Travel Photography Tips

November 2, 2010

Travel Photography Tips

Passport, check. Wallet, check. Camera, check. Now that you’re planning a summer holiday you’ll remember to pack the camera but do you know how to take good travel photos? Read our professional tips on taking the best holiday snaps that will give you years of brilliant memories.

The camera

If you’re planning a holiday you might be tempted to get a new camera. These days there are more megapixels and features than ever before, and it can be tempting to get the latest, fanciest model. But have a think of your photography needs.

If you’re on the move a lot and don’t want to be burdened with heavy equipment, consider a small point-and-shoot camera. They are much more sophisticated these days and many have manual features as well as automatic so you can control things like aperture and shutter speed. Plus they are really cheap.

But if you want more control then look at a DSLR (digital single lens reflex). These allow you to shoot in both auto and manual modes, as well as change lenses. So if you like zooming in to capture detail up close, or love landscape photography, a DSLR is the way to go.

Top tip: if you’re interested in a few camera models but can’t decide between them, search for the camera models on flickr and you’ll find photos shot by that camera.

Before you travel

The most important thing to do before leaving home is to get to know your camera, especially if it’s brand new. Play around with the settings and take plenty of mock shots so you feel very comfortable with how the camera works. The last thing you want is to be on holiday and not know where the battery goes!

Top tip: Always carefully store your memory cards – after all they hold all your precious memories. They’re so small they can easily go missing. Plus pack a spare memory card – just in case.

Composing the shot

Even though digital cameras let you take an infinite amount of photos till you get the right one, learning how to compose a photo saves time and gives real satisfaction.

The rule of thirds: if the eagle was in the middle of the shot it would be pretty boring

The general layout is the rule of thirds, where you place the object of interest in the top or bottom third, or the left or right third of the screen. Basically, you don’t want to look at something right in the middle of the shot – boring! Placing the object off-centre makes it much more appealing to the eye – and to your friends who will soon be sitting down to your holiday snaps!

Also look out for: lighting – is it too glary? The best time for photos is morning and late afternoon when the light is softer. Balance – is the photo nicely balanced or is there too much in one corner and nothing in the other? Leading lines – look out for lines and patterns that add a lot of interest.

The lines in this photo make it even more interesting


None of us really like to pose for portraits but here are some hints for taking great people shots (and for making sure you look good too):

Make your subjects comfortable. Distract them, tell a joke – be corny! – natural laughter is the best. Shoot down slightly to avoid double chins (or if you’re the subject, lift your chin a touch).

If you want to take photos of locals, never just take photos of people without their permission – they’re not animals in the zoo!

Top tip: Set your camera to where the person is about to walk into, and take the shot as they step into the frame. Make eye contact with people and get a rapport going so you are both comfortable.

Depth of field

This is probably the most important creative feature of a camera that will make the most impact on your holiday snaps. Without getting too techy, depth of field determines the focus on the area in front and behind your subject. It’s determined by the aperture, or the f stop. You’ll see it on your camera as f4.5, f16, f22 etc.

The best thing to know about depth of field is the small the number (ie f4.5) the blurrier the background, and the higher the number (ie f22) the sharper the background. You can change the depth of field around manually by clicking the dial over to Aperture Priority (even most point-and-shoot cameras these day have it). So if you want to take a portrait, or zoom in one some beautiful flowers – where a blurry background will make the subject stand out brilliantly – select an f stop number as low as it will go, say f4.5. If you’re taking a photo of a gorgeous landscape and you want all that crisp detail with nothing blurry, scroll over to an f stop like f22 or f36.

Top tip: flickr is an invaluable resource for learning about depth of field. Most photos on flickr now contain the tech specs of the photo taken, just go to Actions, View Exif info. Take a look at what f stop was used (as well as all the other data) and you’ll understand how it works.

Look for interesting shadows and light when taking photos

What to do with your photos after your holiday?

The holiday’s over – now what? In the rush to unpack and get back into our daily lives we often forget about our photos! Set aside a weekend to go through all your holiday snaps. Delete the less-than-great shots and work out what to do with the good ones. Rename each shot from something useless like DSIC000283 to something memorable like Lunch at Cafe London. Copy them into a holiday folder on your computer. Email photos to friends and family. Even enter your favourite into a travel photography competition! Don’t forget to print them off to place around the house to remember your wonderful holiday. Photobooks from sites like make great souvenirs and presents.

Top tip: If you’ve been bitten by the photobug and want to take your skills to a new level, or want to start at the very beginning, the Nikon School is a fantastic place to learn. Their professional photographers provide fun day classes in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with hands-on advice and practical learning. Visit My Nikon Life for dates and more information.

What are your top tips for travel photography?

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