Top 5 Tips on How to Get Great Travel Images (Part I)

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by Stuart Dee, @travel_shooter

Just about everyone loves to travel, and loves to photograph their travels to share with others. Here are some simple tips to create better memories and increase the likes and followers for your Instagram.

1. Get up early. I know it’s a pain sometimes. Everyone loves sunsets, but sunrises offer the same great low, warm light, and less crowds. Depending on your subject and its orientation, sunrise sometimes offers a better alternative. With this image of sunrise in Lake Tahoe, at the California/Nevada border, I knew from a map and compass that it had to be taken at sunrise as one would be shooting towards the East to see the sun rise from the mountains. The hard part is getting up really early to get ready and get to the location, but it’s well worth it. I got up at about 4am to give enough time to drive to the approximate vantage point and scout for the best angle and wait for the sun to appear.

2. Use a polarizer. It not only deepens blue skies, it gets rid of reflections and surface sheen from water, glass, skin, leaves and other reflective surfaces to give the deep, saturated look. This is an incredible tool to get real pure color without faking it—polarizing filter effects cannot be reproduced in post-processing. In this image of Boracay, the polarizer deepened the blue sky, cut the reflections off the water, and made the palm tree leaves more saturated.

3. Ask people for permission to photograph them. Don’t be afraid to go up to strangers and ask them politely if you can take their portrait. Done properly and with good intentions, they almost always are very happy to do so. If you promise to send them an image, make sure you do so. While walking through the rice fields in Ubud, Bali, I came across this young boy carrying a load. I didn’t speak the local language but just gestured if I may take a few pictures. He gladly posed and smiled for me for a very natural, warm portrait.

4. Use a tripod! It’s a pain for most, but using a tripod can give you much better images. Much sharper images, more depth of field, and it allows slower shutter speeds for certain effects. Like for this shot of the Kuang-Si waterfalls in Luang Prabang, the slow shutter speed creates a soft flowing effect on the water that is impossible to recreate hand held with faster speeds.

5. Get high. Get low. Most of us naturally shoot from our own height. Finding a different angle gives your image a fresher perspective or one that can clean up distracting elements. Crouch down low, lie on your belly, use a milk crate, or step stool. Hire a chopper! Nowadays you can cheat and use a drone or selfie stick. For this shot of the market in Bali, I looked around and found a building with a balcony to shoot from, to clean up the composition of the busy market.

Tune in next time for the rest of the tips to get great travel pictures!

Stuart Dee is a travel photographer/writer who has tried his best to get lost in 50+ countries. His work has been published worldwide. Follow him on Instagram at @travel_shooter, to get inspired to travel more and create better travel images.

©Stuart Dee


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