Open up the Instagram Explore page and you’re most likely to see three things: cute animals, delicious food and images of beautiful far flung destinations. We’ve all seen the notorious Bali Swing and account Insta Repeat has amassed a following 300k strong by creating posts showing 12 nearly identical photos that you see over and over again on Instagram. There’s a reason why people keep replicating these motifs in their travel photography and it’s because they are beautiful, and they perform well. While the world doesn’t necessarily need another photo of a girl with flowing hair sitting in a canoe in the middle of an impossibly blue lake, there’s lots to learn from bloggers when it comes to taking great photos of your next trip or vacation. As for the canoe shot, of it makes you happy then go for it! Whether you’re doing it for IG or for the memories, or if we’re being honest here, a little bit of both, these tips will help you capture your adventures, whether it’s the iconic Eiffel tower shot without the crowd, or snaps of that hidden beach you stumbled across in Australia.
- Location, location, location
Your first order of business is to decide whether you want to shoot at a specific landmark or or if you’re walking around to see what you find spontaneously. If you’re headed to a major site, consider going at an off peak time to avoid the crowds. If you want that dreamy golden light, set your alarm for the hour after sunrise. Whether it’s the Trevi Fountain in Rome or the Patrika Gate in Jaipur, arriving as early as possible is the best way to have the place (more or less) to yourself. If you’re wandering, hoping to stumble across a hidden gem, your best bet is to try for golden hour or, if overcast, the slowest part of the day. Sunday before 9am is my favourite time to shoot as most cities and towns are still sleepy. My favourite way to capture travel locations is to think about the story of the place and try to tell it visually in a new way.
- Plan your shoots
While a lot of the best parts of a trip happen serendipitously, if you have your heart set on a shot, going the extra mile to plan will make everything easier. Start a moodboard to help you figure out what you want, pack a bag of clothes and plan your outfits. Make sure your camera is charged and think about poses and angles. If you want to play with movement, try twirling or walking. There’s the ‘hand reaching back’ pose or looking out at a view, or sitting at a cafe table. Are there any props you want to bring to help tell the story? Bags, jewellery, flowers, books, food, all add interest. Planning ahead of time is a good way to get excited for your trip and can make getting the travel photos you have in your head stress-free.
- Play with the three Cs: composition, color and contrast
This is where angles, props, backgrounds and outfits come in. Try to find interesting backgrounds, decorated doors or storefronts or steps winding up a hill. If you’re traveling during Fall or Spring, think about finding a corner with golden autumn leaves or colourful blooms. Look for interesting contrast, old architecture versus new, negative space, unexpected angles, striking lighting. Capturing movement or a dramatic angle will give a real visual story to your travel photos. We’re not just going for the typical tourist in front of the landmark shot. Match the outfit to the scene: floaty dress on the walls of a castle looks spectacular. If you can coordinates tones in your outfit with the background, the photos will feel cohesive and professional. Make sure to get a variety of photos, close up, at a distance, full body, portrait. Incorporate your surroundings, sit on the fire escape of your Airbnb, walk across the marble plaza, lean against the columns at the museum.
- Communicate with your photographer
Whether you have a significant other or family member who knows their way around a camera or are working with an IPhone and enthusiasm, having an ongoing conversation while shooting is a must. Double check poses, facial expressions, if that thing you’re doing with your hands looks dumb. A photographer who can take in the larger scene and offer suggestions to you is really valuable since your can’t see yourself. Have them be your talking mirror. Once you get in a rhythm, it will flow together and you’ll have hundreds of shots to choose from. When I’m traveling by myself or visiting, I often set aside time to meet up and work with a local photographer or content creator I know. On this trip to London I wanted to spend my time with friends and not be thinking about blogging, so I dedicated an afternoon to meet up with Kaye of Fordtography. If you’re working with the same person, a family member or significant other, take the time afterwards to go through your favorites. Discuss what you like about them and for the ones that aren’t quite right, chat about how you’d like to tweak them next time. Show them your editing process as well so they know what takes the photos from raw image to the final shot (I recommend Lightroom, or if you want something less commitment, the Snapseed App).
I started this post by talking about some classic/infamous examples of travel photography on Instagram. Please remember when you’re using these tips on your next trip or photo shoot that this should be fun. Whether that means putting your own spin on the “stereotypical” travel shot or finding a totally unique take on a beautiful destination, ensure it makes you happy. Do it for yourself, for your memories and your experience and let the likes on Instagram be the icing on the cake.