9 Super Helpful Tips To Lift Your Travel Photos From Umm to Awesome!

I was given my first camera when I was ten. My first shots were a little boring, acres of flat white sky and little else, but over the years I’ve learnt how to take better photos, and I’m still improving! Although I’ve had no formal training, I read tons of information and follow great blogs. See below for my “go to” photography websites. 

Roofs of fish vendors in Hastings, UK.

I’m also fortunate enough to travel regularly, so I usually return from my trips with more photos than I know what to do with…little extra tip, if you want to keep your family and friends, just select your best shots to show them. DON’T subject them to a three-hour run-through of every photo you took on your trip!

But to ensure that you bring home some really memorable photos, here are my top tips.

1) If something captures your attention, then take several shots.

This is a tip from one of my photographer gurus, Scott Kelby. If something catches your interest enough for you to want to photograph it, take lots of shots. Don’t just take one shot and move on. You can always delete the ones that didn’t work out, but you may not get the opportunity to take the photo again.

We were touring New Zealand in a campervan a few years ago and stopped for the night at a campsite near a beautiful lake. While strolling near the lake at dusk, this rather dilapidated jetty caught my eye. Here are some photos I took that evening (trust me, I have quite a few more!)

Of course this is not always fool proof if your camera settings are off to begin with. One time I took loads of photos of the Eiffel Tower, only to find they were all blurred when I downloaded them from the camera.

2) Tourists crowding your shot? Don’t worry, people can give a photo life and energy.

Peter will wait for hours until everyone has moved away before taking his shot, but I am not so patient. I make people part of the shot, but don’t you think they give these images life and energy?

3) Use frames to help with your image composition

Frames are brilliant devices to help with your composition. Look for natural frames like a doorway or the boughs of a tree. Another good trick is to buy or make a simple cardboard frame and hold it in front of you. Move it around until you find a view that you really love.

4) Pay attention to small details

Often when travelling, people are too keen to include as much as they can in their shot and often the small details that really set the scene get lost. So train yourself to be observant. Search out the small details and make them the feature of your shot.

5) Don’t put your camera away just because it’s raining.

Rainy day? Don’t panic, you can get some gorgeous photos when it’s wet (but be careful not to let your camera get wet.) Rain often softens the light, especially if it’s a misty rain. Puddles cast interesting reflections and umbrellas can provide colour contrast to an otherwise gloomy shot.

The raincoats and umbrellas of these tourists in Paris provide a bright contrast to the otherwise gloomy day.

A rainy day in Paris

6) Chose a theme if you’re stuck for ideas.

Not sure what shots to take? Pick a theme. For example, interesting doors, hanging signs, shop fronts (one of my favourites) or select a different colour theme for the day and make that colour the focus of your shot. When you get home, you can combine them into a poster size print.

collection of signs

7) Invest in a digital single lens reflex camera.

Many people are happy with the photos they take with their mobile phones. I get amazing photos with mine and, best of all, I always have my phone with me. But, if you want to step your photography up a notch, you should consider getting a DSLR camera. There are many affordable “entry level” DSLRs cameras which have simple auto settings you can use until you’re comfortable enough to start experimenting. But a word of warning, take the time to read the manual and PRACTISE before your trip.

Once you’re comfortable with the camera, try taking it off auto mode and experiment. I have pinned lots of useful cheat sheets and infographics in the “Learn Photography” section of my Photography board on Pinterest. (Click here to view.)

Restaurant in Montmartre

8) Shoot in RAW format.

If you have a digital SLR then consider shooting in RAW format, but be warned, the file size will be huge, so make sure you’ve got a large capacity storage card. I use a 32 gig card and I back up my images to my laptop and/or a portable hard drive every evening.

The reason why the RAW file is so much larger than a JPG file is because a RAW file is uncompressed. It contains all the information that reaches the camera’s sensor. This is an advantage because it gives you so much more creative flexibility, but the downside is that the image will probably look flat when it comes out of the camera. You will need some post processing software such as Lightroom, Photoshop or Camera Raw, to bring out the highlights, shadows, darks and lights.

You can see what I mean in the image below. The left-hand side of the image is how it came out of the camera. It looks kind of dull and flat, rather blergh, doesn’t it? In the “after” section on the right, I have done little more than reduce the shadows and increase the contrast in Lightroom, but these simple tweaks have made a significant difference.


before and after processing with Lightroom

9) Last word, and most importantly…

This is an important tip and one that I have to remind myself of constantly. Don’t miss life because you’re always stuck behind a camera. You often see tourists in a beautiful spot, but they have their back to the scene while they take a selfie. Once they have taken their photo, they move onto the next place on their list and repeat. It makes me wonder how much they’re really seeing and experiencing. It’s important to spend some time just soaking up the atmosphere of wherever you are. So once in a while, put the camera away or, better still, leave it behind and just enjoy the moment.

Some of my favourite photography websites

Here are links to my favourite photography websites packed with helpful advice to help you (and me) lift our photography skills.

Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School is a great learning resource for aspiring photographers

Light Stalking

The Light Stalking website is a valuable resource for photographers

Scott Kelby – as previously mentioned he’s one of my top gurus when it comes to photography

Photographer, Scott Kelby's website packed with useful information

Kelby One is another Scott Kelby website for online learning about photography. This site is mainly for paid-up members but I can highly recommend his webcasts which are free to view (but you have to set up an account first). It is well worth it, though, for the quality of the content he provides. I particularly like his blind photo critiques. You can learn a lot from the comments he makes about other people’s images.

Still, with Scott Kelby, if you want some inspiration, check out his beautiful travel portfolio. The images are just stunning. Oh, to create something so amazing *sigh*.

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9 Super helpful tips to take your travel photos from um to awesome