What I’ve Learned about Travel Photography

This Cambodian trip was my first “serious” go at travel photography… obviously I have traveled before … with a  camera… but this was the first time where the photography was really intended as the core of the travel experience.

With a half decent camera and a bit of luck, pretty much anyone is capable of taking a good travel photo, but to consistently take Great Travel Photos requires, planning, experience, patience (and still a bit of luck)

During this trip I have learned a LOT about things that I should and shouldn’t be doing to improve the quality of my travel photos.  Here are some of my hot tips :

  • IMG_5910Planning is critical – research the location/subject you plan to shoot and have an understanding of the type of photo that you are looking for.
    • Is it weather dependent?
    • Where should the light be coming from?
    • what time of day is best?
    • etc..
  • Right place right time – once you have planned the shot you can work out the best location and time of day to get the shot you are after (and how to get there)
  • Get a Guide – whilst independent travel offers great flexibility, for the serious photographer, an experienced, local language speaking guide, can open up a lot of doors and provide all sorts of photo opportunities which would not otherwise be available.  They know how and when to get to places and can take away a lot of the dramas associated with logistics.  They often have established relationships with other locals (monks, police, drivers, villagers, etc..)  providing greater access and more photo opportunities than you could hope to achieve on your own
  • Think outside the box – Don’t be content with capturing another”traditional” iconic photo.  Look for opportunities to change or improve on it.  When framing your photo look for ways to improve the shot… a passive monk, a low hanging branch, a passing bird…
  • IMG_5372Consider the angles – Don’t just walk up and take the shot… Consider how the photo could be improved from different angles… Are you best to move to the left or right… crouch (or even lie) down, or climb up on something for a different perspective?
  • Shoot Wide – If in doubt, shoot a bit wider angle than you might otherwise… It is much better to crop a shot in post production, than wish you hadn’t missed out something crucial.
  • Engage with your subject –  If you are photographing people, it is usually better to talk to them and engage with them.  This is not always the case – you may miss that “candid” moment, but generally a responsive, smiling, interacting subject will work better.
  • Auto ISO is your friend – In travel photography (especially in low light situations), lighting can change regularly and dramatically, and you sometimes have very little time to snatch a shot while the moment lasts.  The fewer settings you need to tweak the better.  Consider shooting in Aperture or Shutter priority (depending on what type of shot you are after) with Auto ISO enabled.  This means you can snap a shot very quickly with little or no setting adjustments – and be almost guaranteed that the exposure is OK.  You will also need to learn how to use exposure compensation on your camera.
  • UnderExpose –  you should aim to NEVER blow out the highlights on your shots (i.e. never overexpose) even if this means taking significantly underexposed photos.  As soon as a part of a photo has been overexposed, it is losing information which can NOT be recovered.  Lighting and brightness adjustments in post production on under exposed images give you a lot of latitude and it is usually much easier to recover underexposed images than it is overexposed ones.
  • 1-IMG_7364Post Processing is OK – I am a fan of minimal post production (who has time to spend hours processing hundreds of photos after every shoot), but few (if any) of the great shots we see evry day in magazines and on the internet have NO post production.  Don’t overdo it, too much processing is a great way to spoil a photo, and try to keep it looking natural and not obviously processed (unless that is the look you are after), but with a little effort, post production can turn ordinary photos into ones that have a real impact.
  • Don’t accept Good aim for Great –  Don’t just be satisfied with taking good photos, consider every carefully shot and strive to make EVERY photo you take a Great Photo.


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