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How to Take Awesome Photos While Traveling

Hi, everyone! Karen Lao here. I’m based in Dallas, Texas, but I travel often and take lots of photos along the way. I want to share a trip I went on last May to Santiago and Easter Island, Chile. I was with a group, so the shots I wanted often had to be quick. I learned a lot about travel photography on that trip, and I wanted to share some of those tips with you today.

1) Walk and Shoot

I normally do this when I want to enjoy the scene around me without looking through my camera at all times. If you’re traveling, you’ve gotta enjoy the experience, right? Leave your camera on as you’re traversing the streets or trails. If you see something even slightly worth capturing, point your camera in that direction and press the shutter. I suggest that you have burst mode on so that you can take quick shots in succession. When you’re looking through your camera roll later, you can pick the best shot. I failed to do this and missed a lot of opportune shots, so I’ve taken a note of it ever since.

Dame.Traveler
Snapshot of bicyclist riding past us on our way downtown

2) Rule of Thirds

Many of you may have heard of the rule of thirds. It’s a really good basic rule that makes your photos instantly better. “The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.”

Here are some examples. I try to eyeball the rule of thirds (elements placed along the lines or their intersections):

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There are stray dogs all over Santiago, and the people of the city take care of them. These dogs joined us on our walking tour! But notice how during this quick snapshot, I placed the dogs in the bottom left intersection.

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When you’re doing the walk-and-shoot method, don’t worry too much about the rule of thirds. Just try to capture that photo. Cropping and editing can come after.

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3) Be Patient

A lot of shots happened when I had framed the image and was patiently waiting for someone to pass by. This can result in great candid shots with a bit of action. Fleeting moments are the best!

Dame.Traveler
Cattle driver in the Andes Mountains

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4.) Be Aware

Be aware at all times! This goes for capturing photos and being safe. I actually lost my backpack with 2 of my lenses on Easter Island 🙁 It gave me an excuse to upgrade my equipment, but it was definitely a costly mistake.

5.) Take Photos of the Ordinary

Don’t be afraid to take a photo of something even if it’s not magnificent. If you’re on a trip, these memories are yours to keep. A few of my photos may be generic and ordinary to others, but it reminds me of what I loved about the trip.

I learned that I loved this fruit, especially as an ice cream flavor. I present to you: lúcuma.

Dame.Traveler
Best friends on Easter Island


6.) Landscape/Cityscape Shots

As for scenery… go big and go wide. Nothing is more beautiful than huge landscape and cityscape shots. I still like to use the rule of thirds, mostly using the horizontal lines.

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7) Be Mobile

Ah, yes. My favorite part. I’m a huge Instagram fiend, and a lot of my travel shots are actually taken with my phone. You can apply the same tips I’ve mentioned above to your phone photos as well. Have fun!!

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Karen Lao Photography

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3 Comments

  • Reply Melissa March 23, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Great tips! The burst mode while walking is a great idea – one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments. And of course it’s always a good reminder that cropping can come later. Thanks for a good read!

  • Reply merritt March 28, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Great advice! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Reply Drew April 25, 2017 at 11:43 am

    I haven’t heard of the rule of thirds for years! I’m so glad you could remind me. Thanks so much for sharing these tips.

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