How to Take the Best Travel Photos This Summer

You’ve saved up for months. Your flight is booked, the boutique hotel room is reserved, and you are more than ready for that long awaited summer vacation to begin. Whether the destination is a remote island for some R&R or a whirlwind tour of a historically rich city, one ‘must-pack’ item is a camera to document the experience. Photographs are one of the best (and free) souvenirs you can bring home from a trip. They’re like return tickets, giving us the ability to transport back to a time and place long after the moment has passed. Now more than ever, it’s easy to capture incredible shots without being a professional photographer. Use these 6 tips to help elevate your travel photography skills and return from your next vacation with memorable images to share.  

  • Embrace the Camera You Have: It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to invest in an expensive DSLR or a professional lens to take great photos. But the best camera is the one you have with you. Even if that camera is your cell phone! With larger and faster sensors, plus deeper pixels, these tiny devices can capture your most important travel moments. Whatever camera you plan on using, take time to read the manual and learn the ins and outs of its capabilities. And don’t forget to practice before leaving for your destination.

  • Time it Right: Golden hour is the ideal time to take photos. This includes the first hour after sunrise and the last hour of light before sunset. The time of day makes imagery feel warmer (which is generally more flattering for people - think golden skin), and creates a soft light that doesn’t generate harsh shadows and blown out highlights. And if the day lacks sunshine, don’t despair! Overcast days can actually help create even lighting and the clouds act as one giant diffuser of the sun. 

  • Take a Step Back: Once you find a scene you want to capture, take a few steps back before clicking the shutter button. This add’s negative space to the image which helps define and emphasize the main subject of a photo. It might also help you catch something compelling that you didn’t notice before. You can always crop the image when your editing to remove unwanted items from the frame, or to get closer to the main subject. 

  • Notice the Details: Look for interesting and unique elements like textures and materials, colors and patterns that help tell a story. Use all your senses when capturing travel photography. Follow your nose to a steaming food stand or your ears to someone playing guitar on the street corner. To minimize distractions include negative space around the main subject(s) to help draw the viewers eyes to the detail.

  • Compose Well: Try using the rule of thirds to create a well-balanced and compelling image. This useful composition technique divides the photo into thirds with two imaginary lines vertically and two lines horizontally. On most cameras, you can turn a setting on which splits the screen into nine squares and puts the focus on objects at any of the lines’ intersections. A great tactic for creating interest in a photo is to frame the subject off-center instead of in the middle of the photo.

  • Get Off the Beaten Path: As tourists, most of us are all taking the exact same photos. Sidestep the obvious images of the must see landmarks, or at least try to capture the scene differently.  Notice where the hordes of people are lining up to take photos, and go the other direction. Better yet, take a detour, get lost, and you’ll find something less obvious but equally beautiful to capture.


    About the Author, Leslie Schipper Carvitto:

    Leslie is a free-spirited, wanderlusting adventurer who has made proximity to nature a top priority. With an insatiable desire for travel, new experiences, and epic views, her time is spent hiking mountain ranges, photographing excursions, and documenting it on her blog Forever Stoked. Her creative work is a vibrant representation of her zest for life and gratitude for the miraculous human experience.