Travel Photography Tips for Everyone

I have been traveling regularly for the last 8 years. For the last 8 years, I have purchased 32 returned air tickets under my name. Some trips were with my wife and daughter (Girlfriend before we got married), some trips were with friends, and some I traveled alone. Everyone carries a phone when they are out doing certain activities, some people use their camera phone daily, and frequency increases when they go on trips. If you enjoy taking photos and you’ve got an upcoming trip, then you should keep these few ideas in mind:

  • What subjects do you like to photograph? For example, new foods that you plan to try out, and you intend to photograph foods in detail. Try shooting in different modes, and play with the available lighting. Same with any other still life shots.
  • Shoot in landscape form if the subject is wide, and shoot in portrait form if the subject is taller than it’s wide. 
  • Do you plan to print some of the photographs out? Set your image settings to high quality, so you can have room to edit, crop, and still be able to print a few out, and even be able to frame one on the wall. So make sure you free up enough memory to save all the images throughout the trip. If you got enough space to upload to your cloud account(s), great, do it when you get back to your hotel room, and you can start all fresh again the next day with plenty of memory to save those lovely images. It’s all about planning and thinking ahead, and here are 10 key points that I like to share with you when it comes to travel photography: 

1. Plan your trip well. Find out the best suitable time for you to shoot your subject, and plan your day around it. When I booked my tickets to Tokyo in 2018, apart from enjoying the trip, my other focus was about photo shooting Mt Fuji , shot from Lake Kawaguchi. The best time to shoot it from Lake Kawaguchi is around 8:30 AM in the mornings, it’ll get very cloudy and foggy during the day which would likely cover up your view of Mt Fuji. I was glad that we got the full view of the mountain, and seeing Mt Fuji instantly became the highlight of my trip. Another example of getting a satisfying result is to look up the location or subject online prior to your trip, look at shots that inspires you, and look at what settings you should set to get a shot that you’ll be proud of. If the subject or location has been around for a long time, chances are there should be enough shots online to help you with your photo composition, which is ways you should shoot your shots, and at what angle. There are photography forums online and people are happy to share information on your subject of interest. After you think you’ve got your shots done, wonder around that area to see if there is anything else you can shoot. For example, I was in New York for holiday and was taking photos of Statue of Liberty, while shooting, I saw some street performers playing saxophone nearby, so I stopping shooting what I originally had planned, and I changed my main subject to these street performers. You never know what will actually happen throughout your shoot, but do your homework prior to your trip, and you’ll be able to cut down most of the unnecessary challenges that you might face during the trip. 

2.Study about the location that you plan to go. Again, this is also about planning, I must mention about location research because it’s really important. Find out everything about the city or areas you are going to be in. Look for places that are natural and man-made, find out about operating hours, and if there is an admission fee. Say if you want to take your children to the zoo for some shots of your kids with goats, find out if there are any goat shows or any daily animal activities so you can have a much closer experience with these animals. Find out if there are any upcoming festivals or search for yearly events of that city. For example, if you plan to fly to Sydney for a vacation between May – June, Vivid Sydney (Outdoor lights and music installations) is a great opportunity for you to get your camera out for some photo shoots. When I was in New York for vacation, I was staying in Manhattan, visit Time Square instantly became one of my top choices of things to do. I found out Time Square was populated even close to midnight, and I managed to capture some great shots of Time Square late at night. Another thing about location, research on the foods you may be interested, and also look at restaurants that are popular, cheap and expensive ones. That means you can make a decision on what to eat, and if the food is delicious, and you have taken a few moments to photograph your food before you start chomping like a horse, it also means you’ve captured what the food looks like, but also means you have programmed what the food tastes like on your mind, which potentially can stay in your memory for a very long time.

3.Decide on what photography equipment to bring. Back in 2013 when I was at an airport, getting ready to fly out to a friend’s wedding. I was asked to help out to take some photos of the wedding (I wasn’t the main photographer since I was the best man) when needed, obviously I studied about the location and the wedding venue, which gave me a better idea on what gears to bring. It also really depends on the kind of result that would make you feel satisfied. For example, a friend of mine recently asked me what cameras to buy, all she want is to share it on social media or be able to view it on her phone, so she wasn’t considering high quality. If you are going on a honeymoon, or a trip to Europe for a few weeks, I would advise you to bring at least a compact camera. Use your camera to take photos throughout the day, and when you get back to your hotel room, you can turn on the WIFI on your camera to connect to your phone (You need to download the right app), and get your phone to download the pictures to your phone. The photo quality shot by your camera is better than your phone, especially when it comes to sharpness and shots in a low light situation. At my friend’s wedding, I shot with available daylight during the day, and I used an external flash during the night indoors. These photos may be stored in your cloud or backup hard drive for years, and there will be times when you just want to look at some old photos or videos, and there is a good chance you’ll want to look at those work on a big size TV, and those images will look bad because of low quality, and won’t be worth printing as well. Know what gears to bring to get the best result that you want to achieve. 

4. Know your camera well. Okay, now you know what gears you want to bring, but do you know how your phone functions and how it works inside out? Do you know how to turn the flash on from your camera phone, or change the exposure compensation due to lighting conditions? OR do you know how to change the image size bigger when you want high quality for printing purposes, or lower the image size when you just want to email it to some family and friends? I hope these questions would give you an opportunity to look at your camera settings, and practice does make things perfect in this situation. Ont time when I was out early in the morning to shoot the sunrise, I was out with my camera gears and tripod, I studied about my subject, and made my plan to leave home around 4 AM in the morning because I also planned to make a few stops for some shots. I finally got to a spot that I felt would give me the perfect shots, and then I started waiting, and I managed to close my eyes for a bit of rest in the car and stayed out of the cold. When it was around 5-6ish, I got out of the car, I had to act fast when I was shooting and I also had to look at some test shots that I took, I made changes to my camera settings, I had to continue to act fast before the sun rises. Those were some special moments in my photography life, and the result was satisfying because I was fighting against time, and I had to know my camera well to be able to capture these special moments. 

5. Bring backup batteries. Although I’ve touched on what gears to bring on the 3rd point, I can’t stress enough about backup batteries. This applies to all types of photography when you are outdoor. There is a high chance when you are out shooting, the battery that’s fitted in your camera dies, and unfortunately, you are in the middle of your shoot, or your journey isn’t completed yet, and you have no backup battery to keep shooting. You may continue taking photos with your camera phone, however, the photo quality may not be ideal. For the past 20 years, whenever I buy a new camera, I would always buy an extra rechargeable battery or try to bargain for one for free. There was one time I was shooting some models walking on a runway, I took my first shot and my battery was flat. Fortunately, I had a spare battery that’s charged, and I also had another extra backup since this particular assignment was a paid job, which means failure isn’t an option, and as a photographer, flat batteries is inexcusable. Luckily for you, depends on what gadgets you are using, a portable battery is cheap and available for you to carry around if you need to charge, I have met so many photographers rushing to the camera store that I used to work asking for batteries because their battery had gone flat. Spend some extra money and you won’t have to feel so stressed out when matters like this happen. 

6. Always be ready to shoot. If you are traveling with kids, travel light, and always have your camera within reach, because those precious smiles and funny facial expressions may not always be easy to capture. When I was traveling around Germany and Switzerland, there were a lot of times our tour guide would tell us to get our cameras ready to capture some beautiful scenes and I would set my camera on continuous shooting. Choose a fast camera if you are looking to shoot subjects that moves, like animals, cars, and even kids too. You will shoot with more confidence if you plan your trip well, know what to bring, and understand your gears inside out, and this is for moments that may never come back again. Another subject that you should always be ready to shoot is thunder, a great way to shoot thunder is to stay in a car, set your camera to the highest quality so you can do some cropping later, and all you can do is wait. Thunder photography needs a bit of luck, and sometimes you get tired of staying in the car, or because you stop shooting due to bad weather condition. 

7. Back up your photos at your earliest convenience. This is so important, and it’ll make me really upset if I ever lose my digital photos due to an unfortunate reason. So please backup your photos! When you get back to your hotel room, stick all the memory cards to your card reader for a backup, or upload your precious photos to your cloud account. A friend of mine had the chance to backup his photos to his laptop but he didn’t take the opportunity, and somehow his camera memory card got corrupted, both the camera and the card reader weren’t able to read any of the photos. You may have a poor trip plan, and not have the best or proper gear (Which can be OK too), but those precious moments may never come again, so buy reliable memory cards, and always backup all the photos when you get home from your trip. 

8. Stay safe, try not to lose or drop your gears. I’ve never had any of these two happen to me, although I’ve dropped my camera phone many times in the past, it’s different to dropping your digital or film SLR on the ground with a lens attached to it. A good way is always to have your camera strap around your neck, and keep your gears in your bag when you think it’s about to hail or storm. When your friends see you with a nice set of gear or when you want to get your friends to take a photo of you, let them get used to the habit of putting the strap around their neck. One time I was asked to buy a camera for work when the old one broke, although it was just a small compact camera, I bought a neck strap and got everyone to understand that it’s a rule to keep it around the neck while using. Being safe is the number 1 most important factor in our lives, and it’s better if you create a bad shot than being hurt, a lot of people fell in a pool or water when they were backing up to get a wider shot. Try your best to keep an eye on your camera equipment, a friend of mine lost all her graduation photos because she didn’t keep an eye on her gears and everything got stolen. Those are the precious memories that were captured and will not be duplicated again. 

9. Share your photos with your family and friends! People find ways to relax, and sharing it on their social media or emailing it to their family and friends often makes them feel good about themselves. It’s about sharing photos that you took online for people to see, and often your close ones would comment on your photos. These days smartphones are easy to edit and share, and the digital cameras now days have WIFI function for you to have your photos stored on your phone for your own purposes. I often share photos of my trip with my parents, in a way it’s to show that although we are traveling overseas, we’re in a safe environment. I also share photos with my parents because they like to see photos of my daughter as well as some beautiful landscapes. If you are serious about photography, look for an online photo gallery, and perhaps through a social media platform to gain your audience. This is a good way for you to connect with people that’s also into photography, and you can always ask for some feedback on your shots, this is a way for you to improve your skills and photo composition. 

10. Have Fun! Don’t stress about bad shots, with digital, you can preview your shots, zoom in your screen to check sharpness, and shoot more if you haven’t got the right shot. Enjoy shooting and always ask for some feedback, have a passion to learn to be a better photographer, and eventually you’ll be able to shoot better shots. Sign up for newsletters, buy photography magazines, or subscribe to channels that’ll help you to improve your photography skills. Always shoot with available lighting. Plan your shoots, and have a plan when the weather is bad. At the beginning of your photography life, shoot subjects from different angles, shoot anything that inspires you, and try to enjoy looking at your shots on a computer monitor. This is supposed to be a fun hobby, and not a duty or something that makes your life feel miserable. Offer to help out with shoots, and sometimes your offer could lead to a new friendship or a new connection. Maybe you always buy your coffee at this cafe, and one day the cafe owner said to you that he needs to create a new cafe menu and is looking for a photographer, and that’s when you could present yourself. Have fun! Life is too short to waste. I always have fun when I shoot, and getting enough rest is an important factor. Be creative, and go with your instinct, stay safe and enjoy. 

No animals were harmed during the making of this article.