People love Instagram.
I do love me some Instagram. It’s actually the only social platform I use consistently. This little dose of travel inspiration, ideas and motivation can serve as an amazing travel tool and really gets me through periods of inertia. I am a firm believer that good travel photography is the best remedy for a severe case of wanderlust.
And let’s all admit it, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of taking that perfect travel photo that can instantly take you back to that very moment. When you’re visiting a gorgeous new place, it’s perfectly natural and totally acceptable to want to capture that moment to take it home with you and share your experience while you’re there.
And even though I’m a huge advocate of living in the now and enjoying every moment for what it is, one has to ask: why not try and take the best travel photos you can while you’re there?
So, if you’re going on a trip soon and want to accurately portray it by snapping great pictures, here are some of my top tips for taking better travel photos and bring your Instagram feed to the next level:
1. LIGHTING IS KEY
Light is probably the most important element of photography, so try to take advantage of natural lighting when you can. For most subjects, the light is best when the sun is low in the sky. This means that you should take your photos in the early morning or an hour before the sun sets, aka the golden hour. If you’re in the tropics, get ready to snap fast, because the sun sets quickly and the golden light won’t last for long!
2. PLAY WITH LIGHT AND SHADOW
The rich contrast created by lights and shadows adds a certain suspense to an image and helps to highlight important components within the scene. Look out also for geometric shadow patterns created by architectural elements. It will add a little bit of mystery and intrigue that will capture the viewer’s imagination.
3. USE THE RULE OF THIRDS
The Rule of Thirds is a simple theory dictating how an image should be composed in order to create a visual interest. The basic idea is to frame the shot such that your subjects are not in the dead middle of the photo, but are placed off-center. An easy way to think about this is mentally to divide the frame into three sections (left, center and right), and put the main subject of the photo either entirely within the left or right section.
4. BEAT THE TOURISTS
One of the most annoying scenarios for a photographer is to arrive at a place when it is filled with tons of tourists, making every shot seem like an endless battle. The trick here is to get up extra early while the streets are empty and the rest of the city is still sleeping. I woke up at 4am the day I visited Petra and managed to have the Treasury all to myself for twenty minutes before anyone else arrived. It was magical to be there on my own.
5. USE HUMANS
Of course humans can be great, and landscapes are usually better with (some) people in them. People can help create a sense of scale and capture the majesty of what you have witnessed, making the impact of your photo even more spectacular and somehow inspirational.
Also, try to feature locals rather than tourists when you can. And if you have the time for doing some people-watching and street photography, pick a spot and wait!
6. GET HIGH
No, not that kind of high. Buy yes, everything looks better and somehow magical when seen from above.I always always look for viewing platforms, sky bars or cable car rides everywhere I travel, because they are just perfect for expansive panoramic perspectives.
7. SHOOT FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES
Everyone wants that perfect postcard shot, which is totally ok of course. You can do this too, but you will probably end up with a boring photo that’s no different from anyone else’s. Look for a different take on famous landmarks instead, start developing your creative eye. Change perspective, change lens choice, change focus. Get down low, stand up on something, lay on the ground – just move!
8. GET PHYSICALLY CLOSE
If your images aren’t as interesting as they should be, don’t be afraid to take a step or two closer to your subject. It may sound too simple, but filling the frame is actually one of the best ways to make your photos pop.
9. USE COLOR STRATEGICALLY
Colors are a powerful tool of communication. They can help you express a particular mood, tease the senses and emotions. The way you decide to use color in your photos will also speak of your style, and in fact many great photographers love working with a very specific color palette, whether it’s strong and bright or neutral and soft. Let loose and play with colors around you, but ALWAYS remember to set the White Balance to suit the weather or lighting – this will improve your photographs big time.
10. LOOK FOR STRONG PATTERNS AND LINES
Patterns appear whenever strong graphic elements are repeated over and over again, like geometric shapes, and colors. They can be found pretty much everywhere in our world, from natural forms to our urban landscapes – you just have to train your eye to notice them. Patterns are pleasing, visually intriguing, and can give your photo composition the pop it deserves.
11. LOOK FOR PUDDLES
Nothing can be more of a bummer when you have your whole day planned for going outside and shooting and the rain pours. The good news is that you don’t need to hide from the rain, you simply need to lookout for puddles! Puddles can present interesting opportunities for you to photograph reflections, doubling the beauty of an already charming scene.
12. LOOK FOR SYMMETRY
The rule of symmetry is a great excuse to break the rule of thirds I just mentioned. Symmetry with a focal point gives a sense of harmony and balance, draws the eye to the subject and always sucks the viewer into the photo.
13. TELL A STORY
Taking your pictures in front of popular landmarks is important, but whenever you remember, try to take a photo of yourself doing something totally random and spontaneous, like waiting in line to get onto the train or something like that. These seemingly uninteresting photos can give more personality to your pictures and enable you to tell a story.
14. CAPTURE A FEELING
Use photography to capture a feeling, an emotion, or a moment. Also, don’t be afraid to go up to strangers and ask them politely if you can take their portrait. They almost always are very happy to do so.
Now, some basic tips:
15. DO LOCATION SCOUTING
Good photos always require planning. Travel websites, Instagram again, travel forums and even guidebooks can give you valuable insight into your travel destination.
16. USE YOUR CAMERA
No, not your phone camera. The solution to taking better Instagram photos is probably not to use the Instagram app in the first place. Use your SLR camera. Many photographers and Instagram enthusiasts use a digital camera to take their pictures and only later transfer those to their iPhone.
17. DO USE PHOTO-EDITING
Don’t destroy your photo with thousands of filters, but do use photo-editing apps to enhance its features. My personal favorites is Afterlight, but there are tons of other options. Find your editing style, and keep your feed consistent.
18. FOLLOW PEOPLE FOR INSPIRATION
One of the best ways to learn pretty much anything is to follow the ones you admire, and who are willing to share their tips and tricks. My personal favorites are @handluggageonly, @doyoutravel, @worldwanderlust and @theplanetd, but there are many other great IG travel photographers out there.
19. KEEP IT FUN, ALWAYS
Yes, getting the perfect snap is nice, but be thankful that you have the opportunity to simply be where you are. Photography is only fun if you’re actually enjoying it, so pinch yourself and enjoy the moment.