There you are, travelling the world. Living your dreams, perhaps. Or letting your curiosity guide you down winding streets, through bustling markets, across hidden beaches and into adventures you never expected. You want to photograph these moments, as a way to remember them but also to share these incredible experiences with the world (and maybe, let's be honest, to make your Instagram followers jealous).
And yet your photos just aren't doing justice to real life.
Taking beautiful travel photos doesn't require top notch equipment and formal training. It just takes a little creativity and experimentation. Here are a few tips to help you capture the soul of a place and really make your travel photos shine.
Play with angles.
Many shots will work beautifully from a conventional front-on angle, but it's always worth looking for unique vantage points that give a different perspective. Experiment with shooting down from a bird's-eye view, or angling sharply upwards to capture a subject against a dramatic sky.
Shadows on the beach at Azenhas do Mar, Portugal. Photo by me.
Include a marker of scale.
Some landscapes are breathtaking for their grandeur and magnitude — but without some object to compare them to, the scale of such places is lost. A human figure is an ideal marker, since we all innately understand our own size; but other objects can work as well. Similarly, if you're photographing a smaller object up close and want to convey its size, include something like your hand in the shot.
Fisherman leaning out over the ocean. Photo by me.
Photograph the locals.
People are a huge part of a place and its culture, so document them in your shots! Do be respectful though. Be wary of cultures or activities where people may not appreciate being photographed, and when in doubt, simply and kindly ask for permission.
Man at a boxing club in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by me.
Priest at Vatican City, Rome. Photo by me.
Don't be afraid to steal some candid moments.
The above said, candid moments are often the best — so if you're photographing people, keep at the ready and be quick on the trigger to capture them. Again, you don't have to get in people's faces: Keeping them anonymous can create just as beautiful a shot.
Above, two different moments from the same sunset. Photos by me.
Find beauty in odd places.
A beautiful photo doesn't have to fulfill the Insta-cliches of flower stands and cupcakes. Beauty might be the colour and texture you find in a scene; it might be in the complexity of sheer chaos. Beauty can even be found in ugliness. Don't just look for what you think other people will like — look for what's interesting and what resonates with you.
Grilled sardines in the countryside of The Algarve, Portugal. Photo by me.
Movement can be tricky to photograph, but it helps to add life and action to your shots. It can also help to tell a story. Sometimes capturing movement is more important to the shot than technical perfection: A bit of blur can even add to the effect.
Kangaroos in The Goldfields region, Victoria, Australia. Photo by me.
Learn to shoot at different times of day.
Ever heard of the golden hour? It occurs for roughly one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset, and it’s a particularly beautiful time to take photos because the light is so soft and golden. Make use of it by aiming to be out and about during those times. If you have the right equipment don’t be afraid to shoot after sundown, too: Play with longer exposures or light subjects up with a flash.
Budapest at night. Photo by me.
Look for contrasts.
Nothing will make your photos stand out more than strong contrasts. In street scenes and landscapes, seek out contrasts of light and shadow, colour contrasts and contrasts of theme. If you can get several types of contrasts in one shot, even better.
Light and shadow and colour contrast in a street scene in Lisbon. Photo by me.
My travel shots are far better now than when I started. And yet, it’s a never-ending process: I know I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn.
One of the most important things you can do is simply to keep practicing, keep learning and keep experimenting to find what works for you. Developing your own style and eye comes with time. But that’s okay, because isn't practicing your travel photography a great excuse to book another trip?