So, you wanna step up your travel photo game.  Who doesn’t?  We don’t spend thousands of dollars gallivanting around the world just to get there and take lousy photos of beautiful locations, am I right?!  Now, I know travel is about much more than an epic Instagram photo.  However, I also know that sharing adventures with the world (and primarily our friends and family) is super important.  So, we should all strive to create travel photos that most accurately reflect our experiences – what we saw, felt, smelled, heard – in order to truly give them a sense of our travels.  And, bonus points if they translate into that epic Insta photo, too. 😉

best photos of 2016 - China

So, here are my top tips for improving your travel photos and upping your photography game!

Find the Pretty Light

Photography is all about light.  In reality, if there were no light, there would be no photos.  However, in order to create a truly epic photo, you must find truly epic light.

Look for light that is soft or glowy, often found during golden hour.  Golden hour is the time of day just after sunrise or just before sunset, when the light is low and golden.

best travel photos of 2016 - new zealand

Glowy, soft, backlight = perfection!

Also, look for light that is coming from behind or beside the subject.  Side and back light make for beautiful light effects and interesting shadows.

travel photos best photos of 2016 - China

Check out those interesting shadows created by the light coming in from the side of the subject.

Consider Your Composition

Composition is simply how you arrange your photo.  What elements are in the frame and in what order are you arranging them?  A strong composition will easily translate into a strong travel photo.

There are a few things to consider when you’re planning your composition for a photo:

  • the rule of thirds
  • leading lines
  • angles

Travel Photography, Travel Company, In Transit, Horses, Mountains, Transportation, travel photos

The Rule of Thirds:  imagine a tic-tac-toe board running through your photo.  The points where the lines intersect throughout the board are the perfect locations for your subject(s).  In this instance, the horses are in the lower 3rd of the frame, and at the right third of the frame.  Perfect!

Leading Lines:  think of the things within a photo that represent lines.  Then, try to get those lines to point to your subject.  Here, the lines of the shelves and the lines of the mountains are all pointing in the direction of the subject.

Angles:  consider the angle in which you’ll photograph.  Here, I got down at a lower angle as to include the water in the photo.  When arranging your composition, experiment with your height angles and width angles to find the best and most interesting viewpoint.

Sexy Silhouettes

Silhouetting is a great photo technique that allows you to balance out the exposure of an image.  If you want to photograph something in the shadows while also getting a good exposure of a bright background, simply make the object in the shadows a silhouette.  This is a creative solution to a common problem when taking travel photos!

what to do in Puerto Rico - watch the sunset

Pro-tip:  When silhouetting a human, consider having them face the side so that you see the outline of their profile.  This creates more shape and definition.  If you choose to photograph them from the front or the back, ask them to spread their legs slightly and have some separation between their arms and their body, otherwise they’ll just look like a big black blob!

Don’t Forget Humans!

Photographing people is sometimes just as important as landscapes when taking travel photos.  I mean, humans are the best representation of culture and energy in any given location, right?!  So, resist the temptation to only photograph buildings, landscapes, etc. and step outside of your comfort zone to photograph humans.  This will also give the viewer a sense of connection to the location, since they will be able to put themselves in your subject’s shoes and imagine themselves in that very spot.

best photos of 2016 - China

Another bonus that humans photographed in epic locations is all the rage on Instagram right now!

Pro-tip:  don’t pose people.  Forget the duck-faced selfie and have your subject interact with the environment.  Frolic on the beach or play an instrument or whatever your little heart desires.  Just don’t forget the importance of natural interaction.

Be a Creep

Ok, don’t really be a creep – I don’t want you to get arrested.  But, don’t be afraid to try out a little street photography!  Street photography is a style of photography in which you candidly photograph people living their every day lives.  See a woman on a motorcycle in China carrying 8 kids and a donkey?  Photograph that ish!  See some cave divers bathed in the most beautiful light while in Puerto Rico?  You bet your ass I’m shooting that!

travel photos - what to do in Puerto Rico - Cueva del Indio

Remember the Little Details

One of my favorite things to photograph while traveling is the small details I find while exploring.  Yes, epic landscapes are awesome, too.  But, I really want to remember the smaller things that I found, ate, touched, etc.  Getting up close and personal gives people a much more intimate experience with the environment, and with my travel photos.

travel photos

Other Random Things That May Help You on Your Travel Photography Journey

  • Scout out your locations beforehand using Instagram’s search function.
  • Be sure to drop a pin or use GPS apps to mark your location so that you can remember where you were at any given time.
  • Invest in quality equipment that will produce quality photos.
  • Consider a wireless remote trigger if you want to get an epic photo of yourself without relying on the help of a stranger.
  • Look around and up.  Sometimes the best shot may be behind you, beside you, or above you.
  • Don’t be afraid to photograph at night!  Night shots, especially in the city, are pretty rad.

Is it a scene from a fairy tale or a sunset along the Oregon coast?

Do you have other suggestions for improving your travel photos?  Share them with us!

Do you want some epic travel photos of yourself?  Or maybe to learn a bit about photography in person?  Join us in Puerto Rico June 5-11, 2017 for a week of sun, sand, eco-adventures, and photography!  Visit our trip page for more details!

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About Erica Kay

Manini girl Erica is our professional photographer, travel curator, and adventure designer. When she isn't busy working on Manini stuff, she's running two photography companies, petting her pup, eating her way around the world with her fiancé, or hanging with friends and family.

Join the discussion 56 Comments

  • Justine says:

    Great article and I love your website! I just followed you on Instagram. I always do the same when taking pictures and I’m teaching my boyfriend the same. He’s still learning but he’ll get there. hahaha.

    • maniniexp says:

      Thank you! What’s your Insta handle? I’m also teaching my fiancé as we travel. He’s starting to love it as much as I do!

  • Ania says:

    Really awesome tips! I absolutely agree that a good lighting is necessary for a good photo and I love the golden hour. Your use if light is simply magical! What camera did you use?

  • Sara says:

    Loved this tips! Your photos are beautiful! When it comes to editing, what programs do you use or do you use any?

  • Eemma says:

    Some great tips! Thank you for sharing! I love taking photos of people when I travel, but often feel nervous to do so. In some cultures it can be extremely offensive. I guess I just to need to be more sneaky….or a creep. lol

    • maniniexp says:

      It doesn’t hurt to ask! The worst that can happen is they say no. If there’s a language barrier, simply point to your camera and they will usually understand what you’re asking.

  • Eniko says:

    Wow, your pictures are stunning! My boyfriend takes very nice pictures and have good equipment. I take way less time with my photos and they are definately less professional, than his, but he often compliments my composition. Yaaay. Definately some useful tips in the article.

    • maniniexp says:

      I have to admit that I’ve definitely annoyed some travel companions with the time I take to photograph things haha!

  • Priyadarshini Rajendran says:

    Haha..to be a creep 😛 Great tips.. I am trying to up my composition. And better lighting helps a lot.

  • Marguerite says:

    Great tips! And you are so right: the best view could be behind you. I figured this out when I was aimlessly wandering the streets of Paris a few years ago 🙂

  • Nicole says:

    Wow these are stunning photos. Well done. And great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  • Melissa Bitz says:

    I am always looking to improve my photos, and figured I just didn’t have “the eye.” I heard of the lower thirds trick, but never understood what it was. Now I’m going to practice! Thanks for the tips.

    • maniniexp says:

      You can train your eye! Light and composition are the most important, so focus on that during your practice. Good luck!

  • Isadora says:

    In love with this post! I love photography but I’m pretty new to that, so I don’t really know how to take good shots yet. This tips are really useful, now I just need to practice them, also I need to learn to don’t be shy in taking pictures, I love those pictures of local people living their normal lives but I’m always shy to take pics of people lol

  • Love the tips. It’s never late to learn something new. Thanks for sharing

  • Kelly Duhigg says:

    Thank you so much. I loved the tip about the leading lines pointing at your subject. Great idea. Just glad to read this because I am not a professional photographer and this post seems really useful. 🙂

  • Lorena says:

    Thank you! Totally a great tip! I’m gonna incorporate all these in my next travel 🙂

  • Shelley T says:

    Great advice ! I didn’t think about turning a subject’s face to the side for definition. Thanks for sharing …
    You certainly have some insanely beautiful pictures

  • Really enjoyed your tips! I would Love to see a Chinese lady carrying 8 children and a donkey! I think lighting is very important with photography but sometimes struggle with getting the aperture right! Absolutely beautiful photos! Can you come to the UK and be my photographer haha

    • maniniexp says:

      It’s quite a sight, let me tell you haha! And, I’m heading to the airport now, so I’ll be right there 😉

  • I have never been a photographer and I’ve only been trying to take it more seriously lately but I have a LONG way to go lol. Posts like these are incredibly helpful so thank you!

  • Ellis says:

    Great tips. Especially the tip to see your picture as a tic tac toe board was really useful. And I agree about photographing people. They make pictures more personal.

    • maniniexp says:

      I’m glad the tic tac toe board analogy made sense! Sometimes I wonder if people understand what I’m rambling on about haha!

  • Anna says:

    Composition & light (!) is everything. Nice photos;)! I’m a photographer as well… ☺️ Xx

  • A fellow photo-fan here! Although most of my pictures are taken by my husband, I can definitely relate, especially about the people part. Some publications especially want that. I have noticed that one of the magazines where we publish usually selects photos with people even if we have som absolutely stunning landscapes – so people tip can also help to publish your work!

    • maniniexp says:

      So true! Although I’m a portrait photographer by trade, I find it so funny how much travel publications prefer people photos over traditional landscape photos.

  • Nadine says:

    Bravo! Your photos are wonderful. I especially love your human shots.

    I’ll definitely be reminding myself about your tips on my next travels. Thank you!

  • Penelopi says:

    Thanks for the great tips!! Really helpful as I am new in Photography. 🙂

  • Penelopi says:

    Thank you for this post!! I really need this as I am new in Photography. 🙂

  • great article – I have just graduated from my i phone to my first SLR so I am learning everything! This is such a helpful post!

  • Kayla Manoe says:

    Beautiful and helpful post! Great tips with stunning photos to accompany! xx

  • Delilah says:

    Great tips and love the photos! Just followed you on IG. My problem is trying to balance respecting people’s privacy (as someone else commented, in certain places it’s rude or even illegal to not get permission prior to photographing someone) and getting good, candid photos. Any advice?

    • maniniexp says:

      It’s definitely a fine line and something to be considerate of. I ALWAYS err on the side of caution and ask permission when possible. In situations where it’s simply not possible (ex: the instance I mentioned where someone is riding by on a motorcycle), I usually will follow my instinct and make a decision based on what I know about the area. There are definitely parts of the world where you wouldn’t want to offend someone by taking a photo without permission.

  • Jodie says:

    I stupidly relayed on an iPhone and a GoPro for my trip and whilst I got some decent shots it wasn’t anything like I had experienced. I have now purchased a bridge camera (lumix dmc-lx100) and I’m so excited to take it on my next adventure. I’ll be taking your tips with me too! Thank you for providing them. And I love your website too 🙂

    • maniniexp says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Jodie! I really hope these tips help you with your adventures with the new camera. It takes a while to learn, but it’s SO fun!

  • Lacey says:

    Wow! Your photography is unbelievable! Thank you so much for these tips! I look forward to putting some of them to use. You are truly very talented and I love how to really capture the feeling of a place!

  • Amber says:

    Great article! Your photos are beautiful! I’ve been working on my photography more and more since September. I’m loving the way they are turning out, when I take my time with them, and play around with angles, ect. I just bought a wireless remote and can’t wait to use it! Love your Instagram feed . . . very inspiring!

  • Hannah says:

    I loved this! I think what I really need to focus on more is photographing people. I’m always so awkward and hate asking people if I can take their photo, but it’s definitely something I should work on!

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