A Pro's Guide To Taking Amazing Travel Photos

Want to up your travel photography game? Check out these top tips from photography guru and frequent Trekker Kaye Ford of Fordtography...

In my opinion, travel photography is one of the kinds of photography you can get truly creative in. You have a lot of time and freedom to really experience new things and get fully creative, but also it is a brand new place you have never been before and in my eyes brand new places are super inspiring.

Everyone sees places in a whole different way and no two photos will ever truly be the same even if the subject matter is the same. That is because we all have our own eyes and mind that see the world and this can translate across into photographs you take. But also the subject matter itself is a variable and so is weather and things out of our control.

Whilst I can’t say how you should see the world, I can give you some tips and tricks to up your travel photography game...

 Two girls sat at tne edge of Lake Louise in Canada

1. Change up your focus

In this day and age of social media everybody wants photos of themselves in photogenic places they have travelled too. Who wouldn’t??

But I think the better photos come from NOT focusing on your travel buddies. That way they're still in the shot and it's still an Instagrammable photograph, but the focus is on the breathtaking landscapes you may be in and around. It gives that real true 'Point of View', and makes the viewer believe they are there. It allows the viewer to get sucked into that photograph, and in my eyes it is totally 'like'-worthy.

2. Go for candid shots

When you are focusing on people in shots, try taking candid ones where your subjects don’t actually know you are photographing them. Like this shot of the sunset at the Grand Canyon. The buddies in my group were lovingly staring out at the sunset, and instead of me photographing the landscape, I focused my camera on them so it was more of a portrait with some stunning scenery blurred out behind. It’s a super candid way of photographing people and it’s more natural than anything posed. It also evokes more emotion within your photograph, and will probably be more of an iconic photo than if you had got the two subjects to stand side by side and smile.

Las Vegas from the Stratosphere

3. Think creatively

How can you capture a place in a more memorable way??

We all know about the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, the tallest building on the strip. Yeah, you could stand on the strip and take a snap of it, but that has been done countless times hasn’t it?

So think differently, and think creatively. I went up the Stratosphere because I wanted to see the whole of Vegas. I noticed the shadow of the Stratosphere so decided that it shows the building off in a whole new and unique way. It shows off a tiny bit of the Vegas streets too.

 San Francisco Skyline from the Golden Gate Bridge

 Think how else you could do this whilst travelling. I love to do shots that include flags. Most ‘tourist’ places especially in the US and Canada have them, and sometimes a shot of the flag in its surrounding gives a great taste of where you are and captures it in a more memorable way. I have photos of the US flag hanging off the back of a boat to the Statue of Liberty with the NYC skyline behind it. THAT's a photo that sums up NYC for sure. Or what about a shot of San Francisco through the wiring of the golden gate bridge? That’s pretty interesting and unique, right?

Peak to Peak Gondola in Whistler, Canada

4. Include tourists in your photo.

No place is 100% empty of tourists or people. Don’t be one of those people who tries to photoshop them out and create more work for yourself. Embrace them and include them in your photos! BUT, never actively focus on them. Nobody really likes to be involved in other people's photographs. I feel by including tourists in your photos it gives a real sense of atmosphere and truth to the situation. It’s a true documentation of what a place was like at the time and moment you visited.

 

5. Take time to play around with your camera settings

Travel allows freedom of creativity as you are the one who plans the time you have in places, or even if the trip has an itinerary to it you will still always be given time for those necessary photos. This is where you can play around with long exposures - try it in national parks where water is involved, or with lights in Vegas.

Have a play with the basics of photography and shutter speeds and apertures and see what you can come up with! I hadn’t done long exposures for so long so I gave some a go when in Yosemite National Park which is full of waterfalls.

 Girl on canoe at Emerald Lake, Canada

6. Find inspiration before you go

Search Instagram for photo inspiration in places you are going. Along with Pinterest, it's a gold mine for travel inspiration, whether it be planning places to go or even looking at the kinds of photographs other people take in places you are travelling to. You may even find places you hadn’t considered visiting will pop up and you'll fall in love with the idea of going. But mainly, it’s just a great mine of photographic inspiration, so you can get inspired about the kinds of images you want to take when you're there.

 

7. Get yourself some gear

A portable lightweight tripod can help you achieve your photo vision. Sometimes there just isn’t anyone around that can take a shot of yourself the exact way you want it. My vision is different to somebody elses, so sometimes the easiest way is to just have no fear and set up a tripod, put your camera on it and put it onto a timer or use your phone as a remote control.

My cameras have wifi capabilites, which means I can use my smartphone as a remote control and I change all my settings via my phone also. Then when the timer is counting down, I shove my phone into a pocket and pose the way I want to. That way, I still have total control of the shot and can achieve the vision I want. If you have a decent backpack as a travel bag, a small and lightweight tripod can fit into one quite nicely.

 Hiking the Athabasca Glacier in Canada

8. Don't be afraid of editing

Snow can be difficult to photograph in. White reflects light so sometimes it can be a mess of bright light. Sometimes snow can come out grey in photographs so you need to overexpose to make it brighter.

Don’t be scared of needing to edit your travel photos, and don’t be disheartened by what they look like on the back of a camera. The colouring is always different once you put the images onto a computer or a phone anyway. Sometimes the best thing to do is underexpose snow and have it look grey, and then you can brighten it all up in editing without losing any detail in any bright spots. 

 Canada flag at Emerald Lake

There we have it! Some of my top tips for travel photography, and how to make your photos as memorable as possible to capture your travels! I still love a good iPhone snap, but I find the images I think about a lot more when capturing them are the ones I end up remembering the most and looking back on the most. I also end up having more fun when I think about what I am going to capture and I get so excited when it works out and I see my vision come to life in front of me.

So for the next trip you take, remember some of these photography tips and go out and create your best memories!

Images from the Mountie and Western BLT tours by Kaye Ford

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