Forget Instagram for a moment, forget putting together dreamy photo albums for Facebook. Let’s remember that, all cyber-gloating aside, beautiful travel photographs are absolutely essential because they’re the ultimate memory. Wanting to take amazing pictures when you travel isn’t a bad thing, even if they do end up on Instagram and Facebook. A great photo can perfectly capture a moment in time, it can capture the way you felt standing in that incredible place and every time you see it, that photo can take you back there.
I’ve learned a lot about taking great travel photographs since I first started snapping off grainy shots with my piece-of-shit iPhone 3! Man, those days were rough. If like me, you love to take great photographs when you travel, but need a little help getting it right, I’ve got you covered. Here are 5 things you can do right now, to help you improve your photography.
1. Don’t be embarrassed
I used to get so embarrassed and self-conscious about posing properly for a photo, scrambling down some rocks in a dress to get in the shot or walking out onto a beach crowded with people and photographing it like a paparazzi. Being embarrassed by what other people think of you can limit your confidence to take an amazing photo, especially if you’re just doing it for yourself and your own memories. One of the most important things I’ve learned is to just say, “Stuff it!” and do whatever it takes to get the shot you want. If you aren’t happy with a shot, re-take it over and over until you are happy! Even if that means doing the same jump shot 25 times. Lay on the ground, scale a wall, work your angles like a supermodel. Who cares? You’ll never see these people ever again, but you will have a photo you love for all eternity.
2. Slow down and take your time
You may see a great photo, but when you go to take it, you find that it looks awful. Don’t rush yourself. Slow down, take your time and work on perfecting the photo. This is especially important if you’re learning to use your fancy camera in manual mode. Everyone has to start somewhere and you’ll never get better if you let your frustration get the better of you and switch back to auto mode. Just push through! Give yourself permission to slow right down and capture the moment how you want to. Take your time exploring different angles and looking for ways to capture the shot. Be experimental with it too! Often the best photos are the unplanned ones.
3. Go the extra mile
Do not be lazy!!!! Go the extra mile to get a great photo. Hike up a mountain, traverse down into a valley or hang out of a big tree. Ask a friend to take the photo for you, while you run off into the distance and stand on the horizon. Scale mountains, clamber down rocks, get some perspective and distance in your photos to show the true scale of the surrounds. You’ve got to work for it! The very best photos usually turn out to be the ones you go the extra mile for.
4. Photograph at dawn and dusk
If you do one thing to improve your photography, make this one it. Get up early and take your photographs as the sun rises or skip pre-dinner drinks and photograph as the sun sets. That beautiful golden light will make a huge difference to the photos you capture and you can do some really cool things with it. Try taking photos where the soft afternoon sun bursts through the corner of a shot or through the leaves of a palm tree. Before I go away, I always look up the sunrise and sunset times of the place I’m visiting. I block these times out as photography time and plan the rest of my day around it. That’s how important it is.
5. Pay attention to the detail and look for the beauty
Sometimes I find myself in a place and I find it’s magical and want to photograph it, but when I take a wide-angle shot, I find it doesn’t quite capture what I’m trying to capture. That’s because the beauty is in the detail. Take a second to look at the finer detail of what’s around you and capture these things. The cracks in a building, the gentle dew drops resting on fresh fruit in a busy marketplace, the smiling locals chattering away all around you, the sun bursting through the top of a bell tower. Each of these things is part of the story. Capture it is a whole, then break it down and capture each smaller part too.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is to see my photography as art. It’s my creative and artistic expression and seeing it as that gives me some kind of mental permission to take it seriously. This means I feel validated and less weird about being experimental with my photographs. Let your creativity run wild, let your photography be an expression of your love of travel and the world around you. Let it reflect your wild, travel-loving heart. Still want more? Peep these 10 Tips to improve your travel photography.
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.