Travel Photography Tips for Beginners

8 Travel Photography Tips for Beginners

If you’re new to photography, but you want to capture your travel memories better, this post is for you!

A camera sounded like a good investment to make before you travel, but now that you have it you’re a little overwhelmed. All you really know how to do is point, click, and hope for the best. The pictures turn out alright, but there’s really no magic to them. Sound familiar? 

I’ve been there too. But a couple years and about 10,000 photos later, I’ve learned a lot and have great travel photos that I’m proud of. So here are 8 foundational tips to get you taking better travel photos in no time.

Travel Photography for Beginners

Use Manual Mode

The first thing you should be doing to shoot better photos with a DSLR camera is using manual mode. With manual mode you have much more control over the exposure and the focus of the shot, which will allow you to capture the moment a lot better. The three main things you need to learn to use in manual mode are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These take a bit of a learning curve to master, so if you’re new to shooting in manual, start with a guide like this one.

Travel Photography for Beginners
Auto mode will not capture a golden hour like this!

Shoot in Raw

On your camera settings, change your shooting mode from JPEG to RAW. JPEG files are compressed to save space on your memory card, but they don’t hold as much information. Whereas RAW files are unprocessed and capture more information. So RAW images will actually give you much more flexibility and control over the editing process for the photo.

Travel Photography for Beginners
I was able to capture so much more detail in this scene and enhance the shadows exactly how I wanted to by shooting in RAW.

Don’t Overexpose

One of the reasons you want to shoot in manual mode is to avoid overexposure of the photo. By setting your own shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, you’ll control the exposure, or lighting. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s a lot easier to brighten up a photo than it is to make it darker during editing.

Photography Tips for Beginners


Pay Attention to Composition

Composition is how subjects are placed in the frame. There’s plenty of ways to compose your photos, but the most basic concept is the “rule of thirds.” Essentially, this helps you place your subject in the image in an interesting and natural way. Here’s how it works:

  • Divide the image into 9 parts using two horizontal and two vertical lines.
  • Ideal positions for the subject are on one of the lines, or at one of the four intersections of the lines.
  • For example, if your subject is a person, place them on one of the vertical lines. If you’re photographing a landscape, place the horizon at one of the horizontal lines. If you have a smaller subject like a moped, place it at one of the four corners.

Composition in Travel Photography


Other ways to compose your photos:

  • Shoot from different angles to get interesting viewpoints
  • Play with geometry and balance by using symmetry and/or negative space
  • Try including some foreground in the image to add depth
  • Photograph details like texture and shapes


Composition in Travel Photography
Using foreground to create depth, and capturing details.

Zoom with Your Legs

Before you think about zooming your lens, start by physically moving towards the image. The more that you zoom your lens, the less quality and detail the camera is going to be able to capture. For clear, detailed photos, get closer to your subject.

Capturing Detail in Your Photos

Use People as Subjects

One of my greatest regrets when I sift through travel photos from the previous destination is that there’s not enough people. It’s so easy to take a hundred pictures of the scenes around you when it seems like around every corner is another magnificent building or landscape. But looking back, the most interesting photos I have are always the ones that include people. So fight the urge to crop all the people out of your shot. Instead, get creative in using them to enhance your image and tell the story.

Photographing People
Using the Mona Lisa as my background rather than the subject was wildly entertaining.

Focus on Your Subject

Whether the subject is a person, a building, or the food in front of you, please for the love of all things make sure that it is in focus. There are a lot of things that you can fix about a photo when you go to edit it, but this is not one of them. I’ll be honest, I usually still use Auto Focus, but I do so with caution (and a lot of takes).

Take the time to research your camera and the different focus options available to you, because it sure is disappointing when you think you got a fantastic photo, only to realize that the camera was focusing on the Trevi Fountain, and not the person tossing a coin into it. 

Travel Photography Tips
I asked several people to take this photo for me, but unfortunately the results were the same each time–out of focus. The joys of solo traveling, ha!

Edit With Care

Editing your photos is where you put the icing on the cake. I edit almost all my photos in Adobe Lightroom (also available as an app). This software has magnificent abilities, and it’s worth it to learn them.

Sometimes for iPhone photos I just want to quickly throw on my Instagram, I’ll cheat and use VSCO, but this app won’t let you keep near the quality or resolution of the image that Lightroom does.

There’s a lot to say about editing, and everybody really has their own style. But here are some quick tips to keep in mind: 

  • You know how a sunset is never as good in a picture as it was in real life? Editing is kind of combating that effect. Use it as a tool to restore the beauty and feeling of that moment or scene that you captured. 
  • Always start with the exposure of the photo. Once this is adjusted properly, try the effects of contrast, highlights, and shadows.
  • Next move onto color. Use the temperature, vibrance, and HSL tools to capture the color sentiment that you’re going for. Use the saturation tool with care–over-saturating or under-saturting (without compensating with another tool) can leave your photos looking too edited or your subjects too ghosty.
  • If your image needs some sharpening up, use the sharpen and/or clarity tool. Likewise, to create a softer, more whimsical effect, slightly move the clarity slider in the opposite direction.

How to Edit Your Travel Photos

Editing is truly a bear of a topic, so stay tuned for more tips on this!

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8 Travel Photography Tips for Beginners

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