10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

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With summer winding down and the kids heading back to school, it’s time to organize your travel photos so you can savor those vacation memories for years to come. Or maybe you’re going to sneak in one last road trip of the season? You want to take the best travel photos, of course. I’m going to share my travel photography tips with you, gleaned from years as a travel blogger and student of photography.

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10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos from The Travel Mama

1. Look for patterns.

Patterns are visually appealing and bring balance and pizzazz to your photos. The photo below shows a grouping of wine-poached pears with creme anglais, whipped cream and blackberries offered aboard a Viking River Cruise. Sure, I could have taken a photo of just one of these desserts, but the repeated colors and shapes make a more enticing photo.

Look for patterns to photograph - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Look for patterns to photograph (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Celebrate color.

Keep your eyes open for a burst of color during your travels. If your eyes are drawn to a colorful scene while on vacation, just think how pretty the hues will look in your photo book. The next photo shows a rainbow of stand-up paddle boards in Kaanapali, Maui.

Celebrate color with your photography - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Celebrate color with your photography (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Find reflections.

Double the beauty of an already pretty scene by finding reflective sources of water to capture with your camera. I snapped this photo in belle Strasbourg, France.

Find reflections to photograph - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Find reflections to photograph (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Capture candid shots.

You will want to take some posed pictures of your kids during your travels – holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa and standing in front of the Grand Canyon are a must. Make a point to capture candid moments of your family, too. I snapped this touching photo on board the monorail at Disneyland a couple of years ago. It encapsulates a sweet ending to our vacation day and shows the love between my daddy's girl and my husband. These moments are what family travel is all about.

The best camera is the one you have with you - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Capture candid shots (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Strike a different pose.

Rather than having your kids stand in front of a monument or stretch of scenery for the standard, “Say cheese!” picture, get creative and strike a different pose. My kids climbed onto boulders during our hike in Borrego Springs, California and the effect is more joyous and interesting than if they were standing stock still.

Strike a different pose - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Strike a different pose (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Take advantage of natural lighting.

The best lighting for photos is at dawn and dusk, when the sun is not too harsh and it imparts everything with a soft, flattering glow. This goes for portraits as well as scenery, and pretty much anything else you'd want to photograph. Another tip is to avoid the glare of a bright sun by hiding it behind a tree, mountain or other object. This photo, taken during a wagon ride dinner in Keystone, Colorado, demonstrates the importance of good lighting.

Take advantage of natural lighting at dawn and dusk - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Take advantage of natural lighting at dawn and dusk (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Choose the correct angle.

When photographing children and pets, get down to their level to snap the image, rather than hovering over them and taking a picture from above. This makes it easier to see the expression on their faces and draws the viewer into the photograph, as in this photo of my daughter in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. When taking photos of adults (or getting your photo taken!), the opposite is true; snap photos from a slightly higher angle than your subjects to make your them appear slimmer and more youthful.

Take photos of children and pets from their level rather than from above - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Take photos of children and pets from their level (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. Edit your photos.

I edit every single photo before adding it to a photo album or posting it on Travel Mamas. A little editing goes a long way. I used Instagram to edit this photo to make the Disneyland Diamond Anniversary decorations pop on Sleeping Beauty's Castle. You can also smooth away wrinkles and erase dark bags under your eyes using PhotoShop or PicMonkey Royale. (Tip: Don't ever “sharpen” a photo of anyone over the age of 25 because doing so makes wrinkles and imperfections more noticeable and ages people.)

Edit your photos - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Edit your photos (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Include animals or people in nature shots.

Including animals or people in nature shots adds interest and scale. These bright yellow and fuchsia flowers at Mission San Juan Capistrano in California are made more intriguing by these busy worker bees. Instead of just a lovely bunch of flowers, the bees bring a story and activity to an otherwise still photo.

Include animals or people in photos to add interest and scale - 10 Tips for Taking the Best Travel Photos

Include animals or people in nature shots to add interest and scale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

10. The best camera is the one you have with you.

You can't take the best travel photos if you don't have a camera. That's why the best camera is the one you have you with you. For most of us, that means our smart phones, so it is important to choose a smart phone with a reliable camera. Personally, I am a big fan of the iPhone. For a camera with an incredible zoom that easily fits into your pocket book or your pocket, I recommend the Canon Powershot. It gets glowing reviews for good reason!

Do you have any questions or tips about taking the best travel photos? Let us know in the comments below! 

A Note from The Travel Mama: I will receive compensation related to this post from AT&T.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. Lyla G - Globetrotting Mommy says:

    These tips are great! I’m always looking to improve my vacation photography and these are easy enough to actually remember.

  2. The Educational Tourist says:

    What great tips! I laughed at the one about using sharpen on a face….LOL..I actually cringed at the thought. The very best tip is the last one! We have struggled with great cameras that weigh a ton and bulky long lenses, but have settled on smaller because you don’t have to wrestle with them. Great tips!
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thanks so much, Natalie! I actually sold my DSLR because I take all of my photos with my smart phone nowadays. So much easier than lugging around a big camera. I might invest in another DSLR sometime, but for now I like the ease of use and transport with a smart phone.

  3. Sarah Ebner says:

    Really like these tips – sensible and not too complicated. I also really like that pic of Strasbourg – it is beautiful.

  4. Ellen Lanin says:

    Someone needs to show me what I should do to edit my photos.

  5. I love shooting candid shots; shooting people in their intimate private moments.. although that kinda sounds intruding privacy.. I do it ninja style.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Yes, it can be so hard to capture candid moments. Often by the time you notice, the moment has passed!

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