If you aren’t practised in the world of travel photography, it can be a whole new ball game. Even if you are a good photographer, it can be a totally different experience to travel whilst documenting your destination well. Below I have provided 5 travel photography tips for beginners that will hopefully help anyone with a basic understanding of photography.

Leave some gear at home

Chances are that if you’re just starting to dip your toes into the travel photography world, you aren’t going on a trip where you will be shooting 99% of the time. This means that you will probably be taking some time to relax and enjoy your adventure, as you should. This also means that you may not want to carry 30 pounds of gear around with you at all times. Travel photography is often about being in the right place at the right time, so you have to be ready when it happens. Bring your camera everywhere with you and pick 2 of your favourite lenses, perhaps a mid-range zoom and a long one. Otherwise you will not want to bring it out with you everywhere, AND you will regret packing so much when it comes time to move on to the next location.

Avoid nasty window reflections

We’ve all been there. Gazing longingly out the window of a bus, with no control over where you can stop to get out and photograph that gorgeous landscape. Sometimes you just NEED to get that shot. It’s just a half inch of reflective glass making your life difficult. Not to worry, all you really need is a black jacket! Just cover up the area around your camera, get your lens as close to the window as possible if not ON the window (not recommend on very bumpy roads), and shoot. This works in buildings and on planes, trains, and auto-mobiles. That is of course as long as the glass itself doesn’t have a coloured tint, bird poo or bug goo that you can’t reach out and clean off.

Filters

I can’t travel without my filters. Even if you don’t do a lot of landscape photography, you shouldn’t go to a beautiful destination without capturing the scenery. Some people swear by a UV protective filter, but I guess I live dangerously despite having had one save my lens after a motorbike accident. Personally, I swear by a polarizer. Those gorgeous blue skies can be even richer with colour when you put on a polarizing filter! They can also cut reflections in water, wet foliage, and even window glass (if you don’t have a black jacket).

My other filter of choice is a graduated neutral density filter. The beauty of these is that they balance a scene by darkening only part of it by 1 stop, 2 stops, 3 stops, etc.. This comes in handy when you can’t properly expose a dark foreground with a bright sky. Think sunsets! There are cheap filters out there that create colour casts and get scratched easily, so I highly recommend the higher quality ones that are worth the extra dough!

Tripods are a must

How many times have you gazed upon a spectacular city at night and not been able to capture it? Probably at least once as a beginner. Night cityscapes are only the beginning of what you can do with a tripod. Consider how helpful they would be for stars, macro photography, dark interior architecture, long exposures, and even selfies! I personally use tripods the most for my long exposure waterscapes, giving a mystical feeling to a scene. Any tripod will do in most cases, as long as it can support your camera. I recommend spending some money on this as well. Find one that is compact, yet sturdy enough not to be lifted off by the wind. Some of them even come with clamps, like the Gorillapod.

A sense of place

Finally, if you’re serious about travel photography, a good rule of thumb is to think about all aspects of a destination when you document a place. You are a photojournalist, a portrait photographer, food photographer, wildlife photographer, and landscape photographer. I still tend to focus on landscapes when I travel, so I break this rule often. It can be difficult to remind yourself constantly to photograph what you may not be as interested in, but it’s important. You need to tell the story of a place to really convey what it is like to be there. After all, travel photography is all about inspiring travel, isn’t it?

Here are a few photos from a photo essay on travelling to Malta.

To see more of my photography and travel adventures, please visit Tracie Travels or follow Tracie Travels on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.

Have you got any tips to add? Or a piece of equipment you can’t shoot without? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Written by | Tracie Howe

I am a world traveller and adventure seeker. My twenties were spent fulfilling my wanderlust… swimming with dolphins or spending the night in the Sahara Desert. My travel photography is usually highlighted in every post, visual inspiration is important to me, and I hope that my photography does each destination justice.

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21 Comments

  1. Tim

    October 30, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    I am about to purchase my first really good camera and so am eating up all the articles I can on better photography. This came at a perfect time as I have not really thought about filters but of course now I am. Thanks, Tim

    • Tracie Howe

      November 5, 2014 at 5:48 am

      Congratulations! It’s always exciting to upgrade a camera. Definitely figure out what kind of filters you need for your new camera and the lenses that you use. What camera are you upgrading to?

  2. HotMamaTravel

    November 3, 2014 at 5:51 am

    Great tips! Thanks. I love my tripod, but I’ll try the filters too!

    • Tracie Howe

      November 5, 2014 at 5:49 am

      Thanks! Filters are one of my favorite things to play with when shooting landscapes. I hope you like them too!

  3. elaine schoch

    November 5, 2014 at 4:40 am

    I had no idea about the black jacket – thanks for the tip!

    • Tracie Howe

      November 5, 2014 at 5:51 am

      You’re welcome, Elaine. Anything dark should work. It’s a bit tricky to hold up against a window while you shoot, but hopefully a friend can help. 😉

  4. ChinaMatt

    November 9, 2014 at 4:41 am

    When I get a new job I’m definitely upgrading some of my equipment for better photos. I know I need a better lens (not nearly enough zoom). I’d also like a polarizer. Other than that I think I’m pretty well set.

    • Tracie Howe

      November 15, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      A lens upgrade is always a good start!

  5. roberto

    November 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    good stuff!

  6. Leah of The Mochilera Diaries

    November 15, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Tracie! These are wonderful tips. I especially like the black jacket idea, but I’m afraid I don’t quite understand what you mean…where exactly does the jacket go?

    • Tracie Howe

      November 15, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      Thanks, Leah. The black jacket approach is sort of hard to explain. The idea is that you are blocking out any and all reflections from bright lights and objects around you. It’s like how the earliest cameras were covered in black and the photographer would disappear beneath the cloth. One way to do it without any help is to raise your arm above the camera and tuck the fabric between your arm and the window. Then put your head and camera underneath to shoot. It helps if there aren’t other reflections coming in from below, like if you have a white shirt on. If you can manage to wrap just the lens, even better. You could also just get a lens skirt. Here is a visual of one (click on the fish tank photo) to better illustrate the concept: http://www.adorama.com/LNLSKIRT1.html . I hope that helps!

  7. Shilpa

    February 4, 2015 at 3:45 am

    This post is great. The pictures are beautiful. I would like to know, as an amateur photographer myself, is it ideal to get filters for beginners?

    • Tracie Howe

      February 4, 2015 at 4:04 am

      Thanks, Shilpa! This post was intended for beginners, so I would say that if you’re serious enough to read this post, then you should get yourself some filters. With that said, I would suggest starting out at least with a circular polarizer filter if you are hesitant to jump all the way in. You will see the difference when you have one and then you may be compelled to try out more. 🙂

  8. Jenna

    March 12, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Hi, I just stumbled across your website and have been sitting here getting inspired by it! It is fantastic!! I have just brought myself a camera and I am an amateur photographer and super keen to learn some tips and tricks to getting some great travel pics. Any help or advice would be really appreciated! I am hankering at the bit to learn more and make myself better!

  9. Adam | Adventure Awaits Us

    March 12, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Great post, this has help me a lot. Just need to figure out which filter to buy now 🙂

  10. Marc

    August 1, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Great tips! I also swear by my polarizing filter. Best purchase I’ve made. Well one of the best! I also found a nice Manfrotto tripod that is compact and light, yet sturdy enough!

    • Scottie T

      August 4, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      That’s awesome Marc, I actually don’t have that tripod myself but will definitely look into it now 🙂

  11. Rob

    August 1, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Very useful post. I’m guilty of never carrying a tripod opting for walls, benches etc…
    I think I’ll carry one with me know, it’ll inevitably make me stop and think about the shot!
    Thanks.

    • Scottie T

      August 4, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Awesome Rob, I’m guilty of that, always try to at least have a guerrilla tripod though which helps but there’s nothing like the real thing, you just look like a tit going for drinks with a tripod with you 😀

  12. Tish

    April 25, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    One or two to reembmer, that is.

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