How to take great travel photos

Whether it’s a super fancy DSLR camera or your trusty smart phone, here are our top tips for taking great travel photos. (#nofilter required!)

Tower Bridge. London, UK

Tower Bridge. London, UK


1. Pack light
For those of you taking a camera (not just your smart phone). For the sake of your back and shoulders, only take the equipment that is necessary. Going on safari? Admittedly you’d be kicking yourself if you don’t take those big telephoto lenses with you. If you’re heading to a bustling city for the weekend, however, leave those long lenses behind and opt for short, sharp lenses for capturing local people, architecture and colourful street art.

2. A camera stored around your neck screams “TOURIST”
When you aren’t taking photos, put your camera away. Having it out around your neck doesn’t necessarily make you a target to would-be thieves, but it sure makes their targeting easier having it constantly out on display.


3. Postcards
Cheat a little. As soon as you get the chance to wander into a gift shop or newsagency at your destination, keep an eye out for the postcard stand. You can find some great ideas for the most photogenic spots in the local area.

4. Sunrise and sunset times
The best light of the day for photos is always found shortly after sunrise, and shortly before sunset (golden hour). Most decent iOS and Android weather apps will be able to give you an idea of the exact sunrise and sunset times on any date in any given location.

So you know when the sun is going to set, but in what direction? For those who want to go a step further, sacrifice a few dollars and get your hands on something like “The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)” app for iOS, Android, Windows or Mac. It has all the natural light information you need to plan the perfect photo.

“The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)” iOS App

“The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)” iOS App


5. The rule of thirds will never fail you
Before you take any photo, try and imagine your image broken up into a grid of nine equal parts. As the theory goes, lining up the main subjects of your image with the intersecting points, or at least the lines, will create a more balanced photo. Put more simply, when you’re taking landscape photos where the line of the horizon is present, try to line it up so you have:

  • One third land (or water) and two thirds sky, or conversely,
  • One third sky, and two thirds land.
Sunset over Steveston, British Columbia, Canada

Sunset over Steveston, British Columbia, Canada

6. Look for patterns and vibrant colours
Two things are for certain, photos are always improved when A) vibrant colours are captured, and B) you can capture patterns and textures that the eye can explore. Local farmer’s markets are perfect spots to find these!

Urban patterns in La Paz, Bolivia

Urban patterns in La Paz, Bolivia

7. Change your angle
Remember those postcards mentioned earlier? More than likely they will capture the local photographic hot spots from their most common angle. Go ahead and do your best to match them, but then spend some time exploring the same subject from different spots and angles.

“The Illuminated Crowd” statue in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

“The Illuminated Crowd” statue in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

8. Rain doesn’t equal pain
So you arrive at your dream getaway spot only to be met by less than desirable weather conditions. This isn’t the end! Rain creates amazing wet, shiny, reflective surfaces you can explore. You’ll be amazed at how much rainy pictures can be improved by simply switching to “black and white” mode, or by working a little B&W magic post-shoot.

9. Tell a story
One creative, well-timed, beautifully lit shot can be magic, but a series of great shots exploring the same subject or theme can tell an amazing visual story.

Ancient calligraphy rubbings in Xi’an, China

Ancient calligraphy rubbings in Xi’an, China


10. Candids are almost always better than posed portraits
People can be awkward when they are conscious of the fact you’re taking their photo… and it shows. Sneak some shots in of your chosen subject before and after you have them pose, for a more natural, less awkward portrait.

Two-faced protestor in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Two-faced protestor in Vancouver, BC, Canada

11. The selfie
In contrast to the last point, sometimes you just need a good selfie. The main thing is to be ready; to steal that spot in front of the Eiffel Tower, to get in a shot with passing wildlife, just be prepared to jump and snap! If you’re planning a selfie, using natural light rather than harsh artificial lighting is less likely to results in strange shadows across your face.

At the end of the day don’t be afraid to take a selfie. If you end up with hundreds of travel photos without you in them, it can be a little sad when you get home. Your face will help you remember what you were feeling at the time – Mum might like a copy too.


12. Remember to look behind you
It’s pretty easy to become distracted by all the amazing new sites, places and people you see in front of you as you make your way through your travel destinations. It’s important that you stop and take a look behind you from time to time. Great photos present themselves all around you!

Thanks to Rob Masefield from the Lastminute team for his pro photography tips! As he puts it, at the end of the day, don’t get too addicted to viewing everything you see through a camera. Put it away whenever possible and remember to live your travel experience.

If all that talk of photos has inspired you, check out Top Picks for some great travel deals.

Have we missed any? Give us your best pic tips in the comments.

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