How to shoot the perfect travel photograph

Today, professional photographer Laurence Norah of Finding the Universe, continues his five part series on taking better travel photos. Photographs are important for the memories they represent. You look at a picture and it conjures up thoughts, feelings, and smells that take you back to a long forgotten place so Laurence is here to help us take better pictures! Part two of the series is on how to get the perfect shot.

In my first post in this series, I talked about the key compositional rules that you can use to create better travel photos. If you’re new to this series, I recommend you start there.

Today I’ll be covering how to deal with challenging light and some introducing some advanced ideas for controlling your composition, including being selective with your focus and making objects seem closer together than they are.

Then I’m going to get into specific tips for common travel scenes to get you taking better photos faster.

I’ll begin, though, by talking about the most crucial element of photography — the light. Here’s a shot from where I grew up and first got into photography, the Seychelles Islands, taken at one of my favorite times of day for shooting — sunset!

Stunning travel photo of a boat in the sunset

When to shoot

The middle of a sunny day might seem perfect for photography. In truth, it’s the worst time to take pictures — the light is harsh, shadows are challenging, and your photos will not do your subjects justice.

The best times to shoot are closer to sunrise and sunset, when the light is soft and warm. These times are known as “the golden hour”.

Dealing with bad light

You can’t be everywhere at the right time for the perfect light, especially when traveling. Here’s how to get the best shot from a bad lighting situation.

Be aware of the sun. This is the most important tip of the lot. Ideally you want the sun behind you. If you can, position yourself so you are between the sun and your subject, as I did in this shot from my journey around New Zealand:

beautiful travel photograph of a snow capped mountain in New Zealand

Be creative. That harsh light can be used to your advantage. Try shooting into the sun to create silhouettes, or use a high aperture to create a starburst effect, like in this Napa Valley balloon photo:

Dazzling picture of hot air balloons in Napa Valley, CA

Use the weather. When the sun is behind clouds, the light is diffused. Clouds also add interest and scale to otherwise plain, boring skies, as in this shot of the Painted Desert in Australia:

Using weather to a photographers advantage when taking a pic of the mountains and sky Painted Desert

Seek shade. If you’re taking pictures of people, find somewhere shady. Here the light will be more even, with fewer harsh shadows on faces, such as in this shot in the middle of the day in Sri Lanka:

Remote worker working on a laptop traveling to a beach location

Getting Creative with Depth of Field and Compression

Now I want to share with you two concepts that will let you shoot more creatively.

Depth of Field

Depth of field is all about controlling which parts of the shot are in focus. Check out this shot of a monkey:

Cute monkey photographed while traveling

As you can see, only the monkey is in focus. This is known as a “shallow” depth of field and is used to isolate subjects and make the shot about them.

A wide depth of field is for shooting landscapes and scenery. Here’s a shot from New Zealand where I used a wide depth of field to get much more of the scene in focus:

Stunning travel photo of a mountain range in New Zealand

To manipulate depth of field on your camera you need to change the aperture — check your manual for how to do that. Typically it will be marked as “Av” or “A” on your mode dial.

Some smartphones allow you to manually set your aperture, either through the built-in camera app, or by downloading an advanced app from your device’s app store.

A wide-open aperture (f/4 and lower) produces a shallower depth of field (less of the shot will be in focus), and a smaller aperture (f/8 and higher) puts more of the scene in focus.

There are plenty of tutorials on the Internet about depth of field; take a look here for a more detailed explanation, and here for a depth of field simulator to get more of a handle on what it is.

Tricking your viewer: Perspective and compression

You’ve probably used a camera with a zoom, letting you get closer to faraway objects.

A zoom lens can also be used to trick your viewer into thinking objects are closer to each other than they are. This is known as compression. Here’s an example, using a Coke bottle as the subject:

Triple photo of a coke light using the zoom lens

These three photos show the same Coke bottle in the same spot. The difference between the shots is where I stood, and how far I zoomed in. On the left hand shot I stood close to the Coke bottle and zoomed out, and then I moved further away and zoomed in.

By the far right image, it seems the Coke bottle is almost next to the houses in the background.

Compression can be used to bring your subject closer to the background, such as in the shot below of a friend against a huge setting sun. Zoom out, as with the leftmost Coke bottle above, and you can isolate your subject from a distracting background.

Woman walking in the sunset on vacation

Shooting for different scenes

When traveling, we often find ourselves in similar locations. Here’s a guide to getting better shots in common travel scenes.

Street scenes

Street photography is about capturing moments — immersing yourself in environments and finding interesting stories.

Patience and politeness are key to successful street shots involving people — not everyone wants to have their photograph taken, and it may be illegal to do so without explicit permission.If no one wants their photo taken, try wider crowd shots, or focus in on market goods — colorful spice piles or unusual-looking goods are always interesting subjects. Alternatively, shoot the streets themselves. Doorways or intriguing architecture are a nice starting point — take this street in Bologna, Italy, for example:

Stunning travel photo of gorgeous street in Bologna, Italy

As for the settings, use a wider depth of field (smaller aperture) for general street scenes.


If you’re looking for portraits, your best bet is to make friends with people. Learn about them and their stories, then ask for that permission.

I prefer taking pictures of people I know, as I generally don’t have to worry about permission problems.

My favorite style of people photos is “candid,” unposed shots. This is the best way, in my opinion, of capturing the personality of people.

Candid travel picture of two people hugging at a party

The key to the art of unobtrusive photography is persistence, patience, and keeping your eyes open to the photographic possibilities around you. Anticipating the moments that might be about to happen is key.

I’d advise a shallow depth of field (wide aperture) and fast shutter speeds for portraits and action shots of people.


Beaches are one of my favorite spots to shoot sunsets — nothing quite beats the sun setting over the sea! The water and the wet sand make for great reflection opportunities.

Think carefully about your composition, and in particular the foreground and mid-ground of your shot, as I talked about in the composition post. Try different angles, and maybe get above your subject to present the beach in the context of its environment, like this shot of Hellfire Beach in Western Australia:

Shot of sunny Hellfire Beach in Western Australia

Outside of sunset, beaches can be very bright environments, so you may need to adjust your exposure to compensate. Most cameras and phones let you shift exposure left or right manually with a button that looks like +/-, or from inside the app.

If you are shooting friends and can’t find shade, consider setting your camera’s flash to “fill” setting to compensate. This uses the flash to light up the shadows caused by the sun, and can make portraits shot into the sun look more pleasing.

Finally, take care of your gear. Fine sand and salt water don’t agree with most camera equipment! Here are some more beach photography tips to get you started.


There are two things that helped my landscape photography improve: a tripod and a polarizing filter (if you’re interested in my photography equipment, here’s a full list of my travel photography gear).

Controlling depth of field is a key part of landscape photography. Unfortunately, as you increase the aperture the shutter speed becomes slower — to the point where your hand movement can result in a blurry image. This is why you need a tripod.

Read more about how shutter speed, ISO (light sensitivity setting), and aperture are linked in this article on the exposure triangle.

A polarizing filter is fantastic for making blue skies and clouds pop, and for controlling reflections. It also reduces the amount of light entering the camera, so that tripod is even more helpful.

If the above two sound like too much effort, don’t worry. You can improve your landscape photography no end by thinking seriously about your composition. Leading lines, the rule of thirds, and finding a sense of scale by putting subjects in your foreground or mid-ground are key.

Captivating photograph of a stone wall door and mountain range in rainy Europe

Low light

So often we’re out with friends at night and want to capture those moments together, but we can’t seem to get anything other than a blurry mess.

This is because most cameras aren’t great when working with the amount of light that’s available at night —they use slow shutter speeds that turn movement into blurs.

More expensive equipment can make a real difference for low-light photography. All is not lost if your pockets aren’t deep enough, though. First, you can increase the ISO setting on your camera. While this will reduce the quality of your shots, they will look better than blurry photos.

Another idea is to find something to rest your camera on. If you don’t have a tripod, try and find an alternative — anything that is stationary and not prone to shake like your hand does. Then, use your camera’s timer function to take the shot. If you’re taking pictures of people, get them to stand as still as possible!

Romantic photo of a nighttime street and canal in Europe


For better action photos, you have two options. One is to use a fast shutter speed to “freeze” the action — such as a shot of a hummingbird in flight, or a surfer on a wave.

The other option is show the motion by using a longer shutter speed — the resulting blur will convey a sense of action to your viewer.

In this shot of a train, I manually set the shutter speed to 1/30th of a second, slow enough that the trees at the edge of the shot would seem to be rushing past as I leaned out of the window, yet fast enough that the train itself would remain sharp, even handheld. I think this worked pretty well!

Photo from a fast train passing by a lush landscape


Waterfalls are a fantastic photography subject. My favorite way to shoot them is with a slow shutter speed, creating a soft and fluffy effect. Shutter speeds of 1/15th of a second and slower give the best results — you’ll need to use a tripod or rest your camera on something to avoid blur from your hand movement.

Another good way to shoot waterfalls is from far away using a long lens, using compression to create a sense of drama around your subject. Or, go the other way, and shoot super-wide, taking in the full glory of the scene.

Finally, don’t forget to use the light. All that flowing water can cause beautiful rainbows, as seen in this shot of Vernal Falls in Yosemite:

Breathtaking photo of the Vernal Falls and a rainbow in Yosemite Nation Park, USA


I believe that taking better photos is a combination of three factors — being in the right place at the right time, knowing how your gear works, and knowing how to compose a great shot. Shutter speed and aperture are two key settings in the photographer’s toolbox, and you need to learn how to access and control those modes on your camera. When you do, you will have much greater creative control over your photography.



Traveling is Fun

People all over the world love to travel. People travel for various purposes like business, leisure, education or recreational purposes. Traveling has become a part of people’s life and there is no life without traveling. Going to work everyday is also traveling. Traveling helps us to learn a lot. When we travel to other countries, we are able to learn about the culture, language and people of that country.

Many people, we find travel for work related purposes. Some people travel to other countries to seek work and there are lots of businessmen who are globally connected, traveling to various countries in the world to attend meetings, to expand their business, to build relations etc. This helps them to make more money.

A large percent of people travel for leisure. Everybody longs to relax. Nobody can work like a robot. To get away from the stress and tension of their work, they usually take a few days off to visit tourist places with their families to see places and enjoy a fantastic vacation. There are people who travel within their country, and there are people traveling to other countries depending on their budget.

Lots of students nowadays travel for education purposes, mainly for higher studies or for educational tours.

The World Tourism Industry is flourishing with tremendous growth and this industry is making changes every year to meet the demands of the increasing tourist. Tourism brings in a lot of money and increases employment opportunities in the country the tourism ministry in every country seeks ways to develop and promote tourism in their respective countries. The most visited country in the world today, happens to be France and Paris is the world’s most visited tourist destination. Switzerland also is a great tourist attraction because of it’s ski-resorts.

The Internet plays a very important role today in giving information of the various tourists attractions of the world, with the hotel and sightseeing facilities. With just a click of the mouse, you can book rooms suitable to your budget, in any part of the world.

Whether you are traveling for business or for pleasure, it is most important that you stay safe and enjoy your trip. First of all, you have to plan your trip well in advance. Once you have chosen your destination, plan your itinerary first. Book your flights and hotel reservation much in advance, especially during the seasonal period, to avoid disappointments. If you are choosing low budget hotels, make sure that you make proper research, because you might end up without the facilities mentioned on their websites. It is always best to book hotels with Internet facilities, because you can use Skype to keep in touch with your near and dear. This will help you to save a lot on your long distance telephone bills.The most important thing that you need during your travel is currency. You can use your ATM cards and credit cards. Travelers Checks can also be useful while traveling. The best advise for traveling is always travel light. Also be very careful about what you eat. Unhealthy eating can cause stomach problems and might end you up in the hospital, which can lead to an unexpected expense.

Traveling can be a very pleasurable experience if you do proper planning in advance.

Source by Tatta Matt