10 travel photography tips | read this before your next vacation

After you’ve booked flights and reserved a hotel room in that city you’ve always wanted to explore, the next thing you need to consider is vacation souvenirs. How will you choose to remember these special moments spent with family and friends? Instead of packing an extra suitcase for trinkets you’ll probably forget about in a few years, why not focus on the photography? Create a travel gallery on a wall in your home, scrapbook, send extra photos to family members – the possibilities are endless when you bring your camera.

For those of you planning your next big adventure, enjoy these 10 travel photography tips:

Travel Photography Tips

1. Always format your memory card before a trip. Repeat after me: Erasing the old photographs on your memory card by hitting that button on your computer isn’t enough. You need to choose the “format memory card” option on your DLSR while the memory card is still inside. I learned this important tip in a photography class and suddenly the world made sense.

Apparently when you only erase files off of your memory card, it still isn’t a clean slate and the performance of the card is greatly diminished. And then you’ll be taking amazing photographs of Dunnottar castle in Scotland and suddenly your memory card will become corrupt. And you’ll lose all of those pictures because your laptop won’t be able to read the memory card. Ever. Yes, indeed… I have experience with this.

If you need to format your memory card by using your computer, buy an external card reader (they’re cheap and plug into your USB port) and choose the “format” option. Again, this is totally different from just hitting “erase” after you’ve transferred photos to your computer. Format, format, format.

Important tip: Before formatting your memory cards, remember to save these photos! Formatting will erase everything and you won’t be able to get anything back. Scary, no?

2. Pack extra memory cards.
I tend to take a shit ton of photos on vacation, so I bring extra memory cards. And like I said above, sometimes your memory card will choose to go rogue and you’ll need a new one. This tip is self explanatory.

3. Invest in a travel tripod.
Brandon and I love setting up our travel tripod to take photos of ourselves in front of landmarks since it’s always awkward asking a stranger to handle our expensive equipment. Plus, we use our tripod when the lighting is bad or when we want to take cool time-lapse photos in the dark. We have one of these tiny dudes and it fits right in our camera bag, and we have a bigger Sunpak Ultra 7000 2-in-1 Tripod/Monopod that isn’t too heavy to carry. It’s also very sturdy so I don’t feel like my camera will fall to the ground and shatter — very important!

Another tip: When leaving your camera on a tripod, watch everyone closely. Don’t allow someone to steal your stuff!

4. Bring little extras that will make your photos stand out. Red and green filters, circle polarizers, reflectors, and an external flash are all items you can pack right in your camera bag. They’re small but pack a punch.

5. Cloudy days are great for photography. Well, usually. The light tends to be flat but there are no shadows so that’s good. Use your best judgement.

6. When the sun is the strongest (usually around 11-3pm), reserve this part of the day for museums. Usually harsh light means lots of shadows and ugly photographs. Unless it’s cloudy, enjoy museums and other indoor activities around this time, and take photos of the city earlier and later in the day.

7. Get to know the light. Remember that early mornings = soft light, and early evenings = warm light. The light can drastically change the look of a photograph, so try both if you want! I love photography because it’s fun to experiment.

8. If you’re visiting a well-known landmark, take photos from a different point of view. We’re all familiar with the usual photos of the Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and other popular landmarks, so get creative with your shots. Get down on the ground, take the shot through tree branches — do whatever you think will look cool and different.

9. Understand your camera. When you know what you’re doing, you’ll take better photographs. I talk about tips and tricks to improve your photography in this post, and understanding aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure in this post. Figure out what you’re doing before you go on vacation.

10. Keep an eye (and hand) on your equipment. Uncomfortable with the thought of traveling with all of your expensive photography gear? Read my post about tips for traveling with an expensive camera.

Anything else you would add?



Filed Under: Photography, Travel25 Comments
  • http://awayfromtenerife.blogspot.com/ Irene @ Away from Tenerife

    Great post! Thanks for all these tips, Rachel! I didn’t know about the importance of formatting memory cards and in fact I never did it. Now I know better and I’ll repeat after you: format, format, format.

    Have a lovely day! x

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Thanks, Irene! Yeah, I didn’t understand the importance until my memory card went corrupt and I lost all of those photos!

  • http://www.novelbenedictions.com/ Leah B

    When I travel, I try to take both portrait and landscape photos. Especially when we’re on the move, it’s easy to take one in both formats and then review them later on screen. Another tip – don’t spend your entire trip behind the lens! My favorite part of travel is experiencing the landscape, the culture, the people, and the food with the people I’m traveling with. If you’re always behind the lens, you’re missing out.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Yes and yes! It’s so important to enjoy your vacation rather than worrying about photos and the best “shot”.

  • Kayla Magness

    I could’t love these tips more! Formatting a memory card is SO important…and yes, I love when I see new creative, unique shots of typical land marks!

  • http://www.blondebananablog.com/ Anna R

    Love this post and just read your last two about photography as well. I’m terrible at photography. I don’t have a DSLR but a pretty decent / fancy digital camera so some of these tips can be applied to that which is great!

  • Jared Lawson

    One of the best tips here is to plan your day around the light, when the sun is not flattering do the travel items you planned to avoid for pictures…indoors or at sites you know you won’t be photographing. The other key here is to HAVE FUN, photography is such a tough industry to catch a break in so enjoy your travels for what they are and balance your trip! California Portrait Photographer

  • Mar

    Great tips, thanks for sharing! We never take enough photos of ourselves while travelling. I don’t trust asking a stranger (because someone’s head usually gets cut off, or I’m mid blink), so this summer I think I may invest in a remote shutter release so that we can just take them ourselves.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Even though we have a tripod and a remote, we still don’t take nearly enough photos of ourselves together! I’m constantly trying to remember to do this. :)

  • Megan

    I always try to get new, interesting views of something well known. Nothing is more boring than seeing 6000 photos of the statue of liberty head on.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Exactly! I always try and think about this when I’m taking photos.

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  • http://letuswanderlust.blogspot.com/ Carly @ Let Us Wanderlust

    Thanks for sharing your expertise! These tips are great! I want to learn how to use my camera properly in manual mode now, I feel like there is so muchcool stuff to learn! And I know what you mean about taking a shit ton of photos when travelling – I took 300 in the space of 2 hours when we went horseback riding! Haha.

  • Globetrotting Mommy

    Great tips! I love experimenting with different angles even if I look a little silly laying on the ground. And great tip about formatting the memory card. I need to do that more often.

  • http://www.prettymayhem.com/ Pearl – Pretty Mayhem

    Great tips! I never format my memory card so I obviously need to get onto that asap! I also agree with taking photos from different angles, even if you look a bit silly whilst taking them they still end up being the most original pics!

  • http://www.thedailydilk.com/ diane @ the daily dilk

    What about photographing people? any tips? I see tons I’d like to photograph, but am always shy about asking…

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Zoom lens or ask permission. I don’t take photos of people that often (unless it’s for a shoot) but I bet if you’re respectful and ask, it won’t be a problem at all!

  • http://www.thebartlettsabroad.blogspot.com/ Erica @ thebartlettsabroad

    You have some great tips – I never knew that about formatting a memory card!

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  • http://madeleineblogs.com/ Maddy

    brb, need to format my memory card ASAP. and buy an extra. yikes!

  • Britt @Perpetually Daydreaming

    Hi Rachel, Does the Gorillapod tripod work with a DSLR camera? Or is it only for smaller cameras?

  • http://www.thepassportlifestyle.com/ Stephanie

    Great post! I actually just wrote a post a few weeks ago over the exact same thing! 10 tips as well. You may be interested to check it out. We covered a lot of the same ground but also had some different tips. My #1 tip was going easy on the camera gear!! | http://www.thepassportlifestyle.com/10-travel-photography-tips-worth-knowing/

  • http://trekkingmart.com/ TrekkingMart

    Merry Christmas and may this new year bring you joy and laughter.

  • http://www.melindadiorio.com/ Melinda DiOrio

    Ooo, I didn’t know about the 1st tip! Will definitely have to start doing that. I’ve been thinking about getting a card reader too, do you have any good recommendations?

  • Nikhil Shah OM

    thanks for sharing your tips it awesome for every travel photographer…