Taking better travel photos

Thursday, June 12, 2014


It’s easy to come back from a holiday with 50 or so images of the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building. And while in person the feeling taking them was elating, they may seem rather boring or ‘postcard’ looking to those you are so eager to share them with. This isn’t to say don’t take them. Of course do. These iconic structures and landscapes are amazing and should be documented. But there are other things to keep in mind when taking travel pictures.

When I travel I try to capture the story of my journey. I want to remember the feeling of walking down a street, or the taste of that awesome gyro I stopped to eat for lunch. It’s these details that not only remind you of your journey there, but also help your friends and family who you share the pictures with to get a sense of what it was like to be there.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for your next journey -
Capture closeups and the setting of a landmark

Take your picture of a landmark as a whole. And then get closer and take pictures of the detail. Maybe it’s the beautiful door or archway leading into it. Or the plants that over time have grown from within the cracks of the stone. Maybe it was the perfect day when you visited. Capture the structure as a small piece in your frame with the vast blue sky shining over it.

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Capture the details around you

It could be vines falling from a resident’s balcony above you, washing hung out to dry, street art in an alley, a fruit stand or a cafe table vacant and waiting for its first customer of the day. Take pictures of the pieces that make up the place you are in.

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Capture the locals

I find it so fascinating to see how people from other cultures live. It could be employees working in a restaurant, locals commuting or doing their groceries, a busker singing to all around them or a local lazing in a park. Having a human element in a photo creates an interesting and thought provoking shot. As well as insight into their day-to-day activity.


Capture the amazing food

I know it’s often frowned upon to take photos in a restaurant but I think it’s ok to do. Just try to make it quick and don’t become the focus to everyone dining around you. Of course you want to remember the foods you tried. It’s inspiration for creating them back home. When taking the shot pay attention to the background and lighting. Simple is often most effective so decluttering the background is good to keep in mind. And soft natural light is key so if you can, sit at a table by a window.


Capture your travel partner when they least expect it

If you’re travelling with a partner it’s fine to get photos of them with landmarks or scenery in the distance. But aim to capture them as candidly as possible. Taking a shot of someone standing straight and looking into the camera smiling is easy enough. And we all do it when travelling. But I think it’s nice to capture them when they don’t expect it and are perhaps looking off camera. They could be walking away which gives the viewer a sense of being right there and walking with them.


Have a good camera but don’t go overboard

It helps to have a good camera when travelling. But that’s not to say that you need to carry a heavy bag with multiple lenses and filters for every situation. I travel so light. It’s usually me with my handbag, and inside my camera with 50mm lens attached. I put it into a fabric drawstring bag along with 2 memory cards and maybe my wide angle lens if I feel like carrying it. 95% of the time I stick to the 50mm lens since I love a shallow depth of field to my shots. And back at the hotel I’ll have my laptop and small hard drive to download the shots to. You are usually walking around for so long that carrying anything more is just too tiring.

And lastly, try to relax. It’s easy to get caught up in the fear of looking like a tourist which prevents you from getting a good shot. It’s something I feel quite often myself. But in actual fact you are a tourist. And you’re not the only one. If you see something inspiring capture it. Otherwise you may go about the rest of your day thinking ‘damn I wish I had taken a photo of…’

I hope these few personal pointers help :)

  • Rebecca

    This is such an awesome post Chantelle! I definitely get caught up in that last bit there, fear of looking like a tourist. I have no idea why but I always regret not getting the photo I wanted. I loved the other pointers too!! Thanks :)

    • chantelle

      Thanks Rebecca :) It’s easy to feel that way. I try to remind myself that yes I might get looked at for taking photos but they will soon look away. Just about everybody these days are snapping with their phones.

  • i am not a celebrity

    Love this. These are some very useful tips indeed! Kx

  • Et Voilà Coralie

    Thank you for those helpful tips! I’ll try to keep them in mind next time I take pictures of Montreal :)

  • Jenny

    i just read this post chantelle!
    Great tips! I have to say I have always loved your editing too! Do you edit in photoshop?

    • chantelle

      Thanks Jenny :) Yes I edit in photoshop. Sometimes I post images from my iPhone that I’ve taken through VSCO, like the Friday links posts I do.