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How To Take Better Travel Photos

Everybody loves great travel photos, but few people understand how to take them.

When you take your group on trips, chances are that you and your travelers spend a lot of time snapping photos. It’s a great way to document your journey and relive the memories once you return home. And as a travel planner, having photos can help you put together engaging marketing materials that will drive sign-ups for future trips.

Unfortunately, many travelers end up disappointed because the pictures they took didn’t come out as well as they had hoped. Some people think if they buy expensive cameras, they’ll end up with better photos, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Getting great photos, particularly while you’re traveling, has more to do with what you’re shooting — and how you’re shooting — than the equipment you use.

1) Choose your gear wisely.

Before you buy or pack a camera, think strategically about your needs and abilities. Big, fancy cameras can take amazing photos, but only if you understand how to use them. They can often be bulky and heavy. If you’re taking general travel pictures and candid snapshots of your friends, the camera on your phone will do a good job and be much easier to carry. If you want to zoom in on wildlife or capture wide-angle landscapes, though, you’ll need more advanced equipment.

2) Learn your camera.

Today’s cameras, both those on smartphones and freestanding devices, offer users a broader range of features and choices than ever before. Knowing how to use these features can help you take much better photos, but there’s often a learning curve involved. You won’t want to spend your time during the trip trying to figure out how your camera works. So take some time before you depart to experiment with your camera or smartphone app and to figure out how to take advantage of all the tools it offers.

3) Look for details.

Once you’re on the road and taking pictures, it’s tempting to shoot only big things: monuments, statues, buildings, landscapes, etc. But it can be frustratingly difficult to capture the magnitude of a large object in a photo. You’ll have better results if you keep your eye out for smaller, more interesting details. Instead of shooting the entire building, for example, focus on the design in the wrought iron gate or the colorful shutters around the windows. Geometric patterns and natural objects like flower petals also make interesting close-up photos.

4) Capture people, not just places.

Another temptation of the novice travel photographer is to shoot photos of landmarks and important places while forgetting about the people who inhabit them. It’s human interaction that makes travel most engaging, and photos with people in them can tell much more memorable stories. So in addition to getting pictures of places, take pictures of the people in those places, both the locals you encounter there and the people in your group. Just leave enough of the landmark in the background that you remember where the photo was taken.

5) Think about lighting.

There’s an old saying among photographers: You’re not shooting the subjects; you’re shooting the light. The lighting of your scene has a dramatic impact on the quality of your photos. Try to shoot in well-lit places and angle your subjects in such a way that the sun or other light source is shining on them as directly as possible. And avoid uneven lighting; if there are both bright spots and shadows in your frame, the resulting photo will be either way too dark or washed out with light.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.