Everyone wants to bring home nice travel pictures from their vacation. You say to yourself: after all, I may never be there again and I want to show that beautiful place to my friends, family, colleagues. I want everyone to be excited about my photos or I just simply want to have a beautiful travel photo framed for myself.
I love to travel. And I always enjoyed taking pictures while traveling. I’ve realized that when we’re hiking hard, taking pictures distracts me from constantly complaining about the hard road. I also love to take pictures of the ordinary life of the people in the country we are traveling to – so called mini reportages.
I’ve picked out 7 tips to make your holiday photos more beautiful and no longer feel ashamed of your holiday photos.
1. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BUY THE MOST EXPENSIVE CAMERA
This is probably the biggest misconception a lot of people have. If you don’t want to take professional photos, you can get by with a better smartphone. Today, there are very advanced cameras even on phones that can take photos that are qualitatively similar to DSLRs.
Unless you’re a professional photographer, you’ll probably take better holiday photos with a smartphone than with a DSLR. I’ll say more about this in the next few paragraphs. In short, when you’re not very familiar with your camera’s settings, you’re much better off taking photos with your phone. Phone can adjust to light and other criteria much faster and better automatically than the automatic settings on an DSLR camera. The composition of the photo also plays a big role. Below is a nice example of how a photo taken with a phone (1) looks much nicer than one taken with a DSLR (2). If you do decide to learn how to take photos with a camera, I recommend reading my article on How to learn to take photos like a professional photographer.
2. COMPOSITION AND COLOURS IN A TRAVEL PHOTO
Composition means the placement of all the objects we see in the photo. On vacation we often encounter the problem that we see a large number of objects in front of us. We are influenced by the emotion of the moment and we want to have everything we see in front of us in one photo. But we don’t realize that what we see with the our eye is always different from what we see in the resulting 2D photo. Too many elements in a photo distract from the perception of the shot and most likely don’t represent what we as photographers saw and felt in that moment. It is therefore a good idea to get rid of unnecessary elements in the composition, present the scene in front of you as simply as possible and decide which elements are important and which ones to leave out.
Creative composition can completely change the resulting holiday photo. When you are taking photos on vacation, always try to think about what you want to shoot, what you want to focus on, and what you want to say with the photo.
Also, there are different ways to play with colours. Either you choose contrasting colours (yellow – blue, green – purple, red – green, yellow – purple, blue – orange, etc) and combine them in your holiday photo. Or you play with shades of one colour. There are a lot of rules of composition, but sometimes you have to think out of the box and break those rules on purpose to get the best resulting travel photo. Below are the most commonly practiced rules and their variations:
Rule of thirds
One of the most famous rules of composition. In practice, this means that if you want to have a person’s attention on one subject, you must either place it in the photo at the intersection of the lines that divide the photo into thirds (in the left photo) or place it along one of the lines (in the right photo)
An off-center composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than a composition where the subject is placed directly in the center of the frame.
Many phones have a feature where you can turn on a special frame that splits your photo into thirds as you take the photo. If you don’t have this option, you can always crop the photo later. Try to make it at least approximate.
A very interesting rule to help you take creative photos on vacation. The lines in the photos seem to lead your eyes to some object. Sometimes they can just lead off into nothing, adding an interesting dynamic to the photo.
Leading lines can be things like roads, bridges, rails and so on. Sometimes these lines show up somewhere you don’t expect them, so look for them!
This is the empty space in your photo. This usually means a neutral background that allows you to focus only on the desired subject.
In practice, of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to look for a black wall and only take photos in front of it. Just find a simple background that won’t distract the viewer from looking at the subject.
Sometimes photos become very creative when you intentionally leave a little more negative space, like in the photo on the left. This draws even more attention to the subject and creates the necessary dynamics in the photo.
Playing with sizes
For nature photography, it’s sometimes a good idea to find a subject that intentionally looks smaller from a distance. This makes the mountains in the photo on the right look huge. If you just took a photo of the mountains, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell how big they really are later on in the photo.
This little trick allows the viewer of the picture get a better idea of the real situation. When you don’t have any other subject, it’s sometimes good to use a person compared to something big as well.
3. TELL A STORY WITH YOUR PHOTOS
Don’t just try to take pictures of nature or architecture. Go to the next level and start taking pictures of ordinary people’s lives. For example, it could be a vendor slicing sausage at the local market or a couple kissing at sunset. These snapshots can later become your favorite holiday photos.
Of course, when you’re taking close-ups of people, it’s important to ask their permission. Sometimes this can also help you find a good friend in another country or have an interesting conversation.
Statistically it is proven that photos with people get more interest from viewers than the most beautiful nature photos. This is because we unintentionally compare ourselves to the people in the photo. “Oh, those two drinking coffee with the beautiful view, I want one of those too!” And the photo is immediately much better than the view of nature itself.
4. GET LOST ON PURPOSE AND REMEMBER TO ENJOY FIRST
I know it sounds too simple, but some people very quickly start taking non-stop photos of everything around them once they’re on vacation. They can’t stop and enjoy the moment here and now. Unless your primary goal was to travel just for the photos, I recommend just stopping more often and enjoying everything around you.
How do you want to enhance that and have photos like no one else has, you need to get lost. You have to take different paths, you have to sometimes turn down small streets, not follow the map and observe things around you. See what kind of shots that can bring. Everyone who’s been to Paris has a photo with the Eiffel Tower, but how many times have those photos really gotten your 100 percent attention?
Also, don’t be afraid to take photos of objects at different angles. Sometimes it may be appropriate to kneel down for the perfect shot, while other times you may want to try to take a picture of something as if from a height. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
5. CAPTURE SMALL DETAILS IN YOUR PHOTOS
When you’re shooting travel photography, you’re likely to take lots of wide shots of nature, calm beaches and busy street scenes. These all make for excellent photos that capture the beauty and atmosphere of a place.
However, remember to pay attention to the smaller details in your surroundings. It shouldn’t be difficult, as everything you see will probably be completely new to you on your holiday, and you’ll see interesting details everywhere you look.
6. IF YOU WANT EVEN MORE, BUY NEW EQUIPMENT
Again, now I’m not talking about an expensive DSLR camera unless you know how to use it or don’t want to learn how to use it. We often see travelers on Instagram with great photos and they often post that they travel alone. “How is it possible that they travel alone and can take such beautiful photos of themselves? Surely they have a photographer with them!”
Maybe some of them really do have one, but most of them take their photos thanks to tripods. There are many different kinds of tripods, and they’re so lightweight that you’ll have no problem taking them on holiday with you. Only then you have to think that a photo with a tripod needs preparation: you have to set it up, take some test shots, find the right position, etc.
Also, there are for example special mini lenses for phones where you can achieve different effects like fisheye, macro and so on.
7. POST-PROCESSING OF PHOTOS IS VERY IMPORTANT
There is an absurd myth that editing your photos with software is “cheating”. That it’s not natural and the like. But the truth is that all professional photographers edit their photos using software like Lightroom, Photoshop and etc. Why can’t you do it too?
If you look at the photo below, you’ll probably notice that most of the adjustments I made were in the lighting. Very often when we travel, we can’t control the light. Sometimes you have a very nice composition, but it’s dark.
When you shoot in JPEG format, your phone or camera will edit the photo for you. So already by that your travel photo doesn’t look like it really was. So no cheating, just photo enhancement.
It’s best to shoot in RAW format because with this format your camera/phone will leave the photo unedited. Which means you have full control over the editing and there is much more information in the photo itself that can be edited. It is very easy to change the photo format from JPEG to RAW on your camera. If you want to do it on your phone, you have to download a special app and shoot in that. Examples of these apps are Manual Camera, Camera FV-5 and so on. Of course, you can also edit JPEG photos, but the resulting quality may be worse.
My favorite photo editing app is Lightroom. It’s very simple, it can be downloaded to your computer or phone and all the basic editing can be done there just fine. I have also recently started an individual online Adobe Lightroom course. If you are seriously interested in learning how to edit photos professionally, I recommend signing up for the course.
Traveling is a wonderful experience. Almost everyone tries to take a photo when they travel. So why not just learn how to do it better, so that your phone stops being just a selfie maker and starts showing beautiful and varied holiday shots too?
If you’re not on holiday right now and still want beautiful professional photos, feel free to contact me. I am a professional photographer in Egypt and abroad who will be happy to do a couple shoot with your significant other, a business shoot for your company or business, a family shoot to strengthen your relationships with your loved ones, but also a sports shoot if you are a gym owner, coach or just want to show your sports progress.