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Digital Nomads,  world

Travel photography tips

More photographs are taken every two minutes today than what was clicked during the 1800s by entire mankind. With the developments in technology, now anyone with a Smartphone and a nice Instagram filter can call themselves a photographer. Despite this, we can all be guilty of taking to Facebook to post scores of repetitive scenery shots from our last exotic trip.

I am by no means calling myself a pro photographer, but in this post I’ve covered some of my best tips for taking amazing travel photographs to help capture your favourite memories and improve your photography skills.

1. Research travel destinations with Pinterest & Instagram

Pinterest and Instagram are enormous picture book libraries in the palm of your hand. Search for almost any location, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of travel images at your disposal. I particularly like Pinterest and the ease at which I can pin images to my own boards to reference back to whenever I need them. For me, It’s been a brilliant tool, not only for photography, but for mapping out locations I want to visit.

cuba steps

2. Consider the after interest

How many times have you taken an entire reel of landscape shots, completely in awe of the view that you have at the time, only to get home to think that it just didn’t translate as well in a photograph. Unfortunately, not every landscape that inspires us in reality can translate into a compelling photograph. Consider what may come across as flat and boring in a photograph – an empty cloudless sky, for example. Try to eliminate those things. Think about what elements are heightening your experience, a smell? A sound? An activity? A good photographer will try to find a way to translate this.

thailand sunset

 3. Don’t be afraid of manual filters

Anything past automatic filters on Instagram can seem daunting, but taking the time to play about with even just one can create that pop that your photo was possibly lacking. Adding more shadow and increasing saturation works particularly well with food shots, and in photos with lots of trees and grass. Lifting the brightness in photos can often detract from blemishes in the skin.


4. Use people to communicate scale

Often, the sheer size of your subject can be lost on your viewers if there is noting to scale it to. The human form is a great way to emphasise size, with the added effect of creating a little more interest. I’ve found that in my own Instagram feed, that photographs with people in them draw more attention than those without.

mexico catherdral

5. Use the volume key

Perhaps an obvious tips for most of you, but there are still people out there that aren’t aware/forget that most camera phones allow you to use the volume key to take your pictures. This trick is particularly useful for a steadier hand during landscape shots, or getting a less selfie-like selfie.

peru llama

6. Follow the ‘Person, Location, Item’ rule

Turn your 2D image into a 3D image by keeping in mind your location, the people, and the items in it. A photograph of a waterfall can come across flat by itself. Add a person, and you create scale, include a rock or a snorkel mask near the front of the shot and you create depth. The later subjects are the beginning of a story to your photograph, and inject a bit of personality to the mix.


7. The rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a well known composition photography trick used to frame shots, the idea being that you imagine dividing your image into a grid of nine equal parts. From there, you position your focal elements along the lines, or at the point intersections. The off-centre composition is thought to be more natural looking and pleasing on the eye. The iPhone has even has its own built in grid function.


8. Re-think your angles

A lot of famous landmarks come with an obligatory photo, the famous Princess Diana seat at the Taj Mahal, pushing back against the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the wanderlust gaze over Machu Picchu. These photos are great, and (in most cases) a must, but once you’ve wrapped them up, why not try something a little different? Get down on the floor, get up high, use reflections, go landscape when the traditional shot is portrait. You get the idea.

mexico bookshop

9. Ask for permission

It’s not illegal to take a photo of someone in a public space without permission, but doing so is often bad manners. It may be tempting to dodge confrontation and try to catch a half decent shot, but addressing your subject will almost definitely result in a clearer, more truthful image.

peru couple

10. Don’t forget the small stuff

Small details such as the tiles of a floor, close ups of food, the rough edges of a ragged sea shell, can all make for a more intimate photograph. They’re a great way to break up your scenic shots, and often communicate the personality, smell, or colour of a location more clearly.

Morrocan petals

Feel like there’s anything I’ve missed out? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Big thanks to SJS Photography for the feature image


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travel photography tips

Travel writer, marketing adviser and blogger based in Edinburgh, with a focus on budget and vegan travel. 39 countries to date, with extensive knowledge of travel within Asia, particularly within Thailand.


  • josypheen

    Brilliant tips Sarah!

    I like to mix it up with photos. I am always blown away by landscapes, but I find they are more interesting if you can find things in the foreground (a tree with amazing bark, a cool bug, a flower!?) to focus on instead…I’m not sure why, but that way I find it easier to remember how I felt when I took the photo, so I can write about it. 😀

    p.s. I LOVE that llama photo! Or is it an alpaca? I can never remember which is which!

    • Sarah Mackenzie

      hahaha… it was a llama, but an alpaca is a kind of llama right?
      I’m the exact same! I used to always be so disappointed by my landscape shots until I started adding things to them! xx

      • josypheen

        Wait, is an alpaca really a kind of llama!? How did I not know that! *fail*

        I once spent an afternoon looking through photos to identify one that I’d photoed…I did work it out, but then I forgot again. Anyway, they all pull amazing faces for cameras!

          • josypheen

            Lol I was convinced you are right anyway(!) That just shows how little I retain when I google things!

            The divas are the best!

  • Josephine Sandig

    Very cool! I love how it seems so simple to take stunning photos. It’s really good to know that you don’t need expensive equipment to get there 🙂 Thank you for the tips!

  • waitingforrain28

    I am definitely looking to get my photography to the next level. These are all great tips, and I will need to give them all a try. I love the person, location, object rule and I am so glad that you include Ask Permission. That is so important.

  • Candy & Crystal

    These are all such wonderful tips. I always try to keep in mind the scale when I’m shooting 🙂

  • Teja

    Re: angles, try to get low as well as high. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how interesting a shot can get, when I’m pretending to be an ant looking up 🙂

  • Georgia McGrath

    A great guide with some crazy info (especially how many photos we take every few mins!) There are so many options to take a great photo. I absolutely love the pic inside the library! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Amy Poulton - Page Traveller

    Great photography tips! I’m terrible at photography – definitely know what it feels like to try and take a photo of something that doesn’t look anywhere near as good once I get home.

  • Richa

    Love your tips Sarah! I love my research of a place before going especially so I can take beautiful pictures that is like the number 1 tip and you nailed it 🙂 Next I also read/research about what would be the best time of the day to go to that particular spot. In case if sunrise or sunset was going to make that place look even better.. I’d go back or plan my itinerary accordingly.

    • Sarah Mackenzie

      Thanks Sarah!!!!!! (Good name! haha). The bookstore shot has had a few comments. I love it too. I can’t believe I was the only person in there tearing about taking photos!

  • atravelplan

    I like this post so much that I’ve read it a few times. I’m taking a trip to Europe soon and here’s a couple of questions I have (maybe you can turn them into a new post?): 1) Can you share more about manual filters in Instragram? I am not adept at this social media platform but you have intrigued me with its application for taking more intimate pictures. 2) What are some ways you have captured smell or sound in your photographs?

    • Sarah

      Hey!! aaahh… such a nice note (sorry, I’ve been overseas working on a new project). Yes! I can defo run a post on manual filters. I actually started combining snapseed and instagram filters as there a few that snapseed does that are a little more adnacned. I found the youtube tutorial for snapseed a little rubbish, so it was very much about trial and error for me (and still is).
      Smell and sound are so tough – but for smell, I’d encourage you to try take make something that people associate with a specific smell in the foreground. For example, a small fishing town may have fresh fish on display, or a spa may have incense burning. When I lived in Asia, the smell of incense in temples was always the first thing that stuck me – so capturing it was important xxx

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