How to improve your travel photography.

I do not claim to be a fantastic photographer. I wouldn’t even call myself very good.
But I do believe I have some useful tips that will take your images to the next level. From nice to good, or even great.

I have taken a few courses and have friends and family that are into photography. And I have learned a lot from them.
Below are just some basic tips that will improve your images.


I use Canon. That is what my father used, so that is what I knew. And I am very happy it with.
Both Nikon and Canon are the best brands out there, but I feel Canon is more user friendly.
I have a DSLR (a digital single-lens reflex camera) with multiple lenses. But I also have a little point and shoot, and I use my phone too.

Learn your camera’s possibilities

I see people with very expensive camera’s and it is set to ‘auto’.
That is a waste of a camera. That is like travelling to the other side of the world, and only staying in your hotel.
Take some courses, read the manual, google and play with the settings.
There are endless possibilities and if you only master 5% it will already improve your images.


Exposure Triangle

Let’s start with the basics:

  • ISO
  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture



ISO controls the sensitivity to light. If there is a lot of light, like a perfect sunny day, use a low ISO setting. Like ISO100.
If you are inside or at night, use a higher ISO setting.
With ISO comes noise. Noise is the term for the grainy effects on images.

APERTURE is the size of the lens opening. Does is open wide or not? The wider it opens, the more light you let in. There are circumstances where you want to control this and let in more or less light.

SHUTTER SPEED controls the time the lens is open. Shutter speed is often used together with aperture. If you leave your lens open for longer, it lets in a lot of light. To counter this, make sure the lens does not open that wide. Shutter speed is great for creating that fluffy effect on waterfalls or shooting traffic at night, where you see the movement of the cars.

All these three settings influence each other. If you go high on one, you might want to go low on another, depending on what you are shooting.


A great example of a long shutter speed.
By leaving the lens open for just a bit longer, the bus driving by turns into a bunch of lines and lights. A tripod is needed for a shot like this.
You also need to adjust the aperture, but because it is dark, it does not need to be adjusted much.

Holland Park

Again a long shutter speed. Due to it being daylight a lot of light will come into the camera. This is where it is important to have a low ISO and adjust the aperture. I also used a tripod and a neutral density filter.

Depth of Field

Dept of field is about part of image being in focus, while the rest is not. This can really enhance your images.
There are two ways of doing this with a DSLR camera.
First is by switching your lens to manual focus. Play around with the lens, and you will be able to control what will be in and what will be out of focus.

St Dunstan (25)

You can see that the flowers are in focus, while the rest of the image is not.

The second option is the aperture.
You control the aperture on your camera with the F-stop, which you can control by switching to the AV setting on your camera.
This takes us back to the exposure triangle. The aperture controls the amount of light that you let into your lens.
And the lower your f-number, the smaller the depth of field.
Low f-numbers make for great portraits or close-ups.



High f-numbers are great for landscapes.


I also like to use a zoom lens for portraits and zoom in as much as I can. You might have to take a step back from your subject, but it creates a great dept of field.

Rule of Thirds

Many beginners like to place their subject in the middle of their image, while this sometimes works, it is better to use the rule of thirds. It makes for a more interesting image.
Imagine breaking down your image into thirds.


Now place your subject on one of the lines. To the left or the right. Or above or below.




Make sure your horizon is straight in your image. Such a simple tip, yet so effective. It makes a big different to an image.


If you did not manage a straight horizon on your original image, you can easily fix this in a photo-shop program. I use Picasa for this.


Time of Day

Lighting is very important in photography. So at what time of the day do you have the best light for photography?
Try to avoid the middle of the day, the light will be very harsh and the images will be very dull and flat.
I swear by the ‘Golden Hour’. This around sunrise or sunset. The lighting is soft and you have beautiful shadows at this time of the day.



Photoshop or Not?

With digital photography comes photo-shop. Most images you see these days are photo-shopped.
So should you use it too? It is up to you.
There are many possibilities and you can turn an average image into a great one.
I am not a big fan of photo-shop myself. I do not have the patience for it and prefer to take a great an image, rather than photo-shopping it into one.
But I am not against a bit of retouching and enhancing the image.
Adobe created the official photo-shop. I have tried using it, but find it very complicated. I gave up.
Very user friendly is Picasa. It is a free and so easy to use. Add a few shadows, saturate your image or straighten your horizon.


If you want a few more options in the editing and working with layers, try Gimp.
Also a free program.
There are great tutorials on Youtube to help you use it.


Now the most important thing is just to get out there and take pictures. Play with your camera and use the possibilities it offers. Keep learning. Take a look at images of other people that you love and find out what you love about it. Is the composition? The symmetry? The colors? Does it show emotion?
Practice your ‘eye’. This is your eye for spotting a good photo opportunity. My friends say I take pictures at the weirdest moments, but they don’t see what I see. I see a beautiful flower or butterfly. I see lines in the buildings. I see an intimate  moment between people. And I take pictures of everything! Most come out OK and every now and then there is that WOW shot.
Take a step to the left, or bend down, to see things from a different angle. Add people in your images, it creates depth and makes the images more personal.
Not every image you take will be the perfect shot, that is just not possible. And that is OK. Just keep trying and you will get better with every image you take.
You don’t need an DSLR, you can take great images even with your phone if you use some of the above tips.
And most importantly; have fun while doing it!


One thought on “How to improve your travel photography.

  1. Your photos have great balance. This is a good crash course post for anyone looking to take better snaps.

    I have a film-loaded old Canon T60. Film is so cool, but it is kind of difficult to imagine a time when you didn’t know what your photo was going to look like at that moment! But there is something amazing about anticipating what that film will reveal.

    Sadly, when we travel long-term, I leave behind my SLR, but this post makes me want to up my game with a digital SLR. Thanks!

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