Photography has become such an important part of everyone’s travel modus; making the most of your travel photography is essential. Here are our top tips to ace your travel photography and come home with the shots you want.
Brought to you by Olympus.
Capturing those memories while you’re travelling has never been easier. Cameras are more approachable and take better shots. Post-production editing software is getting more sophisticated and accessible.
And of course, options for sharing your photos seem to be growing every day.
Still, just because there are more options and things are easier doesn’t mean that travel photography is simple.
We’ve got the tips to take your travel photography to the next level and leave you with photos that your friends will be asking to see.
Here are our how-tos that have helped us with our travel photography and that will also help you make the most of your best images when you get back home.
How to take your travel photography to the next level
Before you go
1. Research your destination for the best shots
Whenever you see those candid natural photographs in travel magazines, the photographers have probably spent weeks finding that great location and building relationships to snap them.
It’s rare that those ‘accidental’ photos truly happened by accident.
2. Set a theme
Give your travel photography a story – set a theme for your trip. It doesn’t have to be totally prescriptive, but it will inspire you to take more photos.
Make the theme something you are interested in – maybe food or architecture or people. Every day, look for a shot to add to your theme and, throughout your trip, it’ll build to create a beautiful cohesive vision.
3. A look inside our camera bags
Mrs Romance likes to travel quite incognito with a small handbag that hides the camera. A cross-body bag is more comfortable to carry and evenly distributes the weight of your camera gear. It’s also a little bit safer when you’re travelling and lets you blend in.
Even in this small shoulder bag, Mrs R can fit her camera, a different lens and everything she needs for the day.
We switched to these Olympus mirrorless cameras about 3 years ago. One of the reasons was that they’re smaller and more compact than a big DSLR without sacrificing functionality.
If we’re out for a long time or on a trek, we’ll take the backpack with extra gear – most importantly a tripod. The tripod’s great for taking selfies with both of us in. It’s also essential if you want that beautiful waterfall effect or shooting moving water.
Tripods are also essential for doing any time-lapse videography. This is super easy with the Olympus OMD EM5 mark II, which has time-lapse settings in the menu. Slow-mo and time-lapse add a beautiful accent to your travel videos.
Whether we’re travelling or at home, we love settings for capturing moments like these.
4. Pack the right gear
Switching from big DSLR to these smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras has made a real difference to our travel photography.
Because they’re smaller and less confronting, they also allow you to get a little bit closer without freaking people out. If fact the cameras are such a great conversation point, everyone loves seeing them and using the touchscreen to take photos.
This is Christina’s favourite camera – the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II – because she loves the video functions, the time-lapse functionality and the size.
I prefer the OM-D E-M1. The grip shape is really comfortable for my hands and the flip-down screen allows me to get to the shot angles that I wouldn’t normally be able to see.
Christina is the real photographer in our relationship and shoots in different modes and understands the difference between shooting in aperture priority or shutter priority and can even shoot in full manual mode.
I’m happy to trust the camera most of the time and use the auto functions. And that’s what I love about the Olympus cameras. Whatever level of photography you’re at, they’ll make your photos look as good as possible!
5. Lenses – our favourites
As for lenses, this really depends on the destination. Christina loves the 25mm lens as a great all-rounder. It’s unobtrusive, fantastic in low light and is also still great for taking landscape shots or street scenes.
The 12-40mm Pro Zoom lens is incredible for almost any situation. It works well with anything from portraits to landscapes to pretty much any scene. It’s even the best one for shooting video. The flexibility a zoom lens gives you while you’re travelling is also great for street photography.
The 45mm F1.8 lens is the most beautiful lens for portraits. It’s also fantastic photographing food and scenes as you go.
These lenses are a great upgrade to make when you want to take your travel photography up a notch. At the same time, the Olympus kit lens – the 14-42mm – is perfect if you’re just starting out.
6. Start a Series
While a theme can help your overall travel photography, starting a series is one level deeper. It helps you create a vision that goes through all of your travels.
For Mrs Romance it’s photographing doors.
From an ornate antique door of a Japanese temple to a humble farmhouse door in the countryside of Provence, in creating her series Mrs Romance sets guidelines so all the photos will look good together.
She frames them so that, when all the photos are put together, a simple door suddenly becomes so much more interesting when contrasted with the collection.
Think about other collections you could start. Whether it’s doors, birds or beaches, a simple framework of ideas can help you create a cohesive travel series.
7. Set up your camera before you leave
One of our favourite settings tips is to turn off your camera’s auto-bleeps and auto-flash. This means your camera won’t bleep every time you press a button and the flash won’t go off without you telling it to. This is great for when you’re in museums, churches or other quiet places.
This is also better for street photography – to take those quiet shots that no one notices. Nothing worse than the flash going off or your camera beeping when you’re trying to be discreet.
1. Timing is everything
Taking photos in the key times of Golden Hour (around sunrise and sunset) and Blue Hour – that perfect inky blue sky just after the sun sets and before it rises – really adds expression to your landscape photographs.
Golden Hour is also a great time to photograph people.
There are some great apps that help you track sunrise and sunset times so you can capture the best Golden Hour and Blue Hour shots while you’re travelling. This website also calculates it all in much more detail.
Researching a destination before you go is great. But nothing beats just exploring. Research will help you find those iconic spots, but beyond that, just see where your feet take you.
We like to shoot a mix of photos. Looking for those ‘social media famous’ shots is always fun, but for us it’s when we’ve gone off-road and off-path that we’ve found some of our favourite shots.
3. Learn some local language
It really helps to know how to ask, “can I take your picture” in the language of the country you’re visiting. Even a few words like “excuse me” and “thank you” will help you get the message across.
It’s important to ask when you’re taking photos of strangers, and by starting that conversation you can get a photo that’s even better than the one you are hoping for. Smile, be friendly and most people will say yes.
You can also build a connection with that person – offer to send them the photo or show them a copy before you leave.
4. Be curious
Pretty good life advice generally, this is also a great travel photography mindset. Let your curiosity guide you in a new place.
Communicate with the people you meet. You only get to know a place by meeting the people there. It’s what takes you from being a tourist to a traveller.
And capturing moments in those relationships take you so much further.
5. Always pack extras
Make sure you’ve got a spare battery and lots of memory cards. When you’re travelling, you never know where you’ll end up and there’s nothing worse than running out of space or power at that key moment.
6. Back it up
At the end of each day we like to download our memory cards and create a little back up on our computers. We don’t like to dwell on worst-case scenarios, but it’s possible your camera could be stolen or cards damaged and thereby losing the shots from the whole trip.
By doing a download each night, we minimise these risks. It has the added bonus of helping us keep photos in order as we go.
1. Do more with your photos
The best way to get over your post-holiday blues is to book another trip! But if you can’t do that, going through your photos is the second best thing. Take time to edit your photos and put those series together.
Once you’ve edited and organised them, there’s so much you can do with your photos.
You can create books, calendars, magnets and even slide shows that you can have as your screen saver or on your TV to keep those travel memories alive.
2. Keep posting on Instagram
It’s fine to keep sharing photos post-trip. We relive memories all the time on Instagram, showing our favourite moments. Keep sharing your series over the next little while – people don’t like it when you post too many photos in one day.
Instagram’s also a great place where we can see the results of our travel inspiration in our own photos and the process comes full circle. It means there are some great travel communities there you can tap into.
Follow the #OlympusInspired hashtag for more travel photography inspiration as well.
So, you’ve had a peek into what we we’ll be taking on the next trip and we can’t wait to share our travels with you.
We’d love to know what your favourite photography tips are. How do you find the best locations when you’re travelling?