How to Take Better Travel Photos


One of the (okay, perhaps the only) exciting post-trip tasks is downloading the hundreds of photos you took. There’s nothing like experiencing the journey over and over and sharing some key images with friends and family.

But what if the photos are less than fabulous?

Well, you can’t do much to salvage poorly exposed or out-of-focus shots. If, however, your photos are lacking the breathtaking response you were aiming for, you can try some new techniques and have more success next time.

Composition: What are you trying to capture? The way sunlight streams across a field? A lively street scene? Determine what mood you’re trying to evoke or what narrative you’re trying to tell, then experiment with different ways to convey it. Isolate the subject with light or color. Get up close, get further away. Turn your camera so you’re shooting vertically. Bend your knees to get low to the ground, stand on something sturdy and shoot from up high. Move around!

While garbage, power lines and traffic might not generally be welcome in your screen, do not automatically dismiss people. Including people in your images can convey emotions, show customary dress or communicate the vibe of a place.

Light: Photography is really all about light. What kind of light is available to you? Is it harsh noontime light? Is it soft morning light? Harsh light creates deep shadows and a lot of contrast whereas soft light is gentler.

Remember that light directs the eye. If you want to draw attention to your subject, place it in direct lighting. If you want to emphasize texture, try to capture the light from the side. If you don’t like the available natural light, try shooting at a different time of day.

The moment: Wait for the right moment to shoot. Have patience while an elderly couple lingers in front of the pond or while a group of backpackers captures the Taj Mahal from every angle. The wait will be worth it.

Atmosphere: What is going on around you? Look up from your camera and observe. Steam, rain, snow, fog and reflections can create unexpected results. What do you see?

Details: Look closely. Is there anything that would make your image more compelling? Are there any colors or textures that stand out? Or maybe there’s a prop such as food that would help tell the story?

Think of your favorite travel images, taken either by you or someone else. What is it that drew you to them? Is there a common subject, maybe sweeping landscapes, colorful food or animated people? Did the photographer capture an interesting angle or flattering lighting? If you have an idea of what you prefer, you can seek to create similar effects or incorporate the characteristics into your own work.

Try a few of these on your next trip to bring your photography to a new level!

Have you ever been disappointed with your travel photographs? What are some of your favorite photography techniques? What camera do you use?

photo credit

About Author

Dawn first became hooked on traveling while studying abroad in London. Who knew how easy it was to hop on a plane, train or boat and emerge in another country! Since then, she has traveled as much as possible and loves how each destination alters her understanding of life. Read her expat exploits on, view her photos on and follow her on twitter @shootandscrawl. Based out of: Luxembourg City and New York City


  1. Awesome tips Dawn! I always struggle with travel photos. I have a clunker of a camera at the moment (it still has batteries and a viewfinder!) so I’ve been using the camera on my Droid, but that gives me problems too. I’m going to try out your tips!!

  2. Those are some great tips. Whenever I’m traveling, I become a photo freak with my Nikon D3100! I take photos of Everything, with a capital E! Everything! Some problems I come across (apart from the battery dying or running out of memory) are getting the right lighting and fitting everything in the picture. Usually I will take multiple pictures of the same thing at different angles so that later I can pick and choose my favorites.

    • Hi Claire, Glad to meet another photo freak! Yeah, lighting is really tricky. You might also want to try bracketing if the lighting is really challenging. Shooting different angles is a great strategy! I’m sure you end up with some memorable images. Happy shooting!

      • LOVE the images Sarah & Photo Team. You all caghut the wedding and our couple quite lovely! Wonderful work. Looking forward to writing about the design concept and production of it all with Kathy, our fab Mother of the Bride.

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