Say Cheese! 5 Tips for Taking Better Travel Photos
Updated: Jul 14, 2020
I don't know if you are like me, but I am always looking for that best shot on vacation. I have my camera or my cell phone ready to use so that I can capture images to show others what I have experienced during my travels. It takes practice to capture what you are seeing for the most pleasing photograph.
My vacation photos evokes thoughts, feelings, smells, tastes and sounds that take me back to beautiful places that I have visited. The photo above of some beach time in Puerto Rico brings back the relaxing memory of the warmth of the sun on my skin, the taste of my pina colada, the smell of salty ocean and the sound of the waves against the shore.
Below are 5 tips along with my photos as examples to practice and hone your photography skills for when you can travel again while you are staying safely at home.
Step 1: The Rule of Thirds
This is the most important rule of composition which requires you to break up an image into three equal parts, vertically or horizontally or both. The point is to put key elements into those thirds.
In a horizontal rule of three as seen in the first photo below that I took on a hot air balloon ride in Pennsylvania, the balloon is on the far left 1/3 of the shot with 2/3rd as a landscape and the shadow of a balloon is in the 1/3 on the right side. My second photo below from the Mount Saint Helens, Washington, shows a vertical rule of three where 2/3rd is land and 1/3rd is sky.
Step 2: Leading Lines
When taking a photo, you want others to know what the focus is of your shot. You can do this with leading lines, like using geography for example, which a person will naturally look at first but then lead her eyes to the main subject of your image.
The first photo below with leading lines is one that I took Jarvis winery in Napa Valley. The lines of barrels takes your eyes to the door at the end. My second photo with rows of sunflowers leads your eyes to the house and trees beyond.
Step 3: Framing
This technique is about using what is around you to frame the subject you are trying to capture so that it draws the viewer's eyes into the scene. When you have a image to shoot, look for a way to frame it creatively, like with trees or a door. This can add pleasing symmetry but it may require you to step back or use your zoom to frame the shot.
In the first photo below is one that I took of Crater Lake, Oregon where the lake is framed by the pine trees. The second photo is one that I shot in Porto Venere, Italy which shows framing of the landscape using columns of the Church of St. Peter.
Step 4: Foreground, Mid ground and Background
When you take a photo of a mountain or a skyline, the sense of scale can be lost because it is a two-dimensional image. When taking the shot, look for elements in the foreground, mid ground and background for the best way to capture the depth of what you are seeing in the moment.
Below are photos that I took in Ireland and Spain that uses elements in the foreground, mid ground and background to capture the dimensions of what I saw that day. The viewer's eye is drawn to the the closest object in the photo then moves beyond to the middle and far distance of the image.
Step 5: Storytelling
You've probably heard that a photograph is worth a thousand words. Look for ways to tell a story using your images. Take the shots that use human elements so that others looking at your photos are pulled into the story.
The first photo below that I shot in St. Mark's Square in Venice shows the emotion of a woman that draws you in and makes you smile (or cringe). The second photo below with an Amish child watching the men collapse a hot air balloon may make you wonder what the boy is thinking and feeling in this image.
Looking forward to the day when we can take photos of our vacations and share our photos with each other of our wonderful travel experiences. In the meantime, practice and develop your photography skills!