In this post I’m sharing all of my best travel photography tips for beginners!
One of my absolute favorite things to do when I’m traveling is take photographs. There’s just something about travel photography and capturing the details and feeling of a place that makes me so happy.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about travel photography and seriously honed my skills.
So today, I want to share a few travel photography tips for beginners. And by a few I mean literally everything you need to know about getting started with travel photography, from choosing the right gear to editing your photos post trip. Yup, I’m serious.
So let’s quit dilly-dallying and get started.
Travel Photography Tips for Beginners: All About Gear
Now, I want to start things off by saying that you can take awesome travel photos without a lot of fancy gear. So much of good photography is understanding things like composition and lighting and then making things pop with good editing. But, that being said, good gear can make your life a lot easier, and elevate your photos that much more.
Here’s what I suggest for beginner travel photographers.
How to choose the best camera for travel photography
There are a few different things you should consider when it comes to choosing the best camera for travel photography.
First off: weight and size. Ultimately, the best camera is the one you have with you. So if you’re going to be tempted to leave that big, heavy DSLR in the hotel room, don’t get it. Buy a camera that you know you’ll have no trouble lugging around all day.
Second to that is quality. Look at things like megapixels, low light performance, and sensor size. It never hurts to go into the store and actually test out a few different models.
Then, think about the different features that you want. Do you want to be able to switch out different lenses or are you fine with using the same one all the time? Do you want your camera to be weatherproof? Those sorts of things should all be taken into consideration as well.
Finally, consider the price. Choose a camera that you can afford!
I will always suggest mirrorless cameras for their combination of quality and size. Personally, I use a Sony Alpha A6300 and absolutely love it.
If your camera has the ability to change out lenses, then it can be nice to have a few different ones at your disposal. The kit lens that comes with the camera when you buy it is usually not very good quality, so I’d definitely upgrade from that as soon as you can.
Again, you don’t want to carry around too many lenses and weigh yourself down. I suggest picking two to travel with on a daily basis: a good, versatile zoom lens and a prime lens for those blurry backgrounds. I personally travel with a 18-105mm zoom lens and a 35mm prime lens.
Two things that you should never travel without are extra memory cards and batteries. There’s nothing worse than having your camera on you and not being able to take photos!
I’d also suggest bringing along a lens cloth to clean any smudges.
You’ll likely slowly add different accessories to your kit as you go along, so don’t worry too much about stocking up ahead of time!
Packing it all
When it comes to packing all of your gear, I highly suggest having a dedicated bag for your gear that has padding and other protective elements. You should also look for something with wide straps so that it doesn’t dig into your shoulders.
I’m currently using a Jo Totes Bellbrook backpack and love it because it’s both stylish and functional!
Travel Photography Tips for Beginners: Planning Your Trip
Planning a trip where you want to make travel photography a priority is a bit different from planning a trip like you normally would. Here are a few planning travel photography tips for beginners.
- Plan to do fewer things per day. Taking a good photo can take time, so be patient. I’d probably start by planning your itinerary like you normally would and then take one activity off per day.
- Photo walks can be a really fun way to practice your travel photography. Block off an hour or two to just walk around a neighborhood and shoot whatever catches your eye!
- Visit top sights – Yes, you definitely want that shot of the Eiffel Tower. Go for it. Just try to see things from a slightly different angle if you can.
- Get off the beaten path – Of course, along with the top sights, getting off the beaten path can provide some of the best travel photography opportunities.
- Check out Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration – When you’re just starting out it can be really helpful to check out other travel photographers for ideas for composition, etc. Obviously, you don’t want to copy anyone, though!
Travel Photography Tips for Beginners: The Basics
Alright, now onto the actual art of taking travel photos! While of course there’s much more to travel photography that I can really get into in this post, here are a few of the most important basics.
Composition essentially just means that way that things are placed in the frame of the photograph. When it comes to composing great photographs, the rule of thirds is a great place to start.
You’ve probably heard of the rule of thirds before, but here’s a quick overview:
- Imagine that your photograph is divided by four lines (two horizontal and two vertical) that are placed a third of the way into the photo.
- The rule of thirds states that the subject of your photograph, or object of interest, should be placed along these lines – particularly at the intersection of them.
- When you do this, it creates much more visual interest than simply placing your subject in the middle of the frame.
- It also helps to place the horizon line along one of the horizontal lines!
As you get more confident with using the rule of thirds, start to play around with other ways of composing your photos as well!
Good lighting can really make or break a photo. If your photo is too dark or your subject’s face is in shadow, it will likely be unexceptional. But if that perfect ray or golden pink sunshine hits it just the right place it can be magical. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re looking for good lighting:
- The best time of day to shoot is just after sunrise and just before sunset. This is commonly known as “Golden Hour” where the light is really just magical.
- Try not to point your camera into the sun if you can’t. While there are times where this works (like when you want to create a silhouette), pointing your camera towards the sun results in backlighting, meaning that your subject won’t be lit up properly.
- Pay attention to where shadows land.
- Side lighting can be some of the most flattering. Position your subject so the side of their face is facing the sun (or if you’re shooting a landscape, the sun is on the right side). You might have to wait for the right time of day for this, but it can be really worth it!
Exposure essentially just means how dark or light your photo is. If you’re shooting in automatic mode, there’s not too much you can do about this. But if you’re shooting in manual mode, here are the three most important things to pay attention to:
- Aperture – how much light is let into your camera. A wider aperture (smaller number) lets in more light while a narrower one (bigger number) lets in less. Aperture also controls your depth of field, meaning how much of the photograph is in focus. A wider aperture will have less in focus (useful for creating those creamy bokeh backgrounds) while a narrower one will have more in focus.
- Shutter Speed – how long your shutter is kept open. The longer your shutter is kept open, the more light will be let in.
- ISO – how sensitive your camera is to light. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive it is to light. So if you want to shoot in darker conditions without using your flash, you should up your ISO. Be careful not to make it too high though, as this can result in noise.
Travel Photography Tips for Beginners: Different kinds of travel photography
Travel photography really has endless possibilities. There are so many different kinds of photographs that you can take while you’re traveling. Here are a few travel photography tips for beginners that cover the different kinds of travel photography.
Landscape photography essentially just means showing spaces in the world. This can range from mountains to oceans to quaint houses in your favorite village. When you’re shooting landscapes, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- A narrower aperture is generally better, as it allows you to capture more detail.
- To make up for the narrower aperture, use a slower shutter speed. If you can use a tripod, do it!
- Place the horizon along one of the horizontal rule of thirds lines.
- To keep things visually interesting, try to find a subject (like a fishing boat in a lake) to place along one of the rule of thirds lines. Adding a person into the photograph for scale can also be a great idea!
- Golden hour, sunrise, and sunset will always be the best times for shooting landscapes.
When it comes to shooting cities, the same rules apply as do to landscape photography. One extra thing to keep in mind, though, is that shooting buildings from ground level can result in them feeling like they’re falling backwards. If you can, try to get parallel with the buildings to make sure that the perspective is right. Otherwise, this is a pretty easy fix in Lightroom (which I’ll talk about later).
Portrait photography is my favorite thing, and for good reason. I think people just bring so much life to photographs! Here are a few general portrait photography tips for beginners:
- A wider aperture will allow for those beautiful, creamy backgrounds we’re all obsessed with.
- Use a faster shutter speed in order to make up for the amount of light that the wider aperture lets in. This is also helpful because people tend to move a lot faster than landscapes do 😉
- Take as many shots as you can! The more time that someone spends in front of a camera, the more comfortable they’ll get. This also ups your chances of taking that perfect candid.
Food & Drink
Food and drink are such a large part of travel, and capturing them can be a lot of fun (just don’t waste so much time that it gets cold)! In general, food photographs best in bright, natural light. I also personally think that shooting from a birds eye view makes food look really good!
If you’re going on safari or shooting a lot of wildlife, you’ll probably want to look into buying or renting a large zoom lens (at least 300mm). You’ll also definitely want to use a fast shutter speed to make sure you freeze the animal in motion!
Details & Closeups
It’s easy to get caught up in shooting those wide, stunning landscapes and want to get everything into every photo. Details and close ups can make for really interesting photos as well, though, and can add a lot to your collection. So once you’re done shooting those landscapes get close up and find those interesting little details!
Travel Photography Tips for Beginners: Editing
Why edit your photos?
For some reason there’s a misconception that editing your photos is cheating. But this is absolutely not the case. In fact, I truly believe that the magic is in the edit! Editing can bring out so much extra detail in your photographs and really make them pop, so don’t be afraid of it!
By far the best photo editing program out there is Adobe Lightroom. It can be a little intimidating at first, but once you learn the ropes your photos will thank you for it.
You can buy a subscription to Adobe Lightroom + Photoshop for just $10 a month, as well, so it’s pretty affordable!
Presets for Lightroom are essentially just filters for Instagram, but way fancier. When you use a preset, it applies pre-set positions to the different sliders in Lightroom. This means that they can seriously speed up the editing process!
There are loads of different types of presets out there for every editing style. You can check out my personal presets here if you’re interested.
And there you have it: the best travel photography tips for beginners! Of course, you can get way more in depth into each and every one of these topics, which I plan to do in the future. But for now, this is a really good place to start.