101 Travel Photography Tips and Tricks
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Growing up my family didn’t really travel. We either camped within driving distance of home or we went back to Poland during the summer to see family. Once on our way to Poland, my parents decided to stop in Paris for 2 days and that was the extent of my travel experience until I became an adult.
Travel has always been a goal and a dream of mine. Every travel photography project I take on is a literal dream come true. When I began traveling, I cheerfully managed to make my way through every sort of travel disaster. From way under packing to leaving my travel antibiotics at home (and then getting Bridesmaids style food poisoning), I’ve made my fair share of blunders to say the least. These days most of my trips are smooth sailing and here are some of the things I’ve figured out along the way.
EDIT: Over the last couple of months, I’ve added a few tips in, made some tweaks or added new things I’ve discovered. I’ve now started marking each change with “EDIT” so you can search for that if you want to find the new stuff.
Travel Basics and a few lessons learned
1. If you can, only bring a carry on. It will save you so much time getting through the airport. If you can’t and you have to check a bag, be sure to grab your memory cards and carry those on you. Equipment can be replaced, photos can’t.
2. Have a stash of antibiotics for every international trip. Extra points for anti nausea and anti diarrhea medication. It’s easy to get them from a travel clinic or through your doctor. I’ve only needed them on 2 trips but when your body decides to have a full scale meltdown, they’re a relief to have on hand. Plus, it can be difficult to get a Doctor in some places. Some product links are affiliate links but all are where I make my gear purchases. You can also find all of my photography gear recommendations here. Some product links are affiliate links but all are where I make my gear purchases. You can also find all of my photography gear recommendations here.
3. Carry butt wipes. They will save your ass. Literally. In all seriousness, they’re great. Just don’t be a jerk and flush them in countries with iffy septic tank systems.
4. Get Tripit. It makes trip organization a million times easier. Instead of trying to think through time zone changes and connections and when to leave for the airport, it’ll do all that for you. Also, it’ll alert you if your flight is delayed or you have a gate change. It’s very nice to have all of the latest information instantly on had. Last super awesome thing is that it makes everything available even if you don’t have wifi so no more fumbling through all your papers and stuff to figure out your hotel address.
5. Check the State Department website for travel advisories. I’ve traveled through countries with travel advisories without a problem but it’s just good to have a sense of what you’re heading into. Any extra research on dos and don’ts is always helpful. For example, don’t do drugs in Singapore.
6. Get vaccinations. Keep a record of them. A yellow card is great to have stapled into your passport. It makes it easy to keep track of your vaccination without having to dig through your medical record before a trip. You can call to see if your usual Doctor provides travel vaccinations and if not, look for a local travel clinic.
7. Consider travel insurance for yourself and for your equipment, especially if you’re traveling somewhere with a travel advisory. I’ve used World Nomads in the past.
8. At a minimum plan for 2 days in each spot. I tend to travel quickly but I try to plan for at least 2 to 3 days in each location. I feel like it should be acknowledged that everyone enjoys travel at a different pace. I’ve seen a lot of scolding blog posts from travelers about the ideal amount of time to spend on a trip. The reality is that it’s different for everyone. Figure out what pace suits you and go with it.
9. Get a credit card that’ll give you travel points. I currently have the Chase Ink card (referral link fyi) and usually take one international trip for free each year thanks to it. You can also get one of these cards, which don’t have annual fees. Just remember to be responsible and spend within your limits. Seriously. Credit card interest is no joke.
10. As often as possible, pay for things on your credit card when making purchases abroad. Credit cards often have a variety of protections so if anything goes wrong or you end up getting scammed (unfortunately it happens), you’ll have some recourse.
11. Sign up for airline frequent flier clubs, hotel clubs and rental car clubs. Store all of your login and status data in a spreadsheet or LastPass (my preferred secure password manager). These are kind of a pain but they’re worthwhile if you travel a lot.
Travel Photography Research
12. From travel photographer Karthika Gupta - Scope out all the places you want to visit from some of the obvious sources like Instagram, Pinterest, guide books and even tourism websites. For something a little bit more authentic and off-the-beaten-path ask around friends or even post in online groups. There is always a friend who knows a friend who knows someone who has an interesting unknown location recommendation.
13. Take timing into consideration when you’re planning out a trip. For example, Eli and I were once planning a trip in October but couldn’t quite decide on a place so I searched for “best places to visit in October” and stumbled across the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. We went and it was incredible. I keep a list of places that I want to go with ideal times to visit plus times that would be best to avoid.
14. If you find an amazing flight deal, always be sure to do a bit research into hotel, rental car and food costs. A few years back, I got an amazing flight to Iceland. It was just a bit over $500 for Eli and I both to go round trip, which seemed like a steal but once we got to Iceland we discovered that between our rental car, gas, food and hotel costs we ended up spending just as much as we would have on a typical trip. Thankfully, I was working on a commercial photography project for MasterCard during the trip and was able to write off some of the costs.
15. Whenever I run across someone that lives abroad, I ask them about their favorite travel destinations. It’s a good way to peek outside of the American travel bubble perspective that I live in.
16. Keep a running log of places or events that you’d like to visit. There’s so many places to see in the world and it can be hard to keep track of things. I’m constantly getting excited about some destination from a conversation or an article and then forgetting about it a few months later. It helps to have a list with specific ideas. Plus it’s always satisfying when things finally come together and you get to visit.
17. I love digging through old travel magazines when I need inspiration. It’s interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same in some destinations. Researching into areas that were widely covered in the 70s, 80s and 90s can lead to some fun and interesting ideas.
18. Check out the geotag for the destination on Instagram before your trip and watch the stories for it. It’s also a good way to find new places and influencer accounts that have interesting recommendations.
19. EDIT: My favorite way to find interesting spots to photograph these days is via Instagram. Whenever I see an interesting spot, I toss into a collection for some future trip. At the moment I have collections for Paris, Morocco, Savannah, Charleston, Washington DC, Spain and so on. Sometimes I don’t get back around to my collection for months but it’s nice to know I have a starting point for future trips.
20. If you can afford a guided tour on your travels, get one at the beginning of the trip. Guides are particularly helpful in places where there’s a language barrier. It’s a great way to get a ton of cultural questions answered. Not all guides are great. This is unfortunate but every now and again if you travel often enough you’ll land on a grumpy guide that will just grouse. If this happens try to switch guides as quickly as possible.
21. Sometimes guides will take you to photogenic places or try to help set up shoots. I’m often skeptical about this and don’t love being shepherded to a location but it’s a thing and sometimes it’s helpful, especially in remote locations.
22. Travel should be fun. Do your research but don’t get bogged down in it. Make sure you looks up safety dos and dont’s. Check for travel warnings and see if you need to get a vaccination. Put together a list of a couple of restaurants and activities. After that, if research is fun for you then go for it but if it’s a drag you don’t need much else.
23. EDIT: On my most recent trips, I’ve been really focused on finding buildings that are architecturally interesting. I really wish that more cities offered architecture tours like Chicago but sometimes it can be pretty difficult to find cohesive information about the predominant architecture of a place. I’ve recently started searching for recent stories on Dezeen to find newish buildings to visit.
24. Always try to catch sunrise and sunset for landscape shots. It’s called golden hour for a reason! Plus heading out to photograph sunrise is a really lovely way to get through jet lag.
25. From Allison of She Dreams of Alpine - When Photographing waterfalls on your travels, be sure you know how to take long exposure shots. Long exposure shots will give you the effect of something moving in the image, such as water flow in creeks and waterfalls, and is an essential skill for taking your waterfall photographs to the next level. Many newer phones have settings that allow for long exposure shots, so be sure to take advantage of this if you aren’t familiar with how to take long exposure shots on a DSLR. Also be sure that you have a tripod with you. Having a tripod will help you keep your camera steady for long exposure shots and will keep your camera out of the water (if you have your set up in the water).
26. From Allison of She Dreams of Alpine - Another tip that is helpful for photographing waterfalls is to bring a wide-angle lens. It is really nice to have a wide-angle lens with you in order to capture the full scale of a waterfall and allows you the opportunity to take a lot of unique perspectives of the waterfalls. Check out her guide to hiking Havesu Falls for awesome waterfall images.
27. Consider bringing a range of lenses that will give you multiple focal lengths. You have to balance out variety of gear with how much you’re willing to deal with logistically and lug around but it’s always nice to have a few focal lengths.
28. From Jillian of Adventure Dragon - Always take at least one wide angle shot of a scene or place from far away. You can always zoom-in and crop the photo to create a completely different composition later, but it's impossible to zoom-back-out once you've left the site if you discover that you left something important out of the shot. This trick is especially useful for beginning photographers or bad boyfriends who don't know how to frame shots and have a tendency to accidentally chop off people's heads. (My boyfriend is a terrible photographer, but I've been able to create some amazing photographs by cropping and editing photos myself after employing this technique when having him take my photo.)
29. The light is different around the world. Be prepared to feel out of your element the first time you visit a place. The first 2 times that I visited Japan, I found it very challenging to photograph anything. The sky tends to be much whiter around Japan than most of the other places I’ve visited. Later, I noticed in Japanese movies that this is usually embraced instead of edited to look more blue. It wasn’t till my 3rd trip that I finally felt comfortable shooting around Japan.
30. For landscape panoramas, always remember that you can photo merge multiple images into a panorama in photoshop. This will give you more detail and less distortion than using a wide angle lens.
31. If you take bracket images of a landscape to create an HDR, aim to mimic the dynamic range of what your eye sees instead of creating a photo that looks supernatural. I think that extremely stylized HDR images are fine once in a while but they often look dated very quickly. Though that’s entirely my opinion so feel free to disregard if you absolutely love an intense HDR image.
32. Bring waterproof shoes for landscape photos in rainy and cold climates. Eli and I were extremely grateful to have bean boots in both Scotland and Iceland. Also, wear classic SmartWool socks! They’ll keep your feet warm and dry and make it much more tolerable to stay out in cold and wet conditions.
33. Watch out for rogue waves when photographing the ocean. If you don’t pay attention, they will get you and soak all of your gear.
34. Please, please, please be conscientious of the environment as you head out to shoot landscapes. I’ve heard people say so many times something along the lines that it doesn’t matter because they’re one person. In ecologically sensitive areas every step can be damaging. It’s so sad to hike up somewhere beautiful only to find lots of areas worn down from people hiking off trail and trash scattered about.
Thinking about Travel Photography Composition
35. I was going to say don’t follow the crowd but photos of recognizable locations do extremely well, in all regards. They do well in blog posts, they do well with a lot of photo editors and they do well on social media. So even though I want to advise you to go off and find your own perspective, I feel that would be ignoring the reality of what does well. My recommendation is to get the shot that everyone wants and everyone has and then to go out and find your own spot.
36. From Melissa of the Portly Passengers - Think beyond what you see at eye level to gain a new perspective for your photographs. Laying on the ground looking up at your subject or taking on a wider angle of your ideal image can all provide a fresh new take on your photos.
37. From Melissa of the Portly Passengers - Timing in a columniation of all things that make up a great photograph and not just the instant the shutter closes. This includes lighting, angle, subject, and exposure all coming together to provide you with the image you have in your mind being depicted through a photograph. With advances of technology, timing can now be found through burst or rapid shooting that allows you to find the perfect image that collides with all of these pieces for the perfect timed image.
38. From Retha of The Roaming Nanny - It's all about the angle! How many photos have you seen of the Eiffel Tower straight on? Or of the Taj Mahal from the Diana Bench? Too many! Get creative, we've all seen the classic photos and yeah we're all gonna take them. I know I do, but find that angle that is new and different.
39. Find someone to critique your work. This is tricky because you need to find someone that will be honest but constructive. Personally, I’ve worked with a photo editor on image selects and it’s been a really helpful process. We all have tendencies in how we compose our images and sometimes in moments of clarity you can see what it is you tend to do but it’s much easier to get an experienced editor to give you feedback. For example, I have a tendency to skip over detail shots. It’s something I’m aware of and try to keep in mind when I’m working on a project.
40. From Helen of Destination > Differentville - Check the whole frame - not just what you are focusing on. I wish I took my own advice more often. So many photos have been ruined by a plastic bag, the edge of a bench - or, even dog poop, snuck into the background or a stray corner of a picture. I spend hours cleverly cropping things out! Just spend a few seconds, checking exactly what you can see in the picture and change position if there's anything in the way.
41. In some ways practicing travel photography composition is really challenging. With food photography, you can make a dish, pick a background, add a few props and spend hours playing around with the composition. With travel photography, you’re constantly trying to find some perfect combination of elements and to capture them at the right moment. It’s challenging, be patient with yourself and your progress. In my mind street photography is a close cousin of travel photography so head out and capture your own community to get in the habit of working quickly in changing conditions.
42. Most of the time a photo for a blog is different from a commercial photo, which is different from a photo meant for an editorial story. This is something I’m just beginning to find my way around but as you compose and shoot, keep in mind who the photos are for and what sort of images they need. Sometimes with a commercial photography project, you’ll literally be working off of a creative brief but for an editorial project you’ll often need to look through past projects to get a sense of what works.
43. Yes, digital is much cheaper than film but I would advise against setting your camera to auto, burst mode and firing away. I know photographers that do it and get great images but I find it very taxing to sort through and cull thousands and thousands of outtakes. I try to makes sure that each photo I take is well composed and unique so that I have lots of variety without a million outtakes.
44. Don’t get overly sentimental about an image. When I was starting out, I would sometimes tuck in photos that weren’t quite up to par because I really loved the moment or place or person. That sort of thing is fine when you’re sharing photos with friends and family but not if you’re sending photos in to a client.
Travel Photography Equipment
45. I’ve had just about every piece of equipment malfunction at some point. You can work around most things except for a malfunctioned SD card or compact flash card. If those glitch, your photos are fucked. Always keep spares. Same goes for a dead battery. I included a similar suggestion in my 101 food photography tips but got caught out and about with a dying battery and without a spare and when I mentioned that my battery died on an outing, I got 100% busted for not following my own advice.
46. Decide if you want to register your photography gear before traveling. I personally don’t and generally agree with the view that it’s not necessary. Some of my friends that work on film production crews get a carnet for large projects. Either way, know that it’s a thing.
47. From Cat of Walk My World - A tripod is a must for any travel photographer, especially when you want to take a shot at night or in low light. We’ve been to festivals and events such as Petra By Night where many people were complaining about blurry photos and this is because they didn’t have a tripod. Even a light, small tripod can produce beautiful and sharp photos with no noise no matter how dark it is. They also make it easier to take long exposures and shots with you in it if you are traveling solo.
48. From Kristin of Countdown To Friday - Recognize when it's not best to bring a DSLR. Adventure travel, tourist spots prone to theft, and times when you need to pack light (such as backpacking) are all situations where you might consider letting smartphone photos document your travels.
49. I personally like to travel light and keep all of my gear in my carry on but if needed, I would definitely get a pelican case. I used to work at a company that constantly shipped video gear out for events in pelican cases. They worked perfectly about 95% of the time. We did have a few breakages. I will note even if you do get everything insured, it can be a logistical headache to get reimbursed for repairs. If you can keep your stuff in your carry on and if you have to bring more gear than you can fit in a carry on get a pelican case.
50. Be aware of what can go wrong with your gear but if you have a professional camera don’t baby it. My Canon 5d mk iv is weather sealed and I’ve carried it through snow storms, rain, dust and extreme heat with no problem. It’s built to withstand environmental pressures. You shouldn’t leave it sitting in a puddle but don’t panic if your professional grade camera gets a little wet. I’m also loath to admit this but I once dropped my Zeiss 15mm on concrete from about 4 feet in the air. My heart did a little flop but there was no damage and it continued to work perfectly.
51. If you’re traveling for a project, always bring a back up lens and a back up camera body.
52. Get a polarizing filter. It’ll significantly improve your images shot at midday, which is great because it effectively helps you get more out of each travel day. Just make sure that you get the right thread size for your lens.
54. Pack an extra tote bag and a plastic bag. I occasionally find totes more comfortable and discreet than a book bag A plastic bag is always handy. It can be a little camera poncho in a pinch. It can separate your clean stuff from your dirty stuff. It can hold wet clothes (just don’t forget about them!).
55. If you can, skip using a typical camera bag. It’s a giant advertisement that you’re carrying a whole lot of expensive gear. Opt for more typical book bag.
The Business Side of Travel Photography
56. That “business or pleasure” question when you enter a country might seem like a cute made for tv moment that doesn’t really matter but it does. I’ve had friends make offhand comments about photo shoots to immigration and get denied entry. It happens.
57. Be cautious when doing a project for an international client. Working with an attorney when things go wrong is expensive, trying to do so internationally without the backing of an agency or a publication will be prohibitively expensive.
58. Communication can be tricky with any client but miscommunication can really run rampant when working with teams from different cultures. We all express concern, enthusiasm and approval in different ways. Be patient. Double check your assumptions. Try to clarify if anything isn’t totally clear.
59. Figure out if you need to get a work visa. So far, I’ve never needed a work visa but I know some wedding photographers get them for large projects abroad.
60. Ask for a 50% deposit on foreign projects if it’s with a unknown client. For me, this gives me a sense of security that no matter what, I won’t be out of money and time. It also weeds out questionable projects. Usually I don’t worry about this with large companies and reputable publications. They’re generally dependable.
61. It takes a lot of pitching, coordinating and logistical juggling to fully pay for a trip with just travel photography. It’ll take a while before things click into place. Personally, I’ve only gotten to the point of fully covered trips via photography in the last 6 months and that’s not for every trip. It’s also not through a single project. It’s often a cobbled together sort of thing. Starting out, you’ll likely need to invest a fair amount of time and effort to build up your portfolio. Then develop relationships.
62. Travel photography is expensive to get into and it’s one of the few realms of photography where you will have a hard time finding someone to shadow or assist. For example, I never mind having someone tag along on a food shoot at a restaurant but having someone shadow on a trip is logistically much more difficult. I’m not interested in covering someone’s travel costs and I’m hesitant to agree to something that will make any trip more logistically difficult.
63. Try to prearrange some shoots ahead of time. It’s rare that everything comes together but it’s always nice to have a few things prearranged things so you know that you’ll definitely get some things. This also creates a structure for you to work around during the trip.
64. Hotels are almost always the easiest businesses to coordinate with. I don’t entirely know why but you can almost always get in touch with a marketing manager or sales rep or PR agent within a day or two and arrange a shoot. They’re usually timely and responsive.
65. Going on a trip for travel photography is not the same as going on a trip for vacation. I’m deeply grateful whenever I get a travel project. It’s incredible and I love traveling but there is also added pressure. I can’t simply unplug and relax. It seems that some travel bloggers and influencers have managed to close the gap a bit between travel photography work and vacation but I’m guessing there’s more going on behind the scenes than what we all see on Instagram. If you want to become a travel photographer just keep in mind that it’s really not an endless vacation. I personally love it but can also see how it’s not for everyone.
66. Keep your travel photos well organized and archived. I often get image requests from trips I’ve taken in the past. Try to maintain notes about neighborhoods, people and timing. This isn’t a habit that I’ve been good about and it occasionally bites me. I’ve been trying to get better about uploading and adding notes to my metadata after each day.
67. Taxes get weird when you start doing a lot of travel photography. For example, I recently got paid out for a travel project for a New Zealand company and somehow had to pay New Zealand and American taxes. So that’s a thing and I’m just starting to grapple with it and I don’t really understand it. Perhaps 3 years from now I’ll get it and update this thing.
68. Travel photography can be very fun but it can also be difficult to balance with your regular life. If you decide to pursue a travel photography career, keep in mind that you may need to go on trips without your partner, during busy times in your life and to places that might be difficult to photograph. So far that exchange has always been worth it for me but I work as hard on my food photography as my travel photography so I have some balance in my life.
Photographing people while traveling
69. Try to learn a few basic phrases if you’re going somewhere that you don’t speak the language. It breaks the ice and helps to show that you’re making an effort.
70. Miming is surprisingly effective when all else fails. EDIT: Whatever you do, don’t do that thing where you talk louder and louder till you’re yelling. Additionally, I’ve recently found it really helpful to use photos on my phone. In Taiwan, Eli and I wanted to order a 2nd helping of a specific dish we really enjoyed. Somehow all our pointing wasn’t working so I pointed to a photo I had taken of the dish to convey that we wanted an additional order and that worked!
71. Research ahead of time what sorts of things might be helpful to bring to a country. For example, years ago I went to Madagascar and felt deeply stunned by the poverty in some of the areas we visited. While just being a tourist in such a country is economically helpful, I often found myself wishing that I had something to give to the children we passed along the way. Years ago, on a guided trip to Machu Picchu, Eli was advised to buy notebooks and colored pencils. That struck me. These days I travel with a Fujifilm Instax and will often give people and places polaroid shots of the digital photos I take.
72. From travel photographer Karthika Gupta - Always be open and upfront about photographing people especially if you are close enough for them to know what you are doing. Never try and sneak in a picture. A smile and/or a request with a nod to the camera is much better than being sneaky.
73. Be conscientious about cultural norms, particularly around touching people. In some countries it’s a big faux pas to touch someone you don’t know well, especially of the opposite gender. If you tend to physically direct people for images, try to shake the habit.
74. In some countries there are people dressed up for photos in exchange for a bit of money. If you decide to take their photo, don’t be a jerk and try to sneak a photo. Pay them their requested amount. I would think this tip should be totally unnecessary but I’ve seen photographers try to sneak photos more than once and it’s really unnecessarily rude.
75. Be cautiously optimistic about everyone as you travel. I’ve had wonderful conversations about life, travel and everything in between with complete strangers on trips. In Merida, Mexico people consistently would pause to provide Eli and I with directions and recommendations. In Montreal, Canada we left with more places to visit than we started with because at every bar and restaurant the staff would jot down notes and notes of suggestions. In Yoshino, Japan we got invited into the community. Expect and hope for the best from the people you encounter on trips but don’t be naive if things take a turn.
76. Watch how people respond as you enter or move through a space with a camera. I say this both to be conscientious or people but also to be cautious. Cameras can illicit odd behaviors. In Seattle, I was once screamed at by a man that thought I had taken his photo. I hadn’t but he aggressively stepped into my personal space and attempted to demand to see all the photos I had taken. It was alarming.
77. Prioritize safety over being polite and maintaining appearances, especially if you’re a female photographer. My home base is a large city and I tend not to get rattled easily but in the last few years I’ve learned that it’s important to trust my instinct when someone makes me uncomfortable. Last year while taking a quick photo on a walk home, a large man started asking me some questions about what I was photographing. The conversation started out politely enough but he moved in very close to me. I didn’t want to cause a scene and felt sort of stuck. As I tried to move away, he reached over and grabbed my arm very hard. When I finally wrenched free, he punched my arm, really hard. I screamed. A startled passerby started to come towards us which finally got the man away from me. It may seem rude to take a step back as someone is walking into your space but it’s better than feeling unsafe or getting hurt.
Travel Photography Logistics
78. From travel photographer Karthika Gupta - When traveling to a place for the first time or even traveling alone, pick a location or a hotel close to what activities you are going to be doing. The last thing you want to do is spend hours commuting from one location to another. In Europe, we always try and stay in the center of the city so we can walk and use public transportation whenever possible. When we visit national parks, we always try and find lodging within the park so we can maximize our time in the park.
79. As soon as you know that you’re going somewhere, figure out events, exhibits and museums that you might want to visit. Some places are difficult to get into on short notice so it’s good to check as soon as possible.
80. If you’re traveling on a holiday (as in Christmas, not as in vacation), plan and book things 4 to 6 months out. If you have difficultly settling on things, choose refundable flights and hotels, that way you can make adjustments if need be but at least you won’t be scrambling to find something that’s not exorbitantly expensive last minute. This is particularly true if you’re going somewhere that’s a major tourist destination.
81. When planning your agenda for a trip, take stamina into consideration. Eli and I tend to travel very quickly. We like to head out early, walk everywhere and stay out late. It’s exciting and joyous but we also wear out. For me, the longest trip I like to do is around 10 days. Anytime I plan anything longer, I find it hard to push myself on the final days. If you do decide on a longer trip, just be sure to plan in rests and breaks.
82. In museums, monuments and historical spots, check for photography rules. Some places don’t allow flash photography, some places don’t allow tripods and some spots require permits. It’s good to look these sorts of things up ahead of time but worst comes to worst just ask when purchasing a ticket or when you spot a security guard.
83. I try to break up most city stays between 2 hotels. Most cities have lots of areas to explore, so I try to find 2 appealing hotels in totally different areas. It’s a nice way to get a more complete experience. This does mean that I have to move hotels part way through a stay, which is a little annoying but I find it worthwhile.
84. When looking at possible travel dates, check if there are any large scale events that will be happening during your visit. I try to go to New York City at least a year, often twice and have found that it can be a bit of mess if I end up there during some sort of huge event. Hotels are more expensive, traffic is worse, reservations are trickier to get.
Editing Travel Photos
85. These days, I always edit travel photos in Lightroom CC. It’s nice to have all of my images accessible on all of my devices and it’s also nice to have everything backed up right away.
86. Revisit old travel images. My editing has evolved a lot over the last couple years. Looking at photos from trips 5 years ago, I no longer like how heavy handed many of my edits were. Doing a quick reedit helps keep all of my work stylistically consistent.
87. Always shoot RAW. This seems like a bit of a basic tip but just in case you’re just starting out, always make sure that your camera is set to shoot RAW not just JPEG.
88. This is mostly a personal plea but please no more magenta toned travel photos! Please! In all seriousness, I tend to think that heavy handed edits don’t age well and don’t represent destinations that well. If you are gonna go for it, skip the super pink and magenta toned stuff.
89. Editing in Lightroom is much faster than doing each edit in Photoshop. Also, I think it’s fine to lean heavily on mobile editing apps for social media and blog posts but I would only deliver photos for a client project that have been edited via Lightroom or CaptureOne. All of these programs change very quickly so this may be different soon.
90. Don’t rely too heavily on editing. You want the content and composition of the photo to shine on it’s own without a strong edit.
Miscellaneous Travel Photography Tips
91. Research tipping ahead of time. One funny thing is that as an American, I occasionally find myself in touristy areas where I seem to be expected to tip even though the country doesn’t have a strong tipping culture. It’s up to you on how to tip but it’s nice to have a bit of research done ahead of time.
92. Even if you’re working with a well known publication, some places and people won’t want their photo taken. Some very touristy places already feel overwhelmed with visitors so there isn’t much appeal in getting more press for them.
93. Pack a lacrosse ball. It’s tiny and great for working out knots. I find that my back tends to get pretty tired after a particularly busy day of shooting and hotel beds sometimes exasperate things so a lacrosse ball is great to have on hand.
94. For the ladies, if you’re going on a long trip and are concerned about getting your period, talk to your Doctor about taking birth control pills without the placebo pills. This will allow your body to skip your period. I personally find that this works pretty well but I rarely do it because my subsequent period is pretty uncomfortable.
95. I love travel but I’m also deeply aware that it’s the one thing I do that has a huge carbon footprint. Eli and I use public transportation to get around Chicago and we use a smart thermometer at home to make sure we’re optimizing our energy use at home. So flying is the one thing that’s kind of tricky because it’s hard to minimize our carbon usage. Thus far, we almost always fly coach. One, it’s way more affordable but also it’s substantially less wasteful. Also, I’ve started to pay more attention to the overall efficiency of the airlines I take regularly to prioritize the ones that are more efficient. Alaska, Spirit, Hawaiian, Continental and Southwest are the top 5 most efficient domestic airlines, in that order. Lastly, I’ve started to make donations to causes that help offset some of our carbon usage. Check out Sustainable Travel International to calculate your carbon usage and find projects to support that will help offset some of that.
96. Join a travel forum or Facebook group. A year back, I joined a Facebook group for women travelers and while I did so on a lark it has been a wonderful resource for quick advice and ideas. Occasionally when I just need a few quick ideas I lob out questions to the group. It’s like crowd sourcing information but from a enthusiastic self selected group.
97. Eli and I both have Muji luggage. They’re simple, inexpensive and very practical.
98. For longer trips, try to find a hotel with laundry along the way. Being able to do laundry on a trip is a really wonderful. It means you can pack a bit less and have fresh clothes part way through a trip.
99. In remote areas, use Foursquare. It’s great. I’ve used Foursquare in Thailand and the middle of nowhere Iceland. I don’t totally understand how it gets so granular but it’s the only platform I can think of that has worked in just about every country that I’ve visited thus far.
100. Find a book set in the place you’re visiting or written by an author from there. This year, I read several Haruki Murakami books while in Japan and it was a magical experience. It feels completely immersive.
101. One of the great joys of travel photography is that there’s always something new to learn. Spend time reading up on different techniques and watching tutorials. Learning how to take the best travel photos is a never ending process.