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Whether you’re traveling to build your location portfolio or simply taking a trip with family this summer, you’ll want to work on your travel photography technique. Your goal is to create envy-worthy images that you can post with pride to your site, blog and social media profiles. And, don’t forget to think “stock photography” and shoot images that you could sell upon your return.

1. Do Some Pre-Trip Planning

Look up the must-see locations in the area you’ll be visiting.  Find out where the hidden sights are as well — spots where tourists would dare not go. Once you arrive, ask for recommendations from locals. If you do hit the tourist sites (for stock purposes only!) Be sure to go early morning or late evening to avoid the crowds and take advantage of the ‘magic hour’ lighting.

2. Use a Telephoto Lens 

This type of lens is perfect for snapping some candid, close-up, portraits of people without intruding on their personal space. It also works great for when you want to take macro shots of local flora, gastronomic delights or any other indigenous objects you may stumble upon in your travels.

10 Travel Photography Tips for Composing Better Shots

3. Capture a Story

Building a narrative with your imagery will make your trip even more memorable. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to snap a picture and fashion a verbal tale. Take advantage of your unique surroundings, people and landscape.

4. Fill the Frame

Filling your frame means to make sure all of the empty space in the image has a purpose and that everything in your frame works with your subject. Get as close as possible to your subject and you’ll have less cropping to do later.

5. Use a Wide Aperture

The lower the “F” number, the wider the aperture on your camera, and the less depth-of-field you achieve. Letting in as much light as possible with a low F-number will blur the background and cause a subject to “pop” out more in the photo.

6. Become a People Person

Engage in conversation with the locals wherever you go. You’ll gain their trust; which can lead to some amazingly intimate portraits. Offer to mail them a copy of the photo. If they do not wish to be photographed, don’t push the subject.

7. Remember the Rule of Thirds

You’ll most likely be snapping a lot of city and landscapes and the rule of thirds is crucial in this type of photography. For the rule of thirds, simply imagine the frame in your camera is cut into three parts. For example, make the sky 2/3 of the frame and the landscape 1/3.

8. Look for Leading Lines

Leading lines are everywhere you look whether you realize it or not. They are very helpful when setting up an interesting composition since they lead the eye to whatever you want the viewer to concentrate on the most. They are visually pleasing and help fill up your frame. 

10 Travel Photography Tips for Composing Better Shots

9. Pay Attention to the Background

Be on the Lookout for Random Objects

Signs, other people, cars, and more can be found behind your subject and will weaken a photograph. In particular watch out for trees, towers, antennae, and lines on buildings directly behind your subjects so that they do not appear to have something growing out of their heads! Be mindful of shadows (even your own) that may wind up in the photo.

Open Space is Good

There are some advantages to having some empty space within your composition. It can help the subject(s) to stand and keep the viewer’s eye focused where you want it.

10. Look for Natural Frames 

Trees, architecture, and any other natural forms will help frame your subjects beautifully. Using natural frames also helps to give the viewer a more authentic and cultural feel of the environment you are trying to capture. 

All of these are great ways to capture intriguing compositions, however, not every photograph you take while traveling has to follow all of these tips. Just keep in mind these general ideas for reference and use the ones that you feel will work best with your style as well as the situation you are photographing

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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