

This is my camera bag, day pack, and hiking bag. It can hold a lot of stuff and has back support which is really important. Plus it is not too”girly” in case I need some help carrying it!

When we travel on a road trip, my camera and 24-70mm lens sit up front with me and store the rest of the gear in the car trunk. When I fly, I carry all my gear in my backpack – I am too paranoid about checking in any gear.

My next purchase for a long haul trip is going to be a Pelican case, so I don’t have to carry anything on my person. As I age, I find that I cannot carry heavy bags as easily.

All these choices are possible because of the research I do ahead of time.

Additionally, a good mindset to have when you travel to far-off exotic locations is one of acceptance of physical and mental limitations of both your and your camera gear.

I experienced some altitude sickness when I traveled to Leh and Ladakh as we were traveling on roads at almost 17,000 feet above sea level. I also found my gear did not function as efficiently at that altitude. My batteries did not last as long, and the camera also did not shoot as fast. The first few times it happened I freaked out. However, then I just accepted it as something beyond my control and gave myself some extra time to be patient when getting the shot that I wanted.

3. Know your gear

This one is too basic to include here, but it is amazing how many of us don’t follow this simple tip. We are so enamored with the latest and greatest gear available, but yet don’t quite know how to use the stuff that we do own.

The best way to get over this is to limit yourself to a few key pieces of camera equipment for an extended period. One of my photography goals is to capture star trails and the Milky Way. The opportunity presented itself when I traveled to Ladakh. After all, I was going to be in a remote part of the country at an altitude of almost 15,000-17,000 feet above sea level.

Now astrophotography is not my thing. I always limited myself from trying it out because I don’t usually travel with a tripod, nor do I own an intervalometer. So this time I downloaded the camera manual on my phone and studied it before I left. With that information, I was able to comfortably and confidently use the B (a.k.a Bulb mode) on my camera to capture star trails in Ladakh. It was quite a thrilling experience for my maiden attempt.

How to travel light with your gear

Nothing quite prepares you for seeing the milky way. That first glimpse takes your breadth away and without the right gear, it is impossible to capture.

This is one of my first milky way shots and now I find myself looking out for stars every night! This would have been impossible without a tripod and proper remote trigger.

Another good thing to practice before you head out is gear maintenance. I routinely clean my lens and camera throughout my trips, so I carry two camera cleaning kits because I know my gear gets a lot of time out in the elements when I travel.

Before every major outing, I spent the time to clean out the dirt and dust from the camera and the lens. I keep the dust pen in my camera bag in case I need it while I am out and about photographing.

4. Be local and think like a local

I have to include this one in any travel photography related article because it does relate indirectly to taking care of yourself and your gear. I often find photographers I meet along my journeys have a fake sense of entitlement. When you are a guest in someone’s house, are you not on your best behavior? Why is it that when you are a guest in another country, common sense and basic manners seem to fly out the window?

Locals are still people who deserve the same amount of respect and courtesy as anyone. Put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine what they experience when someone shoves a camera in their face without so much as a hello or a smile.

My 24-70mm lens is my go-to travel lens. It really lets me get into small places and photograph a variety of things. I am not one for a more obscure lens where people don’t know I am photographing them. Instead, I prefer to interact with people and let them know, rather see, that I am taking their picture. This is just the way I work.

While in Ladakh, we visited a lot of beautiful monasteries. Most of them are still in use, and we saw many temples where the monks were in prayer. Even if there is no sign discouraging photography, please use common sense not to invade their private space – especially when they are chanting.

I cannot tell you how many times I have come across tourists that almost jump over each other or hang out of moving cars just to take pictures of monks chanting and praying. Seeing this rude behavior almost made me embarrassed to take my camera out!

How to travel light with your gear

Being respectful has everything to do with travel and travel photography.

Additionally, flashing your fancy gear around is almost begging for the wrong kind of attention. One evening in Rome, I was out with my kids taking photos around beautiful horse-drawn carriages. We lost track of time and soon found ourselves in a deserted alley. I quickly put my gear away in my backpack, stuffed it with our jackets, grabbed my kids, and sprinted towards a more crowded piazza.

5. Make friends with local photographers

The internet is an amazing tool for almost anything. It is such a great resource to find and connect with other photographers, especially if you are traveling to areas that are new and foreign to you. When I travel, I always try to connect with some local photographers. We sometimes meet for dinner/drinks, chat on the phone, and just become friends.

They even give me advice on some of the local, non-touristy spots to photograph as well as offered to lend me gear if I need it (Well! Some do…not all want to part with their gear to a total stranger).

How to travel light with your gear Chicago Illinois

A recent trip to the city where I got to try out a 40mm lens and get some cool shots indoors in low light.


I hope these tips are helpful as you plan your next vacation in a far-off destination. Travel in itself is quite the adventure and adding photography to it is just the icing on the cake. However, remember to travel light and enjoy your trip for all that it is – not just a photography expedition.

Also, there is no such thing as perfect photography, but there is something known as a life-changing experience. Travel to experience more of those than just taking pretty pictures.

Do you have any extra tips for traveling light with your photography gear? If so, please share them with us and our readers in the comments below.


The post How to Travel Light With Your Photography Gear appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Karthika Gupta.

5 Ways to Photograph Travel Icons

Travel photography is one of the most popular genres of photography and for good reason. Travel provides an opportunity to see and experience something new. It evokes feelings of excitement and anticipation and gives a sense of adventure and pleasure.

Travel icons are a major draw for people on their travels and for people interested in travel photography. In their simplest form, they represent :monuments or landmarks that are iconic to a place or country”. If you are wondering how to photograph them, here are 5 tips to help you.

Travel Icons - grand canyon

1) Different Angles

The first hint in photographing travel icons is to choose a famous landmark or tourist sight you may like to visit and shoot it at different angles.

The world has an abundance of amazing travel icons. These landmarks are the first places you may think of when planning a trip to a certain country and often feature in travel brochures, books, magazines and postcards. In fact, the world’s great monuments are visited by millions of people every year, for example, Big Ben, The Pyramids, The Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall of China.

Travel Icon 02 - great wall of China

When photographing these scenic structures, you could try shooting with a wide angle of view to encompass a larger scale of the attraction.

With this shot of London’s Big Ben, I decided to include more of the surroundings such as the House of Parliament, to show some additional architecture. Shooting wide gives a broader overview of the icon and takes in more than just the tower.

Travel Icons 03 - Tower of London Big Ben

Some travel icons are huge in scale, especially when you are standing near to them. Sometimes, it is difficult to capture the whole landmark so use a wide -ngle lens to include as much of the icon in the frame as you can.

Travel Icon 04 - Rio De Janeiro

Alternatively, you can shoot close-up and focus your camera on some of its details. Identify any patterns that appeal to you or some details on the structure. Details can highlight an interesting feature of the building. Photographing a particular aspect of the icon that you enjoy could help make your photograph more visually striking.

2) The Classic View

Have you ever seen a beautiful world landmark in a travel brochure and felt inspired to visit it? Well, this is usually the classic view of an icon, a standard image of a sight that is instantly recognizable.

You should definitely try to capture the classic travel shot of the world’s best landmarks. After all, this is likely to be what inspired you to visit in the first place.

Travel Icon - Golden Gate bridge

3) Different Viewpoint

You could photograph your selected travel icon from an alternative viewpoint to give another perspective of an iconic landmark. The picture you create should be entirely from your own interpretation of how you see the icon.

You can produce interesting images just by changing your viewpoint. Find another vantage point and photograph what you see. Be sure to choose a viewpoint that appeals to you.

Travel Icon - Big Ben

I took this shot of Big Ben from the other side of the bridge which shows a slightly different angle of the clock and the Thames River with the bridge on the opposite side of the picture.

4) Choose Your Moment

The time of day can have an impact on the photography you create. If you shoot early or late in the day you may benefit from some nice warm light.

Travel Icon 07

Alternatively, you may be on a scheduled tour and choose to photograph the icon during the daytime. This can also be a good time to capture a landmark under bright blue skies or even in poor weather under dramatic light.

5) Include an animal or an object in the image

You don’t have to shoot the world’s best landmarks entirely on there own. They do look great when captured individually but throw an animal or object into the image to help create something original and add context.

Travel Icon 08

I photographed this image of the famous ruins of Machu Picchu with some llamas in the frame.


In summary, however you decide to photograph travel icons, try photographing them from different angles, the classic view, and a different viewpoint. Include a subject with the icon in the frame and choose a suitable time to capture the landmark.

Now it’s over to you, put these tips into practice and see what you can capture. Share your photos, tips, and comments on photographing travel icons below.

The post 5 Ways to Photograph Travel Icons appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

It’s difficult to define travel photography these days. I see the same photos on Instagram all the time. Overly processed landscapes and sunset shots, the same pictures of a famous landmark over and over again and thousands of posed selfies on a beach swing. Most of these photos are considered to be travel photography but for me that’s not what it’s about.

How to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again - camel safari

A camel safari in Jaisalmer, India.

Travel photography is about showing a country and its culture, people, and natural wonders. For me, travel photography is National Geographic and Steve McCurry and not the photos intended to lure people to a destination. These photos are often fake and don’t represent the real thing.

Good travel photography, I believe, needs a hint of photojournalism to be honest and real. Here’s my advice and tips to make your travel photography more interesting and stand out from all the rest.

1. Include tourists

Traveling has never been easier and cheaper so it’s hard to avoid bus loads of tourists, especially around landmarks and famous attractions. So why not include them in your shots?

I know an empty Taj Mahal or beach looks amazing, but let’s face it, it’s just not reality anymore and including tourists is a creative way can make your photos more interesting. You can try to create a sense of place or size by adding a person in a photo of a landmark. It will change how your audience looks at the picture dramatically because suddenly they can, for example, feel the real size of a structure compared to that person in the photo.

Include tourists - How to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

Mount Ijen in Indonesia. The tourists that look like ants on the ridge give the viewer a sense of how majestic this place is in person.

people in a pond by waterfall - How to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

Kuang Si Waterfalls. The tourists make the place feel real and touchable.

You can also look for interesting or funny scenes. Tourists can act strange or do remarkable things so adding them in the frame together with the subject you want to show creates an extra storyline in your travel photography. Tourists also make interesting subjects by themselves. I always love to observe groups visiting famous landmarks.

tourists taking a photo at Batu Caves Malaysia

Tourists taking a photo at Batu Caves Malaysia.

tourists on a boat in India - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

2. Do portraits of real people and get their story

There are lots of portraits around of locals working in tourist destinations dressed in traditional clothing but we’ve all seen those before. Why not try to take a portrait of a real local. Someone who’s working or that you meet on the street.

Do you go to a bar every night and talk to the same guy who serves you a beer? Why not take his portrait and ask about his life. Most people love it if you’re interested in their life and including a story to a photo adds a lot of value.

Portrait of a guy - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

I met Lek on a beach in Koh Lanta. He owns a beach bar where I went every night for a drink. He told me about his life and his plans for the future.

Always try to approach people and ask to create their portrait. You can only make a good portrait when there’s some kind of interaction with your subject. Don’t shoot a portrait from far away with a big zoom lens. It shows.

Portrait Indian man - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

A guide we hired in Jaisalmer, India.

3. Point your camera in the opposite direction

Famous landmarks and natural wonders make great travel photography but what’s on the other side? People often take the same obvious pictures or try to find a new angle at best. But it’s also really interesting to see what’s on the other side of where everyone’s pointing their camera.

Is there a similar view close by or is there a nice contrast you can shoot? Shooting with a different point of view is great when you want to try and make a photo story or series about a place. Don’t just get different angles of the same location or building. Get a sense of the surroundings too.

volcano at sunset - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

The obvious view.

town opposite the volcano - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting AgainAn equally interesting view of the town where I stayed on the other side.

4. Make an effort, don’t fix it in post-processing

This is a real issue with photography, in general, these days when it’s so easy to digitally enhance your pictures. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do some post-processing but out there are tons of pictures where people have replaced skies, taken out objects or added sunlight.

This has nothing to do with travel photography because then you’re just showing something that’s not real. Remember the “hint of photojournalism”? Why would you show something that wasn’t there?

Berastagi in Sumatra - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

I wanted to show the beautiful colors of the town of Berastagi in Sumatra. I went to the same spot three evenings in a row to capture the perfect light.

Always try to make an effort to get the best shot possible. If you weren’t able to get the shot you had in mind, try again the next day or even a few hours later. Weather and light change fast sometimes and that can work to your advantage.

It’s so much more rewarding when you finally get a great photo of what you actually saw.

5. Go to lesser-known areas or destinations

Especially when you want to shoot portraits, it’s a good idea to get far away from popular tourist areas. The locals will be much nicer to interact with and you’ll more likely be able to ask for a portrait without being asked for money.

Another advantage is that you can discover new and interesting locations that may have never been photographed before. A small temple in a back alley where the locals go to pray or the favorite fishing spot of a local community. Those are the pictures that will stand out and make an interesting story afterward.

many with bags of cotton candy - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

I accidentally came across Marina Beach in Chennai, India. There were no other tourists anywhere and it was the perfect place to approach locals and shoot portraits.

6. Street photography is travel photography and vice versa

I don’t like keeping these two genres of photography in different categories because when you’re traveling, you will most likely walk the streets – a lot! The street is where you can find the essence and soul of a country. The real locals with their real jobs and daily life going on around every corner.

I love to explore the streets of cities and towns to find interesting scenes and good stories. A lot of times when I visit a destination I don’t go to the popular locations at all and I try to stay in the quieter neighborhoods where I can see how the locals live.

The best travel photography is shot right on the streets, far away from any tourist destinations. You just have to look for it. Travel photography needs street photography and vice versa.

woman grilling fish on the street -

Grilling fish on the streets of Hat Yai, Thailand.

family on a motorcycle

7. Don’t be afraid of the dark

I’m not talking about shooting a building using a tripod. Cameras are so good these days that you can easily kick up the ISO to 3200 or even 6400 and shoot handheld. Yes, there will be more noise but I think people are too scared of it.

Good photos will still be good with a reasonable amount of noise. When you go out at night, just leave your tripod behind for once and try to shoot handheld. You’ll get a different and often surprising result. I’ve shot some of my best photos at night, handheld.

Don’t worry if the resulting frame is not tack sharp. This doesn’t make a good photo look bad all of a sudden.

Dark evening scene - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again

A night scene I encountered while walking around in the streets of Hat Yai, Thailand.

Dark scene - 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again


I hope you found these tips helpful. If you apply them and practice, you can make your travel photography more interesting than the average images. Please share your comments, questions, and images in the section below.

The post 7 Tips to Make Travel Photography Interesting Again appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography

It’s a real challenge to portray the true essence of a destination and to show it to the world the way you see it. This genre, travel photography, calls for immense creativity, technical expertise, and unflinching dedication to the art. Every little detail that can weigh off your shoulders count.

I have been traveling across the most remote corners of the country and beyond for years now, and the best results are a boon of some of the non-photography decisions I’ve made. When you are on the road for long, you realize the real beauty of a travel shot goes deeper than its aesthetic value. All the technical training in the world, the best gear money can buy, and time-tested templates of composition can only take you so far. But then comes the real work. The stuff that makes a photograph, speak.

Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography - overhead shot of a road and field

Here are six non-photography tips that will help you improve and super-charge your travel photography.

#1 – Go solo

This insanely frightening, uncomfortable, non-economic travel decision is also the most rewarding of all. This might mean, you will have to make all the plans, work out all the logistics, and deal with any issues by yourself. But, in a very unexpected way, this is what you need.

Travel photography does not allow for the luxury of blending and adjusting to plans of your co-travelers. The darkest hours, the first light of the sun, the busiest markets – what catches the artist’s eyes are endless. To be at the right time and the right place, you will need the freedom you only get when you have no strings attached.

Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography - camera and the ocean

You must be ready to ditch your plans and make new ones at a snap, and be prepared for longer stays to get that one single extraordinary shot. Besides, you can always find backpacker hostels, local transport, and the denizen cuisine to fit into the budget; even without a companion to share the charges.

#2 – Learn the tongue

This tip is not just for the special ones with an eidetic memory though. Practically, all you need are a few dozen commonly used phrases and words to get the ball rolling. You will be amazed at how useful a little conversation with the locals can turn out to be, albeit with broken wording and all.

Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography - Chinese writing

Learning the tongue goes beyond speaking a few words. It’s also about how you approach the culture and the people within. You have to understand them, think like them and start feeling their home like they do. That doesn’t just open up new doors and undiscovered locations but puts truth in the photographs.

The more you blend in with their culture, the more un-alienated the subject can be perceived.

#3 – Take the local choice

lady buying a bracelet from a monk - Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography

The tourist trails are often unrevealing and pompous. The rustic secrets, the basic ingredients to amazing travel photographs need to be chased by getting off track. This might mean, taking the bumpy bus rides, eating spicy street food, cramped roadside shows, and everything over and under.

It adds an amazing perspective, nothing else can provide. Look for couch surfing and home-stays. Try the local cuisine and home-made meals. Take the local roads and transport, and even take part in the native leisure and social events. All of these things will add rocket fuel to your images.

Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography - man sitting under columns

#4 – Volunteer

Taking time off from your camera sounds crazy, right? Being a part of the local’s life, besides gives an understanding of the destination, can be translated into unique perspectives, flavors, and themes in your work. The financial freedom, longer stays and new acquaintances are also invaluable.

bowl and hand with a stick - Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography

This can be extended to work exchanges, internships, or any other short-term work you can find. Sites like Workaway, Volunteerhq, Helpx offer tons of opportunities all over the world. Deviating a little, one can consider online work, that can enable extended stays in a single place.

The goal is to try and get an inclusive feeling into the community and culture, standing in their shoes before photographing their homes.

#5 – Stay fit. Stay resistant.

mountains - Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography

Being picky when traveling is the one biggest art killers. Compatibility of body and mind in extreme of conditions is the greatest tool you can ever have. A travel photographer needs to endure heat, rain, snow, and hail alike and still be ready to go.

Training so you are able to walk for miles or travel for hours is worth the effort exponentially. Being able to sleep wherever, eat whatever, and tune your body to be able to function in diverse habitats, let’s you break the physical barriers needed to visit THE photo spot. A tired body can no longer push itself for perfection.

Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography - underwater shot

#6 – Be ready to take the leap

Adventure and nature photography are close cousins of the travel genre, and mastering them too makes you a Jedi. Most of your favorite shots are from off-beat places only the deadliest daredevils venture out. Economic travel facilities and easy gear have saturated the internet with spectacular shots.

sunset silhouette - Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography

To make the difference, you have to see like no one has ever seen and go where no one has ever been. This might mean kayaking down the stream, cycling up a valley, hiking up a hill, or flying on a glider. Sometimes this might even mean, getting your own ride, staying in tents, and living off candy bars.

And more essentially, have a heart filled with enthusiasm and craving for adventure. Every step forward past other photographers is a step forward to more unique travel shots.

man in a field - Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography


None of these skills require special training or innate power to accomplish. All of them can and will be acquired over time. But to be ready with these in mind, you can get one step ahead of every other photographer in town.

More than anything, a good travel photograph tells a good story and has a strong spirit to it. The best camera is what you have with you, or so they say. So, it’s time to hack into how you are going to make the best of it!

The post Six Non-Photography Tips to Super-Charge Your Travel Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Choose Your Next Travel Photography Destination

If you’re anything like me, your love for photography is matched only by your love for travel. Your days consist of dreaming of epic landscapes, amazing cities, and unlimited air miles. Unfortunately, my friend, you have the travel photography bug, and I’m sorry to tell you that it’s incurable.

beach with chairs and umbrella - how to choose your next travel photography destination

It’s easy to get down about your inability to see and photograph everything right now. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and for most of us, not enough money in the bank. The thing that keeps me from getting down is planning my next trip.

Planning is the easy part, the hard part is choosing where to go. You might get overwhelmed by the options, so here are a few things to consider which may help you choose your next travel photography destination.

Look in Your Own Backyard

First up, your next trip doesn’t need to be an epic destination across oceans to places like Iceland or Patagonia. I’m always trying to find ways to get to big bucket-list locations that I know I would love, but sometimes looking closer to home may be a better option.

Unless you live on an island in the middle of the ocean, there’s likely somewhere nearby that you’ll be able to get to sooner to satisfy your wanderlust.

Is there anywhere within driving distance that you’ve always wanted to visit or a place that people have been saying you should check out? Somewhere in your own backyard that others spend thousands of dollars and countless hours traveling to see? It may be somewhere you’ve been before but could revisit to try to photograph better. The benefits of looking in your own backyard are many.

lake with rocks and mountains - how to choose your next travel photography destination

Make a Bucket List

You likely already have an idea of some of the places that you would like to visit and photograph. If you ask me, I can rattle off a long list of dream destinations. If you haven’t already done so, make a list and write it down. You could even make more than one list – local and international.

My bucket list has nested sub-locations within each item because I keep seeing new locations within a given country that I want to see.

I also encourage you to try and get past the big-name travel destinations. Add them for sure, I certainly have, but there’s more to the world than Iceland, New Zealand, and Yosemite. These places are insanely popular, which makes them expensive to get to and you’ll often be competing with huge crowds.

Instagram is a great place to find inspiration, but again, try to look for more than the uber-popular locations. Also, try asking people who love to travel for their recommendations. I’m always happy to make suggestions if you’re stuck for ideas.

egypt - how to choose your next travel photography destination

Talk to Your Travel Buddy

Who will you be traveling with? Do you have a buddy that you go everywhere with? Share ideas with them and come up with a shared list. Do you usually travel alone? Great, that gives you some freedom to do whatever and go wherever you want. It might be worth considering a travel buddy for a change. There are many benefits to traveling with somebody else or even a group.

If your travels usually come in the form of family vacations, then your plans will need to work for them too. Maybe try asking your kids where they would like to go for your next family trip? They might suggest something you have not considered. Is there somewhere your partner has always wanted to go but never mentioned?


Is there a way that you can kill two birds with one stone? Sometimes there are ways to justify travel that you may not have considered. Do you have family somewhere that you could visit? Maybe an old friend that you haven’t seen for years?

Not everyone has the ability to travel for work, but if you do – is there a way you could tack on some personal travel to the end of a work trip? If you’re crafty you might be able to get your boss to pay for you to go to a conference somewhere. If you don’t ask the answer is always “No”.

cathedral how to choose your next travel photography destination

It’s worth considering photography workshops also. Although it will still be all about the photography, you’ll be investing in your craft. They can be expensive, but if you find one close to home you can keep the travel costs down. Your photography will benefit from a workshop far more than it would just by taking a trip.


The biggest barrier for most of us is cost. If money were no object, I’m sure many photographers would spend more time traveling than they do at home. Unfortunately, travel costs a lot so it needs to come into consideration.

Depending on where you live, you can use seasonal fluctuations to help you choose your next destination. Virtually everywhere in the world will have a high and a low season. These seasons affect travel costs significantly, so it’s worth doing some research into where’s the best place to visit at a given time of year. Either side of high season (shoulder season) is often cheaper, while the weather is still okay.

It’s also worth considering exchange rates as they can fluctuate a lot. If your home currency is performing well against another country’s currency, it could be worth considering traveling there while you’re able to get more for your money. I’ve planned travel at short notice a few times due to an unusually good exchange rate, and it’s saved me hundreds of dollars.

Expand Your Portfolio

It’s worth taking a look at your travel photos and asking yourself if there’s a subject or medium that you really want to add. Maybe you have loads of images of beaches and the ocean and could diversify by getting into the mountains?

Do you primarily photograph nature and could stretch yourself by spending a weekend photographing cityscapes? Always wanted to try out some astrophotography? Go spend a few moonless nights as far away from light pollution as possible.

I’ve always wanted to take my camera underwater, so next month I’m spending a few weeks in Queensland, Australia exploring the Great Barrier Reef.

cityscape how to choose your next travel photography destination

As photographers, we naturally seek out subjects that we’re drawn to and are comfortable with, but it’s worth trying something different from time to time. Choosing your next destination based on the subject or medium you want to photograph is a great way to learn something new and maybe go somewhere you wouldn’t usually choose.

Available Time

I’m a big advocate of slow travel. You can see and experience a place in a completely different way when you spend a few months there rather than a couple of days or weeks. That said, not everyone wants to or can quit their job and go live somewhere new for a few months.

It’s worth considering how much time you have available for your next trip. If you only have a weekend, you’re not going to want to spend 20 hours flying in each direction. If you have a month, you probably don’t want to spend the whole time in a small town down the road. Use your time wisely.

spices how to choose your next travel photography destination

There are places that I want to visit that I wouldn’t really enjoy if I rushed it. So I’m leaving them for when I can explore it at my own pace. There are also many places that would happily spend a couple of nights and be satisfied.

Make it a Road Trip

It’s pretty hard to beat a good road trip. You have the freedom to go where you want when you want. You’re not dependent on public transport or an itinerary.

You can even sleep in your vehicle if you like and get to obscure locations away from the crowds. Drive as far as time allows.

mountains how to choose your next travel photography destination

A road trip opens up many possibilities for travel photography destinations. It can turn one location into many. I always wanted to visit Yosemite National Park in California, so I did an epic road trip on the entire west coast of the USA.

Next, I wanted to see the Canadian Rockies, so I drove all the way from Vancouver through British Columbia, into Alberta and the Rockies, then down through northern Washington. I saw so much more on those road trips than I ever would have flying or busing between locations. Maybe a road trip should be next on your list?

Where to Next?

You probably can’t pack your bags and get on the road tomorrow, but choosing and planning your next travel photography destination can give you something to look forward to and prepare for. I hope this has helped you to consider new possibilities and narrow down your options.

If it’s helped your next trip come around sooner, even better. What’s on your travel photography bucket list? I would love to hear what you’re thinking or planning, please share in the comments area below.

The post How to Choose Your Next Travel Photography Destination appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Search Potential Cityscape Photography Spots Online Before Traveling

As an avid cityscape photography enthusiast (primarily shooting at the blue hour), I always spend quite a number of hours studying potential cityscape shooting spots before traveling to a new destination. Knowing everything from what to shoot, where to shoot from and how to get to those locations before departure will save you a ton of time and hassle, especially if your stay is rather short.

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Thanks to my pre-departure study online, I was able to locate this vantage point along Lugard Road at Victoria Peak (Hong Kong) without any hassle.

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Hong Kong skyline shot from Convention and Exhibition Centre. Another location that I successfully scouted online before traveling.

You can always start this location study with the obvious (Google!), but there are also other resources that help you find photography spots. Those are Flickr, 500px, stock photography websites, and photography forums to name but a few.

Personally, Flickr is my go-to resource, as there are more than 10 billion photos (according to their 2015 stats) and numerous groups dedicated to many big and small cities around the world. You can ask questions and possibly get answered by local photographers.

Finding what to shoot is a piece of cake. 10 minutes browsing Flickr gives you a number of potential locations. You may argue that those places are over-photographed or that you’re just copying what others have already photographed. But as a first-time visitor, I’m happy to start with the most popular locations because they are over-photographed for a reason.

Flickr - How to Search Potential Cityscape Photography Spots Online Before Traveling

With more than 10 billion photos available, Flickr is my go-to resource when searching potential cityscape photography spots.

Finding Out Where a Photo Was Shot

The next up is finding where to shoot from (i.e. The exact spot where the photo was shot) but this can be much harder. Sometimes the photo has a clue in itself, such as a name of the building (e.g. hotel name). Then, just get onto Google Maps and do a virtual walk around the area using Street View.

Let’s use Hong Kong, the city that never stops fascinating me with its amazing cityscapes, as a case study for this article. For the photo below, I shot from a footbridge on Connaught Road Central, finding the name of the building on the left (International Finance Centre) eventually led me to locate the exact shooting spot (see on Google Maps) after virtual-walking around a lot on Google Street View.

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Shot from a footbridge on Connaught Road Central (Hong Kong).

Try Your Luck Asking Photographers Directly

On other occasions, this crucial piece of info (the shooting location where the photo was taken) can be found in the title or description of the photo. If not, check through the comments to see whether anyone has already asked this particular question.

What I’ve found interesting is that there are photographers who normally reply to comments but somehow don’t respond to this type of question asking where it was shot. It might be because they are not really happy to share that information with a complete stranger trying to shortcut their way to an epic shooting spot they discovered by themselves (possibly by walking around for hours).

That said, there is no harm in asking. The worst thing that could happen is that you receive no response.

Author’s note: If you ask me about cityscape shooting spots in Singapore (where I live), I won’t hold anything back. I’m happy to provide all the info you need!

Asking in Flickr Groups

In case you’re hesitant about asking the photographer directly, you can also try asking in a Flickr group. Once I found a nice Hong Kong street photo with a street name included in the description. So I got onto Google Street View and moved up and down the street, but couldn’t locate exactly where the photo was shot.

As I saw this particular photographer not responding to any comments at all, I went into a Hong Kong group within Flickr and asked whether anyone knows the exact location by including the street photo in my question. Then, a fellow photographer kindly responded with the answer, which led me to shoot the photo below (shot from a footbridge over Paterson Street Tram Station, see on Google Maps).

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Hong Kong street view from Yee Wo Street.

Use Google Maps to Find Directions from Your Hotel

Lastly, let’s talk about how to get to those newly found amazing locations. Accessing directions have never been easier these days, thanks to Google Maps.

Prior to the trip, get onto Google Maps and find the directions starting from your hotel. To record the route, take a screenshot or copy the link from your browser’s address bar so that you will be able to revisit the page using hotel’s WiFi later.

This may not be commonly known, but Google Maps also lets you save a short URL of the directional map. Just go to “Menu”, then click “Share or embed map” and check “Short URL”. You can also save maps for offline use as well if you don’t want to incur roaming charges and can’t access any WiFi.

Google map - How to Search Potential Cityscape Photography Spots Online Before Traveling

Saving a directional map using “Short URL” feature on Google Maps.

List Photography Spots in Order of Priority

Let’s say I’m traveling for a 5-day, 4-night stay. Then, I’ll make a list of four cityscape photography spots to shoot at dusk. Plus I’ll add one or two backup spots just in case any of the original choices are unexpectedly unavailable due to a special event taking place or something. I select only one spot per day, as I’m only interested in shooting cityscapes during evening blue hour and try to gather as much information as possible before traveling.

It’s also important to list them in order of priority so that you know which place to drop if you can’t shoot on the first evening due to heavy rain, for example. In fact, such a situation often happens, so you should establish a clear order of priority for your shot list in advance.

Consider Revisiting: You Learn Something New Every Time You Go Back

Up until this point, I’ve talked about the importance of pre-departure preparations such as knowing where to shoot from. However, it’s also true that a single visit may not be enough to let you go home with best possible photos unless you’re staying for weeks. If you’re only staying for 4-5 days like I typically do, you may get unlucky with the weather and not be able to capture any photos that you’re happy with.

If that’s the case, consider revisiting the destination! The great thing about revisiting the same place is that you learn something new every time you go back, such as discovering lesser-known photography spots, finding a faster way to move around, etc. Besides, you can try new restaurants and coffee shops alike, and after a few visits, you’ll be able to walk around the city like a local!

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On my second visit to Hong Kong, I found this lookout point on Stubbs Road through a bus window on the way to Victoria Peak. So the next day I dedicated one evening to shoot at this spot. This is a good example of learning something new every time you go back.

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I planned to go back to Lugard Road lookout point at Victoria Peak to shoot Hong Kong skyline again, then accidentally diverted from the road to find this spot behind Peak Tower, so changed my plan to shoot here, instead.


I hope this helps you with your pre-departure search on what to shoot, where to shoot from, and how to get to those locations. These tips are quite basic, but it’s almost a prerequisite in order not to waste your precious (but limited) time at the destination, especially for those of us traveling only for a few days.

If you have any other cityscape photography tips to share, please do so in the comments below.

The post How to Search Potential Cityscape Photography Spots Online Before Traveling appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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