Five Tips for taking better travel photos

Remember the old joke about the dreaded invite over to see someone’s vacation photos? Well that scenario is long gone now that we see instant updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There was a good reason though for that dreaded invite and it is because the photos were usually boring. A cliche shot standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, a random photo of a famous landmark, or a photo of a famous piece of art in a museum is so over done that we have simply lost interest. 

So what does make for more interesting travel photos? Having recently returned from Berlin I thought I would share a few of my images to illustrate five tips for taking better travel photos.

1.Shoot no matter what the weather. You never know what the weather will be like when you travel  so get comfortable shooting in all conditions. We spent nine days in Berlin and it rained…EVERY…SINGLE…DAY! Seriously, over the nine days we were in Berlin the weather ranged from a steady light drizzle to a “cellular burst” that produced heavy rain and 70 MPH winds. Sadly, we found out the next day that two people were killed during the storm from falling trees. The sun finally came out late afternoon our last day there. At first I was really cranky that I wouldn’t be able to get any good shots of the city but actually some of my favorite images were taken in the rain. The photo below was me the entire time in Berlin. Everything I photographed was from under this umbrella. 

Nine days in Berlin photographing in the rain

Shooting the famous Brandenburg gate in the rain framed by all the colorful umbrellas and rain coats added some interest and color. I like the shot much better than if it was just a monument shot.

Rainy day in Berlin

Another positive thing about an overcast or rainy day is that it can bring out architectural details that shadows from the sun often hide. I love the way the Cathedral dome stands out against the overcast sky. Putting a slim black boarder around the image helps it from getting lost on the page.

Berlin Cathedral in rain

2. Get lost and wander. Since I had the luxury of being in Berlin for over a week and had no planned agenda, my husband and I spend hours each day just wandering through the city. Getting lost is a great opportunity to find interesting images that are not typical travel photos. Not every photo has to be a beautiful view or a well known landmark. There are post cards for that. Walk down alleys, sit at a cafe and people watch. Look for interesting colors or textures or an interesting juxtaposition. The photo below was really off the beaten path but had we not wandered I would never had seen this wall that really spoke to me. I love the color, the texture, the brick arch and that blue door!

Berlin brick wall

Typical travel photo? No, visually interesting? Maybe not for you, but for me, yes.

I found this view compelling of the white building rising up over the graffiti covered plywood. Again, not a typical travel photo but I think it reflects the vibe of Berlin.


3. Shoot Inside. There was one day during our stay where the weather was truly frightening. It was down pouring rain all day and the winds were blowing so hard that parked motorcycles were flipping over. That day was definitely a museum day. There are so many interesting photo opportunities in museums but look for things to shoot besides the art work. I see so many people in a museum stand directly in front of a painting and pull out their phone. Are you there to see and experience the museum or to simply record the art work? 

I took this image at the Natural History Museum as my husband was peering into the enormous “wet” specimen room. 

Natural History Museum Berlin

I love this image of the beautiful architecture of the museum. This says more to me about the museum than had I simply just photographed a piece of art work.

4. Use people as props in your photo. Sometimes waiting around until a person walks into the frame is a perfect way to highlight the scale of something or add a human touch in the photo. The architecture of this new building becomes more impressive with the person in the photo. 

This metal spiral staircase was not nearly as interesting without the people climbing the stairs.

5. Be open to the unexpected. You never know when a great photo opportunity will present itself. When traveling be sure to keep your photo radar turned on. Always be observant and when the unexpected happens be ready to grab the shot. I had no idea a man playing a guitar would be seated at the end of this underground tunnel and the purple light made it all that more mysterious.

I posted this image of a smoking bride on Facebook and it clearly was a favorite of all the images I posted. I had about ten seconds to get this shot and had I not been on alert it would have passed me by.

Smoking Bride

My final piece of advice is to shoot lots and lots of images. The more you shoot the better the chance you will have travel photos that everyone will like to see!

What do you like to photograph best when you travel?







16 Responses to Five Tips for taking better travel photos
  1. Allyson Paris Reply

    Fabulous photos and great tips Linda. I especially like the way the light hits those specimens- it almost looks like an interior design shot.
    My favorite tip is waiting for someone to enter the shot to set off the scale. So much great info! Thanks!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Allyson. I always appreciate your comments so very much!

  2. Sheila Reply

    Great advice — especially #4. I learned to add people to give objects perspective. That being said, I do like to photograph colorful doorways. Where do you store and organize all your photos? Now that I have purged my old photo albums, I have discovered I have lots of digital ‘junk’!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Sheila, I could take at least a month and work full time just on organizing and storing my hundreds of thousands of photos! Most are on my desk top (pc) and somewhat organized by date. Others are on my iPad and organized in folders. Still more are on my lap top. I plan to start making it a priority to get organized. It’s overwhelming at this point but need to do it.

  3. Susan Silverman Reply

    What a timely post since I’m in the UK at the moment! I love the tip about having people in the photo so you can see scale. Your photos are exquisite as usual. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Debra Reply

    Right on, Linda! Great reminders to look for the unusual and embrace the unexpected! I love the purple guitarist, the person standing in the architecture, and husband peering into wet room. Good reminders that it’s all about the person’s framing in the space giving perspective and adding a human element that makes the photo relatable. Thanks for sharing rainy Berlin! I’m inspired to get out and shoot n the rain!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Debra, I think it was the first vacation I have ever taken where the weather was that bad! Luckily there was lots to do inside and it was moderately warm temps.

  5. Joanne Reply

    I so enjoy your posts, and I learn something every time! Great photos! Your suggestions are spot-on. You give me hope that, should we have a rain-out type of vacation, we’ll still make good memories…and photos. Thank you!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Joanne, it makes me so happy to hear you learn from reading my blog. I love to share and yes, lesson is don’t wait for “perfect weather” to take out your camera and shoot.

  6. Barbi Reply

    Thanks for a great post Linda. This makes me want to go back through my travel photos and see what gems I might have taken! I’ve always been looking for those sunny, bluebird days for shots, but the overcast skies add so much drama. I will remember this!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Barbi! Thanks for commenting and yes, I like to go back and look at old photos too. Sometimes there is a gem in there that was overlooked initially.

  7. Sandy Roth Reply

    Wow, Linda! You are very talented!!
    I love all your photos, especially your husband looking at the specimens!
    When traveling, I have a “thing” about doors. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them in Italy.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Sandy! OMG the doors in Italy are amazing! I must have taken a hundred photos of them. London too!

  8. Katie Reply

    Thanks for the inspiration, Linda!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Katie! Thanks and happy to hear I inspired you!

  9. Jil McDonald Reply

    Gosh, I never thought of taking photos in the rain – but why not??? It’s true to many of the fine details seem to come out ‘to play’ during a cloudy or rainy day!
    Thanks for the great tips!

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