7 Travel Photography Myths + Why They’re Not True

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Have you ever thought that you just weren’t good enough to take professional-level photos of your travels? That you needed to splash out on a big, expensive camera and tons of gear? Ever gotten overwhelmed by the need to shoot in manual mode?

There are a lot of travel photography myths out there, you guys. And I’m on a mission to break down those misconceptions and barriers to entry. So in this post, I’m talking about 7 different travel photography myths that really get my blood boiling and why they’re just not true.

So buckle in. It’s going to be a wild ride 😉

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MYTH #1: YOU NEED A BIG, EXPENSIVE CAMERA TO TAKE GOOD PHOTOS

A large Canon camera
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When it comes to choosing the best camera for travel photography, there are a lot of misconceptions. For starters: that the biggest, fanciest, most expensive camera will take the best pictures.

This simply isn’t true. 

While, yes, a more expensive camera will likely have more features that do result in higher quality photos (like bigger sensor size and more megapixels), that doesn’t help anything if you don’t know how to use the camera. And let me tell you… there are a lot of people out there with big, fancy cameras that have no idea what they’re doing with them. They may look legit when they’re out and about, but they really aren’t.

Furthermore, the differences that you see in the quality of images between these big, expensive cameras and ones that are a little bit less expensive and “high quality” these days is honestly minimal. And unless you’re going to be printing your photos on billboards, you honestly don’t need it.

When you do know what you’re doing-how to use your camera and how to use different conditions when you’re traveling to your advantage-you can still take incredible photos with a smaller, less expensive camera.

MYTH #2: YOU NEED TO LUG AROUND A BUNCH OF GEAR

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Much like the myth that you need to have the biggest, fanciest camera to take great travel photos, the myth that you need to lug around a bunch of gear (think 10 lenses, 8 filters, 2 camera bodies, and a tripod) in order to take great photos is rampant. I mean, how many times have you seen guys absolutely weighed down by all the gear, switching out lenses like crazy and acting like they’re the s***?

In all actuality, having 10 different lenses might help you out in a few very specific situations. But in general, you really only need 2 or 3 lenses for every single situation you’ll encounter while out taking photos during your travels. Everything else you carry around will only weigh you down.

In the end, if you’re carrying around a bunch of gear, you’re going to have back and shoulder problems, be hella grumpy, and only have nominally better photos. Plus, you might be tempted to just leave it all behind after the first day of that, and having no camera is definitely way worse than only having a camera and a few lenses.

For a complete list of the travel photography gear I recommend having, check out this post. But also keep in mind that I don’t actually carry around all of this stuff every single day when I’m shooting! I just pick and choose what I know I’ll need for that day and leave the rest behind.

MYTH #3: YOU HAVE TO SHOOT IN MANUAL MODE

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There are a lot of people out there that say that manual mode is the only way to be a proper photographer. And it makes me so angry!

While you definitely don’t want to be shooting in auto mode, that doesn’t mean that the only other option is manual mode. In fact, there is a whole range of options out there, from program mode to aperture or shutter priority mode, which give you almost the same exact control as manual mode but make your life a heck of a lot easier.

In truth, manual mode is really only for shooting in a studio setting when you want to set your settings once and not have them change. But this probably isn’t the setting you’re shooting in for travel photography, so it’s really not the mode that you want to be using! Because unlike a studio setting, your surroundings are always changing when you’re traveling. Shooting in something like aperture priority mode allows you to choose what you want while the camera sets the correct exposure for the setting that you’re currently in, meaning that there’s a lot less chance for human error.

So the next time you get overwhelmed by all the techy language and everyone insisting that you need to shoot in manual mode to be a true photographer, just remember that they’re wrong and you’re smarter than them 😉

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MYTH #4: YOU CAN’T SHOOT AT MIDDAY

So many people complain about midday lighting you would think that it had wronged them somehow. Like stole the love of their lives or something.

What did midday lighting actually do, though? It was just slightly less flattering than any other kind of lighting.

Here’s the thing about midday lighting: it’s definitely not very flattering for portrait photography. It creates shadows under the eyes and highlights imperfections like wrinkles. It’s definitely a harsher kind of lighting and makes things look a lot less romantic than at other times of day, like golden hour.

But does that mean that you can’t take good photos during midday? Absolutely not.

In fact, there are some subjects, like buildings and really detailed things, that photograph really nicely in midday lighting, precisely because that harsh top lighting brings out more details.

And for things like portraits, there are ways to work around that harsh lighting. Just find some shade and you’ll actually have fabulous portrait lighting!

When you’re traveling, you have such limited time that you can’t just put your camera away from 11-3, and yet so many people think you have to. You don’t!!!

Read next: Lighting & Composition: 2 Secrets to Great Travel Photos

MYTH #5: BACKLIGHTING SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS

backlit girl splashing water
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Ah, the lighting travel photography myths… Much like the myth that midday lighting should be avoided at all costs, people seem to be obsessed with avoiding backlighting. Even people who don’t consider themselves photographers seem to just know that backlighting = bad.

And yes, in many situations-especially portrait photography-backlighting is undesirable because it produces silhouettes and exposure issues that mean your photos won’t turn out how you want them to.

But there are also times when you can use backlighting to your advantage. For example, sunset photography is all about backlighting, and creating silhouettes can be a really fun creative exercise!

Sometimes, you can even make things look like they’re glowing with backlighting. How cool is that???

MYTH #6: NEVER SHOW PEOPLE IN YOUR PHOTOS

A woman on a bicycle riding past a frescoed fall in Trento, Italy
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You know how, on Instagram, it always seems like there’s no one else there and they have these major monuments to themselves? And you just sit there thinking to yourself… there’s no way that actually happened unless they were there at like 5 am?

It can be really tempting to avoid people and crowds at all costs in your photography. They’re not always the most photogenic subjects, after all. But does that mean that you just straight up can’t show crowds in any of your photos? No!

Think about things like street photography, which are all about showing people on the street, living their daily lives. There are so many times when including a person in your photos can make them that much more alive. So don’t freak out if you can’t find an angle without anyone in the photo!

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MYTH #7: EDITING YOUR PHOTOS IS LIKE LYING

There is such a stigma these days against “Photoshopping” your photos, and people seem to be convinced that editing your photos is like lying. And while you definitely shouldn’t be changing people’s body shapes or completely denying reality, editing your photos to fix the exposure and make things pop a little bit is not a crime.

In fact, the magic is actually in the edit, in many cases. 

Editing your photos allows you to fix any mistakes you might have made, make the photo really pop, and add your own creative spin to your images. So I highly encourage it!

One really great way to get started with editing your photos is with Lightroom presets. You can shop mine here!

So there you have it: 7 travel photography myths and why they’re not true. Which of these travel photography myths did you believe before this post?

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There are a lot of travel photography myths out there. Like that you need the best camera or that you can't take pictures at midday. Read this post to learn why these travel photography myths aren't true.
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MY FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Booking Flights: The first place I turn when I’m searching for flights is actually just Google Flights - it’s great to figure out what sort of routes are available. Then, I check Skyscanner and Kiwi for deals. I also love Kiwi for its destination: anywhere feature!

Transportation: I love Omio for figuring out the cheapest way to get from one place to another, and Trainline for booking train tickets within Europe.

Accommodations: I absolutely love Booking.com for finding great hotel deals. After you stay a certain number of nights, you get Genius discounts! For hostels, Hostelworld is my go-to, and I use Airbnb occasionally as well (click here for $40 off your first booking!)

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Tours: I always check Urban Adventures for great day tours of cities first–I’m obsessed with them! GetYourGuide and Viator are also great options. For multi-day tours, I highly recommend Intrepid.

Camera Gear: I use a Sony Alpha A6300 camera with an 18-105 mm lens and a 35 mm lens. My tripod is the MeFoto Backpacker Air and I loooooove it! I also use a DJI Mavic Air and a GoPro and which allow me to capture everything my regular camera can’t.

2 thoughts on “7 Travel Photography Myths + Why They’re Not True”

  1. Pingback: Everything You Need to Know About Shooting in Manual Mode

  2. Pingback: Understanding Aperture: What You Need to Know • Addie Abroad

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