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5 Tips to Improve Travel Photography

Photo of travel photography equipment and laptop, conveying adventure and excitement.

Capturing your favorite moments, people, and places in life creates a real treasure and memory for years to come. Capturing these memories well goes even further! Here are a few basic tips that, when applied correctly, will dramatically improve your travel photography.   

#1: Simplified Subject

Remember all those cluttered family or landscape photos that you really couldn’t decipher what the subject was in the picture? Probably not. That’s why it is so important to start setting up for the perfect photo by carefully choosing what you intend to keep in the frame, and what you could do without. The difference between a cluttered and lackluster photo and one that is clean and captivating can be made simply by moving your camera a foot in a direction to cut out some unwanted background details. Be mindful of the power lines overhead, the obtrusive neon sign, or the photo-bombing tourist who is oblivious to the fact that you and your spouse are trying to capture something special together! 

Simplifying your photo subject just takes a little bit of forethought and patience for getting that perfect shot. If there is a moving car in the background that you don’t want in the shot, wait a few seconds for it to drive past, then take your opportunity for the perfect, simple shot. Whether you’re capturing your family, architecture, food, flowers, or a bug, make the shot as simple as possible to really draw the viewer in, and make your photo memorable. 

#2: Leading Lines 

Now that you’ve defined your simple subject, see if there are some leading lines that will help make your subject standout. Leading lines is a photography concept that plainly means using lines from objects in the shot to draw the eye to the subject, improving overall strength of the image. If there is a road, path, fence, row of trees, table edge, lawn border, wave, or any other object that makes a line, use that line to point to your subject. This is oftentimes done by putting the beginning of the line in one of the four corners of your camera viewfinder, and then tracing that line all the way to your subject. Another common way to use leading lines is basically by using the line underneath your subject. You’re literally underlining your subject! Let us show you what we mean.

#3: Rule of Thirds

Not all photos have leading lines available to draw the eye to the subject, but almost every photo can and should use the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds basically suggests that the best way to compose a photo is to think in terms of cutting your frame into three vertical and three horizontal thirds, making 9 rectangles with which to place your subject into the frame. The photographer may use the rulers either by placing the subject on the intersections of the lines or the by placing the subject within the rectangles of the lines. 

Photo of mountain adventurer hiking with the rule of thirds applied to lines.
Placing subject on intersections of lines
Photo of bumblebee landing on a yellow flower with rule of thirds applied to squares.
Placing subject within rectangles of lines

With either method, the choice comes down to personal preference, and choosing the best option for the subject of the photo. Generally, it is most appealing to use the rule of thirds by placing the object either in the right or left column of the lines rather than dead center. However, there are many excellent photos that also place the subject dead center, but the eye seems to find an offset style more appealing. Offsetting the subject to the right or left will also provide a more expansive view of the background. 

#4: Play with Perspective

Sometimes getting creative with the perspective adds a lot of depth and visual interest that would otherwise be lacking from a shot. By getting low to the ground or angling down, the subject can seem grander or perhaps smaller. Having a wide-angle lens or camera setup can really help to accentuate the look when trying to capture architecture or other large subjects from a low-to-the-ground perspective. In many cases, having a dynamic perspective can make what otherwise would be a rather bland or uninteresting photo turn into something eye-catching and profound. 

#5: Minimal Photo Editing

Whether using iPhoto or professional-grade Adobe Lightroom for your photo editing, a tip that will make your photos more real-life and timeless will be to keep your tweaks to a minimum. Granted, High Definition Rendering (HDR) and other methods can make photos pop, but the world’s most iconic and lastingly impactful photos are those that look realistic and meaningful. Focus more on the story of your image rather than the photo editing style. But never lose sight of how important good photo editing is!

Photo of MacBook Pro editing travel photos in Adobe Lightroom.
Various free or paid photo editing software will do the job

The most important aspect of photo editing is ensuring that the exposure of the photo is correct. Exposure is simply talking about whether your photo is too dark, too bright, or just right! Despite our best efforts, oftentimes our camera will not capture the correct amount of light when we take a photo, but thankfully this is something that can be easily corrected during our photo editing. Once you get the exposure right on your image, maybe play with a few other things to improve the overall look of your image:

  • Contrast / Clarity
    • Make the photo higher contrast / clarity for dramatic, sharp images
    • Make the photo lower contrast / clarity for romantic, dreamy, and soft images
  • Saturation
    • Make the photo higher saturation for colorful, cheerful images
    • Make the photo lower saturation for sober, colder images
    • Make the photo black and white for timeless, impactful images