Tips for better travel photos – take your pics to the next level

We can’t deny it: pictures are among the most special memories from our trips. Of course, there are souvenirs with sentimental value, food, and everything, but pictures make us remember the incredible days that we live in that destination. I really love to have good photos during my trips. All I know about photography I learned from my sister, Meiry. She taught me how to set up my camera and always gives me several tips. So, I invited her to write about it and give some tips to help you have incredible memories from your trip to New York City – or anywhere in the world! For those who want to know more about her work, just click here. She lives in Paris and does photoshoots in the city. Also, follow her on Instagram @flaneriephoto.

When Laura asked me to write a post about travel photos, I was in doubt about how to approach the subject. Nothing instigates me more than photographing in a place I’ve never been before. That’s because it brings together two of my passions: photography and travel. My memory is not the best, and when I review photos from a trip that happened a long time ago, I remember not only the exact moment of the click but also what I had eaten before, how I get to the place, this kind of thing. However, I think most tips would not necessarily be exclusively for travel photos, but for any type of photo. I like to observe many things before I photograph, and I will share some of these things here. I will illustrate this post with older and more recent photos, according to some points that I take into consideration to shoot. Of course, these are important points for me, and may not be for you, but this is what is cool about photography: there is no rule.

Besides the photos of the place itself, I like having at least one nice photo of myself, because I do not shoot myself often, so it’s a good opportunity. And then we get to the first point. A lot of people love selfies, I’m not much of a fan of it. Especially if it is taken with a selfie stick. It must be because I live in a city so touristy that I see many self-sticks all the time, and not everyone has a sense of space when using that thing…

In general, selfies are made with a phone and slightly deform the face, because of the large angle of the lens. But the main point here is that selfie shows a lot more of the person than of the place, and the idea, at least for me, on a trip, is to show the place that we are visiting, right? But if you’re loving yourself and the light is good, why not? If you can’t avoid the selfie stick, at least take the photo hiding it and leave it only for the open and spacious places. Never use the selfie stick at museums. Never. Please.

Since I’m not a selfie expert, I have a few options. The first one is taking the photo by myself if I have the tripod and the trigger (I also recommend using the timer function, which is available on any camera or smartphone). You can also support the camera or smartphone in some wall or object and it usually works. The second option is to ask someone to take the picture for me. I always take a picture of the person before, to show how I want it, and I set the camera. If I’m traveling alone, I wait until I see someone with a camera of the same type as mine, because then I’m sure that at least the focus will be good. The last option is the selfie. But then I try to do something different to show the place:

NYC – In that case, on the MET rooftop, I took advantage of the mirror glass to register me in the place of a different way.

If you want to be in a picture with a monument, building, or anything very large, the secret is to take distance. If you are at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, for example, it will be very difficult to get a picture getting everything and this angle does not always give a good result. I’d say it’s risky.  Also, if the photographer takes distance and you keep near to the monument, you be small and unrecognizable in the picture. Go far away from the monument with the photographer and get your picture. If there are many people around you, be patient, and wait for the perfect moment.

Now I will focus more on pictures of places, not necessarily portraits, but many of the tips are applicable in all cases, so I will illustrate with pictures and landscapes. As I talked about museums before, I will ask you something. Avoid staying with your phone in front of the arts, taking a lot of photos. Everyone here wants to see the art and if you shoot and still want to choose the filters with the cell phone wielded in front of the art (I’ve seen this so many times) what you will get is a not very good picture of the work and much people angry with you. If you can not resist, try to take some original photos. If it is only to register the art, remember that you will find super faithful reproductions and in high resolution of tons of works of art on the internet.

Another tip: wake up early. Yes, you are traveling, probably with jet lag, tired… but do it. It is not for one or two good reasons. Walking very early gives you the unique opportunity to see the place free of tourists, quiet and, also, you can enjoy the sunrise and that wonderful light of the morning.

This is just another photo taken inside the Vatican museum. I just told you that is not always good to shoot in a museum, but only you will know. In that case, I wanted to shoot the hallway completely empty, as soon as the museum opened.

The sunrise light and the light before sunset are known as the golden hour. I don’t think I need to explain why right? The fact is, unlike what many people imagine, this light is best for shooting most of the time, both in tones and in softness. In the case of a portrait, you will not have that shadow from top to bottom in the eyes, as happen on midday. In the case of a landscape, you will have the sky in more colors than at any other time of day. Speaking of light, have you heard about the blue hour? Note that after the sun goes down and there is no longer anything golden, the sky is still dark. It is in an incredible blue, which does not last for many minutes. Enjoy 🙂

Etretat / Normandia / França. Waking up early on a cold day, walking up the hill, set the tripod, shooting, then go back and edit everything … who likes photography understands 🙂

Paris / France. The back of the Notre Dame cathedral, the Seine river, and the colorful sky just after sunset.

Plaça España / Sevilla – This is a photo that I took of Laura in Seville. The sky stayed like this just for a few minutes. Maybe it’s ephemerality that makes blue hour so special.

Find out if there is something special happening at the place during the time you will be there. And register. It could be an annual party, a parade, an intervention …

During a period of a few days in the year, it is possible to see the white nights in some places on the planet. They receive this name because the sun sets and rises almost at the same point and in such a short period of time that it does not become completely dark. It’s like an extended golden hour / blue hour, two together in one. In this photo, a photo from summer 2016 in St. Petersburg / Russia.

Also, learn to respect rules, culture, and the past. In many places, photography is prohibited. Whatever the reason, respect. Try to know a little about the history and the culture of the place and, regardless of your personal judgment, respect.

The Sarajevo’s Roses, as the pump marks that remind us all the time in the history of the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are not always respected. The residents prefer today that they are covered by asphalt, due to the disrespect that many tourists demonstrate. Don’t be that kind of tourist.

Remember to be observant, thorough, patient. Wait for the right moment. Look up and down. Look for reflexes. Be creative!

Look up and wait for the right moment. I saw these birds approaching, I waited a few moments for them to approach the roof of the castle, and I was able to add a new element. Château de Chenonceau / Loire Valley / France

I didn’t like Times Square in NYC. It was a place that made me feel overwhelmed. But I wanted to register that confusion somehow. I saw a puddle. I bent to see if I could get a nice reflection. Positive. There was a taxi there. I adjusted the exposure time to capture some of the movement, regardless of the sharpness that would be obtained. The taxi passed by and I clicked. Because of the exposition time, my hand trembled and the photo was not clear. But that was the feeling I had. For some people, the photo has a problem. But that was exactly what I wanted to capture.

Glass is great for reflection shots. In this photo, I was able to combine landscape, in the reflection, with portrait, and to obtain an interesting and different result.

Speaking of unfavorable conditions, have you thought about waking up on a cold and rainy day, and leaving early for photos? This formula is not always synonymous with failure.

I chose this picture because, although it is not a travel photo, it sums up a lot of what I have to say: get away from the monuments, wake up early, do not be afraid of the rain! Look at the reflection that water creates on the ground … and the Trocadero, one of the most crowded places in Paris, even early in the morning, in a rare moment: completely empty.

Well, you didn’t wake up early and now the place is full? This is not always a problem. Think of some way to explore the people’s presence. Usually, the movement is an element that enriches the photo. Increase the exposure time a bit and catch people like smudges!

What if you really don’t want anyone in your photo? Be patient. At some point, you will succeed.

I had to wait a long time before I could take this picture. The gallery was crowded, people were passing all the time. But I had everything ready, I was prepared and within a few seconds, no one passed. Voilà.

“But I don’t have a good camera like yours … my pictures will never be great …” Really? Have you ever heard that the best camera is the one with you? Yeah. That says two things to me. The first is: always have your camera with you. You never know when you will come across something incredible. The second is that you should try to do the best you can with what you have in hand. So don’t become obsessed with the equipment. It is often important to leave the camera aside and enjoy the moment.

Observe people, animals … not just the landscape. You will find out a lot about the place you are visiting.

This is an image you may have in mind when you think of who you are going to see in Paris. But the following photo was also made here.

If you are photographing a stranger, you have two options. Ask for his authorization or … make sure you will not be seen. Legislation regarding the image is different in each country, and it is better not to risk it. We never know what the person’s reaction will be like. And if you decide to publish the photo, have a good sense.

Try new frames, look for different angles, look up, look down … be more observant. Try to do something original, as far as possible, if you are shooting something that has been photographed millions of times. Notice the small things, the details, the objects. Often they tell a story or reveal something that is not in the landscape.

Sometimes, all you have to do is looking around to find something interesting. In that case, I was not finding a good frame to photograph this lake, but I didn’t want to leave without a memory. I ended up seeing this mushroom and choosing as the main element of the photo.

We often look at a photo and we have no idea of its size. So, I waited for someone to join the landscape to make this photo. The person brings us the notion of the dimension of the wall. (Roosevelt Island – NYC)

Be careful with your equipment. It is often better to lose the picture than to risk being stolen or damaging your camera (whether with rainwater, mud, dust …). By the way, know very well all the features of your equipment. Some landscapes don’t fit the angle of your lens? How about setting up a panorama? Smartphone cameras already have the function (although I can never get it right …), and you can also take multiple pictures with your camera and then set one.

Lago di Ledro – Italia

New York

Mostar – Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the case of the pics above, I took 5, 6, 7 shots with the camera, and then I combined them all in one post-treatment. Speaking of which, don’t forget the photo treatment. Check if the horizon has been aligned and if the exposure has been correct … There are so many software and apps to do this, it is so fast and practical, even on the smartphone … you don’t have to discard a photo because of a detail that can be easily adjusted. Check out the potential 🙂

This is the same picture above and below, but while the top is raw, the bottom one has been edited.

Also, once the photo is ready, be sure to ensure the security of your memories by backing up and, why not, by printing and editing an album?

I hope you have enjoyed my sister’s tips! Follow her on Instagram @flaneriephoto. To know more about her work, just click here. As I mentioned at the beginning, she lives in Paris and does photoshoots in the city!

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