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5 Secrets to Improving Your Travel Photography

Taking beautiful and unique travel photos doesn't require fancy equipment.

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With the rise of sites like Instagram and Facebook, photography is an essential part of any trip. Looking back on photos from around the globe is one of the best ways to revive travel memories. Whether you’re snapping with an iPhone or are a photography aficionado, you can take great shots to keep and share with friends. Read on to learn the best tips on how to develop your own style, and improve your travel photography significantly.

Improving Your Travel Photography: The Basics

To take amazing travel photos, you don’t need much. All you need is a camera/phone, an interesting subject, and a way to edit your shots. Often people think that having a nice camera means the photos will be amazing right off the bat. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. You can take fantastic images with a phone or point-and-shoot. More important is the composition of the image and the story it tells.

1. Plan out your lighting

improving your travel photography

Lighting is the heart of photography. Without the proper lighting, good photos can look…well…not so good. To improve your travel photos, it’s important to think about what kind of lighting will look best with your subject. Some questions you may ask yourself: Is the landmark facing east or west? Would a silhouette work here? Will my subject be in the shadows if I stand here?

Although mid-day is the easiest time to take photos, it is often the least flattering. Instead, try taking photos early in the morning (sunrise), late in the afternoon (sunset), or at night. The more dramatic you can make your lighting, the more impactful your photos will be.

2. Get experimental with your perspective

Your viewers don’t want to see the exact same photos that they see in postcards. Therefore, you should aim to get creative with your frames. Take a walk around the area to capture a different angle or story with your shot. Does it make sense to shoot from up high? Down low? Vertical? Horizontal? Close up? Far out? Experimenting with a variety of angles, perspectives, and lighting scenarios will help you identify the perfect frame.

3. Develop your editing style

Editing your photos after the fact is an essential part of the travel photography journey. Your camera sensor often won’t quite capture the vibrancy, clarity, or sentiment of an image. Post-processing is meant to bridge that gap. Every photographer has a certain editing style that reflects their visual preferences. The bottom line? Editing is fun and can help truly bring your photos to life.

For desktop editing:

  • Adobe Lightroom CC – Lightroom is my preferred photo editing program of choice. It is simple and has all of the correction and editing capabilities most everyone needs. I use this for all of my photos, and nothing else.
  • Adobe Photoshop CC – For more advanced photo editing capabilities, the industry standard is Adobe Photoshop. With this program, you can play around with photo layers, masks, vectors, and manipulations.
  • iPhoto – On Macs, iPhoto comes pre-loaded at no additional cost. This software has simple photo editing and color-correction tools you can use to make quick tweaks to your images.
  • Aperture Pro – The advanced Apple-specific photo editor program is called Aperture. It has similar functions to Lightroom, and can be purchased as a software license rather than on a monthly basis.

For phone editing:

  • Snapseed – In my opinion, Snapseed is the best phone-specific editing program. It has all of the basic exposure and color correction tools you need in a sleek and user-friendly interface.
  • VSCO – Another great photo editing app is VSCO, which offers several different modes and filters for automatic processing. I recommend using the color correction tools for the best results.
  • Instagram – In the Instagram app itself, you can make simple color corrections. If you post primarily to Instagram, this is the easiest way to edit.

4. Include the human story

People like images they can relate to. By including other people in your photos, you can add an additional layer of complexity to your shots. It’s natural to want to clear people out of a beautiful landscape photo, but think about how you can gracefully incorporate them instead. This technique could add a flavor to your photos that you weren’t considering before.

5. Wait for it

Often, the best photos in the world require some serious patience and thought. How else do you think people shoot photos of things like lightning, or rare wildlife? If there’s a specific event or image you want to capture, be prepared to wait for it. In today’s digital age, we have basically unlimited chances to catch the moments we’re waiting for. Although waiting around for the right moment can require patience, the incredible images you can capture are worth the extra time and effort.

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Kay is a full-time working professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare vacation day to get outside and explore the world. When she travels, she loves visiting the most iconic and naturally beautiful destinations in the USA and abroad. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, running through a park, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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