Ten More Tips for Better Travel Photography

I travel quite a bit, and am often thinking about travel photography even when I am not traveling.  It’s just something I love.  Over the years I have been on a lot of trips, and I feel like I learn something new each time about how I can do a better job in terms of getting great shots on future trips.

I compiled a list once before, which was 10 Tips for Better Travel Photography.  That article was my first real list here on the site, and over time I have come up with additional tips that I thought I could share here.

So, consider this list 10 More Tips for Better Travel Photography.  These run the gamut from general advice to travel ideas to actual photo sites to investigate when on the road.  Let me know how it works out for you!

So without further delay, here’s the list of ideas:

1.) Wander some alleys and back streets.

Whenever you travel to a new town, do you just focus on the big sites and shoot them?  As I mentioned in the first list, it’s a great idea to get some of the “small shots” in addition to the big ones.  One great place to do this is in a historic town center.  But instead of staying on the tourist-packed main street, wander off down side streets and empty alleys.  You will more often than not find some interesting little scenes.


2.) Graffiti is just another form of art.

Many folks consider graffiti to be an eyesore, but I like it and think of it as just another form of artistic expression.  Sure, maybe the artist was a bit inconsiderate in his choice of location, but despite that I love when I find some nice graffiti.  It’s cool.  It also is fun to shoot, especially in HDR.  I always am looking for cool graffiti when I travel.  It adds another dimension to you photo album from a new place.  It’s not all touristy spots, and that makes for a more interesting experience.

A corner in Chinatown.jpg

3.) Skip the organized tours.

You may disagree with this one, but I generally prefer to tour a place by myself, if at all possible.  Some places only offer group tours, but if I can run off on my own that is always my preference.  Why?  Well, it’s a couple of reasons.  While it’s hard to get tourist-free shots in most places, it’s doubly hard if you are surrounded by a group.  You can never get a clean shot.  The other thing is that they are always ready to move on and tell you about the next part of the tour.  Maybe I’m not ready to move yet.  Maybe I found something interesting.  Maybe I need more time.  Groups don’t like folks that aren’t staying in synch with them.  You become a pain.  That’s fun for neither of us.

4.) Shoot the same thing twice or more.

I posted an essay here a while back about how monotony can breed creativity.  What I was expressing is that when you shoot the same thing again and again, it forces you to look for new, original ways to capture that subject.  That’s true whether you are at home shooting something, or traveling to a place you have visited before.  When I am in London, I always shoot at Big Ben and the Westminster Bridge.  And though I may not succeed each time, I try and come at it from a new point of view.  It’s good for the artist within.


5.) Cross that bridge when you come to it.

Bridges are one of my favorite photographic subjects, and probably are for you too.  Whether you are drawn in by the architecture, or the reflections in the water at night, or something else, they just make an incredibly compelling subject.  I definitely seek them out when I travel, and you should too. It works every time.

Sunrise on the Bay Bridge.jpg

6.) Shoot in the rain.

While rain can be a real drag for a photo outing, it can also help you in at least a couple of ways.  The first is that it drives all the tourists inside, because of course they don’t want to get wet.  But the good news is that they normally stay inside, at least for a while.  What that means is that hopefully it’s a short rain, and you now have much clearer shots, devoid of all the human traffic.

Secondly though, the rain leaves a nice glisten on the ground which is great for photography.  It really accentuates light and reflections, and adds a little drama to the scene.

Thirdly, rain comes from clouds of course, and clouds can mean dramatic skies.  We like dramatic skies - they can be really fun to photograph, especially at sunset.

So if it rains on your trip, look on the bright side and try to find a way to benefit from it.

7.) Get your museum fix.

I enjoy visiting museums when I travels, but I am not a total art fanatic.  I don’t study it a lot, and could certainly benefit from a better artistic education.  But I do know that most museums have pretty cool architecture, and I love to shoot architecture.  So look into local museums when you are on the road.  There can be some great things to shoot there.  Especially if that light rain we just talked about turns into a huge storm, you can still find something to shoot in a museum.  Of course, they get more crowded when it rains, so that can be an issue.

The other thing to consider is that many of us photographers prefer to shoot in the soft light of early morning, or late in the day.  That leaves a wide open time span in the middle of the day when the harsh, bright sunlight makes it hard to get decent shots.  This is another great time to visit a museum.


8.) Go back to school.

One of my other favorites things to do in a city is to check out the local university, assuming there is one.  I find all sorts of interesting architecture to shoot at a university, and depending on the time of day (and day of the week, for that matter) you may find crowds a lot lighter than at a museum.  Go check it out - I bet you find something interesting.

Sunrise at Trinity College.jpg

9.) Stay out late.

In my last list I urged you to get up early, so that you can capture photos of popular spots without all the crowds around them.  This works at the other end of the day too, though not often quite as well, since more people are out late than up early.

But nonetheless, there can be great light at sunset, and depending on where you are and what time of year it is (sunset in Europe in the summer can be really late, like 10pm or so), you may find the scene mostly empty of tourists.  Worst case - it’s a lot more empty than during the daytime, when all the tourists and tour groups are milling about.

The Milky Way.jpg

10.) Find a cool door.

There’s just something about an awesome-looking door. Don’t you love them?  I bet you do.  I am always looking for interesting doors when I travel, and either shoot them directly, or try and incorporate them into a scene somehow.  I’m not sure if it’s some symbolic message representing new experiences or the mental games about what may be behind the door, but they can be very interesting photo subjects.  Find some and I bet you will start to incorporate more of them into your travel shots.


Well, that’s it for now.  Let me know what other ideas you have!