September 22, 2019

Travel Photography Tips for Beginners

Travel photography isnít just big business in its own right, itís a great way to collect free souvenirs, embrace the travel decorating scheme at home and begin to attract even more visitors to your travel blog. Itís also true that travel pictures can help you sell quite a bit more of your work if youíre a travel writer. To help you get started, here is a brief collection of travel photography tips for beginners.

1 . Get comfortable with closer shots.

The greater your proximity to your subject, the more intimate your pictures will feel. This strategy also leaves no room for doubt as to the main subject of each shot. In short, proximity makes your images pop, which is necessary both for selling your work and for building a successful travel blog. Some of my favorite zoom shots are photographs of indigenous populations in places like Otavalo and Misahualli, Ecuador.

2 . Donít forget the foreground.

Iím a big fan of including strong details in the foreground when possible. It adds depth and interest to the finished images. Over the years, my husband and I have used tree branches, bush leaves and other plant parts to frame Khmer temples in Angkor Wat, cathedrals and archaeological sites in Peru, and European castles in Bolzano, Italy. If youíre going for a pastoral animal image, use a bit of rustic fencing for your foreground. This same strategy can be used elsewhere as well. During a visit to Jerusalem, my husband got a great shot of the Dome of the Rock photographed through some razor wire.

3 . Keep it simple.

Thereís beauty in simplicity. Sure, youíll occasionally want to take a panoramic nature picture or cityscape. Otherwise, youíre better off to avoid wide shots that are filled up with too many objects. Another way you can streamline the photography process is by using a digital camera. It will give you the freedom to delete experimental pictures and try them a second time if necessary. Without the extra film and printing costs.

4 . Build your portfolio at zoos and theme parks.

Theme park venues and zoos are virtual smorgasbords of travel photo opportunities. Disneyworld, Six Flags and even Tampaís Busch Gardens offer loads of costumed image fodder, ride shots and of course animal close-ups. Similarly, the Lowry Park Zoo which is just down the highway from our home is one of our go-to stops for safari-style wildlife shots, which is why we purchased an annual pass to be able to visit whenever we want. Itís provided material for imagery featuring bald eagles, orangutans, rhinos and more.

5 . Charitable causes can pay off.

Rescue projects and volunteer programs also provide photo opportunities. Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida offers private photography opportunities in addition to regular tours. Lisa Chavis and Cheryl MacDonald of What Boundaries Travel volunteered with Global Vision International in South Africa, getting up close and personal with the local Masai people, expanding cheetah families, elephants, lions and more.

6 . Get the proper gear.

A black dollar store umbrella Ė held open in one hand Ė cuts down on reflections when shooting things inside large glass windows. Three-packs of specialty lens filters Ė available for ten dollars – deal with glare, florescent lighting and less than ideal outdoor lighting. Professional photographer John Milleker recommends sticking with either Nikon or Canon when it comes to making your first big camera purchase. Both products that have proven themselves to the pros, and their attachments will get you by from camera to camera over the years, saving money and purchasing time. He also recommends the manual as the best free source of training you can get your hands on. Spending time with your equipment and its features will help you know what to do when a money shot presents itself.

7 . The devilís in the details.

Millekerís top tip for framing your travel shots? Look for eyesores before you shoot and remove them. It will save you loads of Photoshop time later on. The most common problem, according to Milleker, is tree branches that look like they are sticking out of the subjectís head. Travel writer and nature photographer Carol Coffey, author of the book Out of My Comfort Zone, has her own way of dealing with the details. She doesnít fight Mother Nature. Preferring the light of morning and early evening, Coffey says her favorite times to shoot are before 10:00 and after 2:00. She also doesnít stress about clouds and fog, believing they add beauty and drama to her finished work, which is available for viewing on her web site.

8 . Donít forget festivals if youíre in the market for great cultural photos.

Around the world, carnivals and cultural festivals allow low-cost and often free photo opportunities. The colors from various traditional costumes make for dramatic imagery that is sure to draw in your readers and generate image and article sales. The annual carnival in Venice, Amsterdamís tulip festival and even the annual Burning Man event in the States are all sources of unusual travel pics that are sure to rave reviews.

9 . Indigenous markets provide an inside peek to local culture.

Some of the coolest travel photos Iíve ever taken are from indigenous markets around the world. They are also some of my favorite travel memories. Souk shopping in Kuwait, searching for souvenirs in Cairoís Khan el Khalili, and bulk grocery shopping for pantry staples in Saquisili, Ecuador have all provided great photo fodder.

1 0 . A little cultural sensitivity goes a long way.

While the local women of Petra are usually comfortable having their photo taken, there are other parts of the region where it is certainly not appreciated. Be sure to research the norms of where you are traveling too. Another way to be a bit more sensitive is with a zoom lens. Itís one thing to be OK with an image or two being taken. Itís another to feel like someone is there photographing your every move. Sometimes you are better off to be a bit out of the way with a good-quality zoom lens. Chances are youíll get better candid shots that way as well.

11 . Donít underestimate the power of basic black and white.

If the outdoor lighting is bad on a particular day, consider switching your color digital photos over to black and white or sepia. Youíll get a fun vintage look to your imagery that looks great framed against a colored wall. I especially like to try this with photos I take from world heritage sites where there is a great deal of ancient architecture. Purchase inexpensive black thrift frames for an affordable polished look.

These are a few travel photography tips for beginners to get you started as you begin to travel. More pro tips will be added as contributed. Happy trails, everyone!


  1. [...] you’re into travel photography or simply enjoy taking pictures of your favorite baked goods, there’s money to be made in the [...]