10 ideas for better travel photos

05May13

Because I love travel and photography, friends often ask for travel-photography advice. I’m always happy to help, even if I feel like a fraud: I’ve never taken a formal photography class, nor have I mastered even the basics. Still, here are some ideas I’ve picked up along the way — with a special shout out to my friends Darren and Laurice. Have fun in Prague!

I am crushing your head BLOG
(This is me, picking up a photo idea.)

1. Fill your frame … and vice versa

What is your photo about? Fill the frame with your subject — or use other elements to “frame” the subject.

Amnon 1130495 FRAME BLOG

Pont Neuf BW BLOG

Room at the Inn 1010556 BLOG

Rome Palatine from Colo FRAME BLOG

Palazzo 1320619 FB

2. Tilt your camera

One of the first tips I got was to pay attention to my horizons — and it’s indeed critical for landscape photography. But tilting your camera every so often can make your shots more dynamic. Plus, it can help squeeze in the monumental architecture!

Eiffel 1020797 TILTED BLOG

Munster 1240939 TILT blog

Vero Dodat 1110675 TILTED BLOG

3. Meet Geometry, your new friend

Experiment with looking beyond nature and architecture, and making geometry the subject of your photo.

Louvre gardens 1060754 BW BLOG

Louvre 1140164 BLOG

Paris hotel stairs BW BLOG

4. Focus on the foreground

When we’re traveling, we usually focus on our mid- to far-range vision. Add interest to your images by focusing on elements in the foreground instead.

View from Lafayette 1000371 FOREGROUND

Bachle 1240324 PERSPECTIVE BLOG

Place Dauphin 1030601 RAIN BLOG

5. The devil is in the details

Our instinct as travel photographers is often to try to capture sweeping vistas, but the “feeling” you get from a place often comes from the small details.

Freiburg haus 1240290 DETAIL BLOG

Window detail 1320020 FB

Wmsburg detail 1070363 BLOG

Cluny sundial 1110302 DETAIL BLOG

Galeries Lafayette 1110851 LOOK UP

Bread BW 1060144 FOCUS BLOG

6. Shoot in the morning — and in the rain

Many photographers especially like working during the morning “golden hour.” But don’t discount cloudy or rainy days. When you’re traveling, try to make the most of whatever light you get.

Notre Dame sunrise 1200099 EARLY BLOG

Rainy night 1020148 BLOG

Freiburg tor and bachle 1240918 BLOG

Courthouse butte composite BLOG FB

Place des vosges RAIN BLOG

Twins sunset 1160806 BE THERE BLOG

7. Emphasize texture

Weathered wood, cobbled streets, peeling paint … all of these can add an element of tactile interest to your images.

Louvre cour 1070758 TEXTURE BLOG

Institut 1100781 TEXTURE BLOG

Seine trees 1130330 BW BLOG

8. Play with repetition

Play with repetition. Play with repetition.

Cafe tables 1020528 REPETITION BLOG

Reims Catheral chairs 1020202 REPETITION BLOG

Notre Dame candles 1100297 REPETITION BLOG

Les toits de Paris 1140313 REPETITION BLOG

Roses 1210173 REPETITION BLOG

9. Shoot through something

Shooting through a window can add texture and context to your images. (But shooting through a car window just makes things blurry.)

Le Passage 1030137 THROUGH BLOG

Canal St Martin 1040402 THROUGH BLOG

Cafe a la pluie 1030777 THROUGH BLOG

10. Include people

A lot of photographers wait (im)patiently for people to leave the frame. But do you really want your shots to look like a post-apocalyptic ghost town? Plus, it’s the people and the everyday moments that give a city its character.

Cafe Lutetia 1260595 BE THERE BLOG

Old passage 1330420 FB

Market 1240370 PEOPLE BLOG

Creperie 1030057 PEOPLE BLOG


Bonus tip: Be here now!

A wise friend once told me that “expectations are the killers of good travel,” and the same is true of good photography. Yes, Flickr is a great source of inspiration. But don’t waste your trip trying to merely duplicate others’ images. Find your own beauty in the world. Be open to the moment, and to the unique experience of being there at that moment.Le bisou 1140565 BE THERE BLOG

Safe travels, and happy shooting!



43 Responses to “10 ideas for better travel photos”

  1. Great tips; great photos!

  2. 2 hmunro

    You’re so kind, Tom. Thank you, and thank you!

  3. 3 Jim

    I hope the Freshly Pressed editors are paying attention, because this post deserves that exposure. (Pun not intended.) Great work.

    • 4 hmunro

      Thanks so much, Jim! As a great admirer of your blog and your own photography, I’m flattered. Very (very) kind of you.

  4. beautiful photos…and you cant beat a good staircase shot! 🙂

    • 6 hmunro

      I admit I’m a bit of a sucker for staircases! 😀 Thanks so much for your kind comment.

  5. Great tips–and great photos! Thanks.

    • 8 hmunro

      Thanks so much, Patti! For someone who doesn’t know much about photography, I sure enjoy talking about it! 🙂

  6. 9 cakeinyoureye

    Awesome advice and beautiful photos!

    • 10 hmunro

      Your praise means the world to me, Señorita Bonita, because you’re one of the most visually creative people I’ve ever met. Pooches gracias!

  7. Thank you – I feel truly inspired – great post 🙂

    • 12 hmunro

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Susan! Thanks so much for stopping by — and I look forward to seeing some of YOUR photos soon!

  8. Why didn’t you post this BEFORE I went to Europe last year. Now I’ll just have to go back 😉

    • 14 hmunro

      What can I say, Xpat? I’ve always had terrible timing. But you’re a very accomplished photographer, so I can’t imagine my tips would make a difference. Still, I agree wholeheartedly with your logic: You have no choice but to go back to Europe! 😉

  9. 15 Susan

    Great tips… heading to Europe later in the year and these are perfect for those shots.

    • 16 hmunro

      Thanks for stopping by, Susan! I’m so glad you found this post useful. And I’ll very much look forward to seeing your own travel photos, should you care to post a few. Happy travels!

  10. Great post, I shared it on Pinterest, hope you don’t mind that 🙂

    • 18 hmunro

      I’m not sure what the *opposite* of mind is, but that’s how I feel about being shared on Pinterest. 🙂 Thank you so much, Knotrune!

      • I never understood why some people object to Pinterest, I agree that it is a compliment and a good way to share work, as long as it is properly attributed of course.

  11. Excellent tips, especially with your chosen selection of photos. I agree with the little details one particularly, often the small things are an intricate part of the experience of a place and individually it is easy to miss them but when you keep noticing they become part of the character of the day.

    • 21 hmunro

      What an excellent point you make, crenellatedarts! We may not notice all the details that surround us as we explore a place, but they make quite an impression — even if it’s just subconsciously. I’ll be posting more about that soon, in fact, so stay tuned! And thank you VERY much for stopping by.

  12. Thank you for the tips, I like all of them, except number 2 probably, it always makes me dizzy 🙂

    • 23 hmunro

      Oh no! I’m sorry I made you dizzy. 🙂 It made me a bit dizzy walking down those stairs every morning, but I think that’s why I loved them so much: It was fun starting every day feeling a bit wobbly on the sidewalks of Paris. ¡Gracias por su comentario … es un placer encontrarla aquí!

  13. Tips are ideas, sorry, I always mix up languages…I thinks you know about that…

  14. Love love love this post!!! You have put together a great reference post!!! Gorgeous photos… insightful advice!! 🙂 **

  15. 29 rainonfreshgrass

    Reblogged this on rainonfreshgrass.

  16. This is brilliant. I love your tips and the pictures you’ve chosen to illustrate them. I shall use these ideas to improve my ‘happy snapping’.

    • 32 hmunro

      Thanks so much, Des! I think *your* photos are brilliant — but I will very much look forward to even more of your “happy snapping.” Cheers!

  17. Ach, I tried to comment on this when you first posted it but my iPad ate my words. Just wanted to say how grateful I am for your sharing your hard-won experience and your wonderful artist’s eye with the rest of us. I can’t pick out a favourite shot because I love them all! Glorious!

  18. 35 8able

    All the photos are amazing, great job as usual! I especially like the “Room at the Inn” (4th photo), since the colours and the gold/blue contrast is beautiful. Also, thank-you for sharing panorama techniques in a previous post, I have now learnt how to use Gawker and panoramas have became one of my favourite things to play around with!

    • 36 8able

      Oops… I meant Hugin! Gawker is another piece of software I use, for timelapses.

    • 37 hmunro

      It’s so great to see you again, 8able! Thanks for your very kind words … it’s very gratifying to know that you’ve found a couple of my posts helpful (or at least enjoyable). I’ve missed your blog, though. Any chance of seeing some of your Hugin panoramas on there? 😀

  19. 38 Dina

    Brilliant post. Learn so much in just 10 steps. Thanks for sharing.

    • 39 hmunro

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Dina. I’m happy to hear that my tips were helpful! Cheers to you!

  20. 40 Dyl

    I just found your blog yesterday and it was so timely because I found out today that I will be studying abroad this summer. This post has great tips that I cannot wait to utilize!! Thank you!!

    • 41 hmunro

      Congratulations! I’m so excited for you — what a wonderful opportunity. Where will you be studying? I’m happy to offer specific ideas and suggestions if it’s somewhere I’ve been …

      • 42 Dyl

        I will be in Germany, mostly around Dusseldorf and Berlin. Paris and Amsterdam are a train ride away so I will spend some time visiting there, too.

        • 43 hmunro

          How wonderful! I hope you’ll forgive me for being just a tiny bit envious. 😉 The only city on your list that I know well is Paris. In fact, Paris is my *favorite* city — which is why you’ll find a separate category for that on my blog, if you want to read up a bit. But I’d also be happy to make some personalized suggestions when you’re getting ready to go, based on your interests. In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful opportunity!


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