You don’t have to be a professional travel photographer to take stunning photos of your travels, but without experience, you may end up disappointed with your shots. Luckily, you can learn from the experience — and the mistakes! — of the many travel photographers who have gone before.
Common Travel Photography Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
#1. Not Knowing Your Setting
Say you want to snap a photo of an icon like the Eiffel Tower, only there’s a huge crowd blocking the path. If there’s a place you want to photograph, it helps to search ahead of time and make a note of the hours the location is accessible, when it has the most traffic, and whether photography is even allowed. If you’re going to a nature location, see what you need to get there safely. Moreover, if you’re aiming for a certain time of day, look up the appropriate camera settings for the lighting.
#2. Only Shooting From Eye-Level
When you flip through your travel album, you may be disappointed if your photos look generic. To make your shots unique and evocative, look for different angles from which to shoot. Try the “worm’s eye” view from the ground for a new perspective, play with distance to make trees, buildings, and statues more majestic, or position the main attraction off-center with the rule of thirds for a pleasing yet unusual composition. There are many ways to take amazing photos of your travels, so don’t be afraid to experiment!
#3. Overloading With Gear
All you want is some beautiful photographs of your travels. You don’t want to lug around twenty pounds of gear to get them! Luckily, you don’t have to. While it’s tempting to over pack equipment to get the best shots possible, one or two good lenses should meet most of your needs. If you still haven’t found the perfect photography kit, read our post with tips on how to find the best camera for travel photography.
If you know for sure you’ll be photographing wildlife, then you can bring a telephoto, too. I use the Canon 70-300 to get all of my wildlife shots. It’s just the right amount of zoom, but not too heavy for travel photography.
I make sure all of my gear fits in this well-padded camera/laptop bag. While I’m on the ground, I use this small backpack and these lens covers while hiking or this cute padded camera bag while walking around in cities.
#4. Missing Sunrise and Sunset
You want to capture the breathtaking colors and inspiration of sunrise and sunset, but find that a building blocks the horizon, or you arrive at your location too late? Not planning for sunrise and sunset is one of the biggest travel photography mistakes I find with new photographers.
Doing some before-hand research here will make sure you don’t miss the most beautiful times of day. There are plenty of websites and even apps that will tell you the times of sunrise and sunset down to the minute, so plan ahead accordingly. Arrive a half hour early and stay a half hour after the sun sinks to get the most vibrant colors.
If you’re not an early riser but want to catch the sunrise, try going to bed earlier. You can still have fun and have a few drinks in the evening, just do it a little earlier than usual. I try to go to bed before 11 when I want to photograph the sunrise. This is where jet lag really comes in handy. I also plan my outfits the night before and just grab a quick piece of fruit or toast in the morning so I’m not wasting any time while I’m groggy in the morning.
#5. Not taking enough photos
Even professional travel photographers don’t just line up for one perfect shot! While finding the right location, time of day, and angle all help, taking dozens of photos gives you the best chance to find a true gem among them. You won’t regret having lovely reminders of your memories, so take lots of pictures wherever you go and get multiple shots of each subject so you can pick one that truly shines.
Love to Travel?
Want to know how to travel the world? I’ve put together a page full of useful travel resources with tips and tricks I’ve learned after consistently traveling for over ten years. Read about my best travel tips, learn how to get paid to travel, how to find the best prices on flights and accommodation, how to start a travel blog, and more.
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