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Travel Photography Tips for Beginners: 8 Pro Insights

Travel photography tips and ideas

The beauty of travel photography is about capturing the soul of a place and the heart of an experience. Not to mention it combines two wonderful things: photography and travel.

But what is travel photography?

The world is brimming with breathtaking landscapes, inspiring architecture, vibrant festivals, and captivating people. Documenting these wonders through travel photography lets you preserve your experiences but also enables you to share stories of the places you’ve visited and the people you’ve met.

In this article, I want to share eight simple tips that will help you document your travel experiences more vividly, immersively, and memorably, allowing you to relive the journey for years to come..

8 Easy Tips for Beginner Travel Photographers

Travel photography aims to capture and share the essence of the places you explore – from breathtaking landscapes to intimate portraits, it’s an art that requires a blend of creativity, technical skill, and cultural sensitivity.

I’ve compiled a list of travel photography tips for beginners and professional photographers that will guide you in creating stunning images that resonate with the spirit of your adventures.

#1. Location Scouting

Scouting your location before the actual shoot can make a world of difference.

 This can aid in understanding the light conditions, determining the best vantage points, and even finding hidden spots that can yield unique shots. 

For instance, during my trip to Venice, an early morning scouting mission led me to a quaint alleyway, offering a less-touristic and more authentic backdrop for my shots.

Portrait photo of a young woman in Venice, Italy.

PRO TIP: Apps like Google Maps, Instagram, and The Photographer’s Ephemeris (sun, moon, and Milky Way calculator) can also help you to plan and scout locations.

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#2. Ask For Permission

When photographing local people, especially in foreign cultures, asking permission is not just a sign of respect, it’s a gateway to a deeper connection. 

For instance, during my recent trip to Istanbul in Turkey, I saw a very friendly and smiling chef at one of the local kebab places. I approached him and, using hand gestures, asked for permission to take a portrait photo of him. He nodded, thus giving me permission to capture his image. I am very happy with the portrait I took of this friendly chef.

Portrait photo of a kebab chef from Istanbul, Turkey 2023

#3. Carry a Light Tripod

Traveling light is vital, but sometimes you need stability for those crisp shots. A light tripod can be your best friend. It’s essential for long exposures, like night sky photography or capturing light trails in a busy city.

One of the best travel tripods I would happily recommend is the Manfrotto Befree Aluminium Travel Tripod – and trust me, it’s well worth the price.

Manfrotto Befree Aluminium Travel Tripod

Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5, based on 598 individual reviews

#4. Connect With People in Those Places

If locations are the body of your travel story, then people are its soul. From the beaming fruit seller in a bustling Bangkok market to the introspective gondolier navigating the canals of Venice.  Connecting deeply and authentically with the locals can provide rich narratives that bring your photos to life.

Here’s another example from my recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey. During this trip, my wife and I decided to try something unique and explore non-touristic places with a local guide from Istanbul via Airbnb experiences.

Hassan, our guide, showed us a very interesting neighborhood called Balat, which historically was the center of the Jewish community in Istanbul. During this Airbnb experience, we had the chance to connect with multiple local people and hear their stories about Istanbul.

Portrait photo of a woman from a local shop in Balat, Istanbul.

#5. Patience

As I mentioned earlier, patience is paramount in travel photography. Waiting for the perfect light or the ideal moment can make your photographs stand out.

For instance, during my trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy, we were caught in a significant storm one day and had to wait almost three hours in a local restaurant for the rain to stop. Throughout this time, I stood near the entrance of the restaurant under the canopy, with my Fujifilm X100V camera in hand, waiting for an interesting moment.

And guess what? I got very lucky and captured a unique shot that I truly cherish.

Photo of a big storm in Amalfi Coast, Italy.

Fun fact: a slightly alternative version of this photo (vertical version) got over 800 upvotes on the Fujifilm subreddit. This is one of my highest-rated photos on Reddit so far 😉 

#6. Explore Hidden Areas

Traveling is about breaking free from every day, so why stick to the well-trodden path? 

Exploring hidden areas can offer fresh perspectives and original images that stand out from the usual travel photos.

Suppose you’re in Paris. Besides capturing the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, venture into lesser-known neighborhoods like Belleville or Ménilmontant. You might discover unique street art, charming cafes, or daily life scenes that convey a more authentic feel of the city.

Photo of a cafe in Paris

#7. Prepare and Bring Backup

Ensure you have backup equipment in case of loss or failure. This could be spare batteries, memory cards, or even backup travel cameras. 

Additionally, pack your gear wisely to protect it during transit. For example, using padded bags or compartmentalized backpacks can keep your equipment safe and organized.

For my latest trip to Istanbul, I decided to bring two cameras: the Sony 7C paired with a Sony 24-70 2.8 G Master II lens, and my all-time favorite, the Fujifilm X100V, with its fixed lens.

My Fujifilm X100V and Sony 7C mirrorless cameras.
My Fujifilm X100V and Sony 7C mirrorless cameras.

The primary reason for carrying both cameras was to ensure I’d still have a backup to shoot with in case one malfunctioned or was stolen. 

Additionally, the Fujifilm X100V, being smaller and less conspicuous, enables me to take candid photos of locals. My experience has shown that people are more agreeable to being photographed when I use a less intimidating camera.

Necessary equipment

Apart from your camera and lenses, there are some other essential travel photography equipment pieces. 

For instance, lens cleaning kits, a weather-resistant photography travel bag, and a lens hood can go a long way in preserving your gear and improving your shots. 

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Essential Camera Care: Cleaning, Maintenance, and Protection

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Investing in extra memory cards is a smart move. They serve as backup storage but also allow you to shoot freely without worrying about space. They’re also small, light, and easy to carry.

Keep Your Camera Safe

Securing your camera from potential theft and damage is crucial. 

Use a sturdy, waterproof travel photography bag for storage and carry it close to you. Invest in a good quality camera bag with secure closures, and always ensure your camera is strapped to you or within your sight. A neck strap or wrist strap is a no-brainer, of course.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 20L

Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5, based on 169 individual reviews

If possible, get insurance for your gear. Also, be mindful of your surroundings, especially in crowded places or when shooting in challenging conditions.

What Are the Best Cameras for Travel Photography?

While I am a devoted fan of the Fujifilm X series, especially for holidays, a great camera for travel photography could be any device that blends functionality and portability. 

Mirrorless travel cameras provide excellent image quality without the bulk of a DSLR, making them ideal for travel. Compact cameras have also come a long way and can pack a punch in a small size.

So if you’re looking for the ideal travel photography camera, go for something less bulk, lightweight, and silent. Some travel cameras that I think are great options include:

Fujifilm X100V

Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5, based on 485 individual reviews

Sony Alpha 6700
(new 2023 model)

Amazon rating: 4.4 out of 5, based on 17 individual reviews

Canon EOS M50 Mark II

Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5, based on 1709 individual reviews

How about the best lenses for travel photography? For many travelers, a single zoom lens that covers a wide focal range might be the best travel photography lens, as it can adapt to various scenarios from landscapes to portraits. Here are some popular lenses that are ideal for travel photography:

  • A versatile standard zoom lens with a wide range of focal lengths, such as a 24-70mm lens for full-frame cameras or an 18-55mm lens for APS-C cameras.
  • A wide-angle zoom lens, like a 16-35mm, is perfect for landscapes and architectural shots.
  • A compact prime lens (fixed focal length), such as a 35mm or 50mm, could be an excellent choice for its lightweight and typically wider maximum aperture. Perfect for travel portrait photography.
  • Telephoto zoom lens, such as a 70-200mm, if you are interested in wildlife or sports photography.

Note: Travel photography gear can definitely make a difference. But the best camera for travel photography and the best lens for travel photography is, ultimately, the one you have at hand.

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Creative Travel Photography

We’ve explored some of the main tips to create a compelling and beautiful travel photo – or rather more. Now let’s dive into some creative travel photography ideas:

#1. Panoramic Photos

Panoramic photo example

Panoramic photos allow you to capture a much larger perspective than is typically visible through the viewfinder – perfect for vast landscapes or cityscapes.

For example, consider capturing the skyline from a high viewpoint. A panoramic shot here would not only include famous landmarks but also the sprawling cityscape around it. 

Remember to use a tripod to maintain a steady level and rotate the camera on a fixed axis to avoid distortion.

TIP: Most cameras and smartphones offer a panoramic mode, but for a professional touch, you can shoot a series of photos and stitch them together using software like Adobe Lightroom.

#2. Northern Lights

Nother lights photo example

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is a dream subject for many photographers. 

When shooting the Northern Lights, a sturdy tripod is a must to avoid camera shaking during long exposures. 

Use a wide-angle lens with a wide aperture (f/2.8 or lower) to let in as much light as possible. Also, use a higher ISO (around 1600), depending on your camera’s capabilities and the strength of the aurora.

TIP: If you’re in Iceland during winter, find a location far from city lights, set up your camera pointing towards the north, and experiment with different exposure times. Patience is essential, as the lights can be unpredictable.

#3. Carnivals and festivals

Carnival photo example

Carnivals and festivals are vibrant, energetic events that offer a range of photo opportunities. From the colorful costumes of the Rio Carnival to the atmospheric lanterns of Taiwan’s Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, such events can give you captivating shots full of color, movement, and emotion.

When shooting festivals, consider varying your shots between wide-angle photos (to capture the scope of the event) and close-ups (to capture details and emotions). 

Experiment with slower shutter speeds to capture motion or use a faster shutter speed to freeze action.

TIP: Don’t forget the individual stories. Focus on performers, spectators, vendors, and other characters to present a holistic narrative.

#4. Local Markets and Flea Markets

Istanbul Grand Bazaar market

Markets are often bustling with activity and are an excellent opportunity for unique travel photos. They offer a local vibe with colorful fruits and vegetables, and other goods, and people going about their day.

While you can capture wide shots of the market scene, also focus on the details – a vendor handling their produce, hands exchanging money for goods, a close-up of the fresh produce. These human elements can add depth to your photos and tell a more complete story.

For example, the photo above was taken at the Istanbul Grand Bazaar. This bustling, vibrant, and intriguing locale offers photographers numerous opportunities to capture unique images that convey a story and the overall atmosphere.

#5. Travel Self-Portraits

travel self portraits

Including yourself in your travel images adds a personal dimension to your story. It helps your audience connect with the experience more intimately and provides a unique human element to landscapes and monuments.

TIP: Experiment with composition – you can place yourself in the corner or off-center, not just in the middle. Also, you don’t always have to look at the camera; interacting with the environment can create a more candid, immersive scene.

#6. B&W Travel Photography

Black and white photography is a powerful tool for travel photographers. It emphasizes shapes, lines, and contrasts and can often convey the mood of a scene more effectively than color.

For instance, imagine a rainy day in a bustling city like Tokyo. The scene might look gloomy in color, but in black and white, the slick wet streets can turn into a reflective surface for city lights, and the people with their umbrellas become silhouettes.

black and white photo of tokyo city

TIP: it’s important to visualize in black and white before shooting, as not every scene lends itself to this treatment. Look for high contrast and well-defined forms or textures.

Documenting People and Places

Meeting new people, engaging with locals, and even reflecting on travel companions can be some of the most enriching aspects of travel photography.

These interactions offer a window into diverse lifestyles, traditions, and personal stories. 

Documenting these connections can add depth and humanity, as well as educate people on the world outside of the one they know.

Local fisherman from Istanbul, Turkey

TIP: I suggest documenting your journey, not just the destinations. This includes your journey to the location, the experiences you have on the way, the people you meet, and the emotions you feel.

Documentary Photography – Ethical Consideration

We’ve discussed ethical considerations in documentary photography before. Like documentary photography, travel photography might involve photographing people in vulnerable situations.

It is crucial to respect people’s privacy, dignity, and culture. As a travel photographer, your job is to tell a story, not to intrude or exploit. 

Some crucial elements include asking for permission before shooting, going for authenticity, respecting people’s boundaries, and open and straightforward communication.

When photographing people, ask yourself this question:

Is the photograph going to tell their story truthfully and respectfully, or does it risk exploiting their situation?

I like to say that the best camera is one guided by a conscious mind.

Ethical considerations in travel photography

Post-Processing Your Travel Photos

I always believe in preserving the authenticity of a place. 

Over-edited photos can often lose the genuine feel of the location. On the other hand, no editing can leave a photo looking bland and lifeless. 

I suggest subtle editing that enhances the photo without altering the reality.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, a good professional travel photographer should inspire others to explore the same path. It’s about more than just aesthetically pleasing images; mostly, it involves capturing emotions that stay with you long after your journey ends.

As a final note, I want to say this: When traveling, just take pictures that make you happy and satisfied. After all, your travel photography is a personal memoir of your adventures, a reflection of your experiences.

I hope you will use these guidelines in your next adventure – and if you want even more, we have some other practical and creative photography tips here at OhMyCamera

Happy traveling!

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Aleksandrs Karevs

Aleksandrs Karevs

Hi, my name is Aleksandrs and I am a full-stack digital marketer passionate about digital photography. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V. Read full story here.

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Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

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Simply enter your email below to receive a FREE eBook filled with actionable tips for immediate photography improvements. 

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