Through the lens: how to take incredible travel photos

Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit, photography was no more complex than capturing a quick picture on my iPhone – which I’m sure we’ve all done at some point in our lives. With today’s technology, it’s far too easy to simply reach out for our smartphone, open up our camera and snap away time and time again. Nothing more, nothing less. However, all that was about to change after I’d made the decision to spend the latter half of 2018 travelling around Asia.

With the decision made to travel, I soon began to realise that I faced a huge dilemma. Surely, I couldn’t capture 6 months of this life changing experience on an iPhone 6S? Generations worth of diverse cultures, tastebud teasing food, and inspiring landmarks deserved much, much more than a standard point and shoot. And even if not, I owed it to myself to leave knowing that some of my images were as interesting as the places and people I’d met. So not one to shy away from a challenge, I made it my mission to hit social media, create a travel account, and post all of my photography. Talk about jumping in at the deep end. I’d made it my ‘why’ to share my photos with the world through Instagram.

August 2018 came around and I finally hit the road with nothing more than a 65-litre rucksack, a beginner’s camera kit and a huge amount of drive and optimism. However, soon after touching down in Bangkok, I learned that capturing these moments would take a huge amount of time, patience and of course willingness to learn – which thankfully I now had all three. I also quickly realised that good photography is not necessarily the equipment, but more so, the person using it.

Here are my top 5 travel photography tips which completely changed the way I took my pictures, and which ultimately led me to achieve my travel photography goals. You can see the resulting images over on my Instagram account here. 

Composition

Us humans are suckers for good composition, whether we realise it or not. Repetition, colour and symmetry are just a few things to consider when trying to get your perfect Insta shot. Are there any patterns present in the architecture? Are there any colours that give the viewer that ‘feel good’ factor? Or is there rule of thirds in my photo? These are just a few questions to ask yourself when looking through that view finder. When you understand composition, you’ll soon be on a fast track path to creating some awe-inspiring photos.

 Horizon

This one could/ should fit in with composition, but because of its importance, it fully deserves its own bullet point. When taking a photo ALWAYS keep the horizon line straight. Our eyes will be drawn towards a wonky horizon line, like that of a dripping tap or fingers down a chalk board. A slight tilt in the horizon can be adjusted in post-production, but save yourself the extra time and efforts. Less time editing means more time spent on the beach!

Golden Hour

I was never much of an early bird, but reality soon hit, when I arrived at a location to find I was amongst a thousand other tourists, that right here and now, the perfect Instagram shot was not going to happen. Because of this, 5am starts quickly became the norm, and drove me out of bed in the morning to see soft tones immediately after sunrise. That’s Golden Hour; shortly after sunrise, and just before sunset. Here, the sky produces the most amazing colours – perfect for adding a soft, warm feel to your photos.

Shooting during the day proved tricky for me and for my style of photography. The direct sunlight made the highlights too harsh, which in turn made it harder to work with my presets – so next time, definitely give Golden Hour a try!

Shoot Dark & Use Presets

The key to a consistent feed on social media is the instant click of a preset. Creating presets does take a lot of time, patience and late nights, but once created, you’ll win back this time in abundance. Presets are essentially your own custom-made filters which each have their own colour values and settings. They will instantly transform your image and give them that look and feel you want to achieve. Oh, it’s also good to mention that when taking my photos, I would always shoot darker as I found this gave me a lot more freedom and flexibility when working with my presets.

Storytelling

Well now you know my photography secrets, my final point is THE most important! Your picture should tell a story, taking the viewer to places they’ve never been before. A great image tells a great story and puts across your ‘why’. Simon Sinek told us to ‘start with why’, so why not apply this to your photography? Telling the story will bring all of that context to life and generate much more interest. Capture expressions, emotions and remember the setting and your surroundings. All these help in creating that picture-perfect story and show the reason why you’re there doing what you do.

5am starts are hard. Driving 2 hours on a 100CC scooter through the mountainous jungle is difficult. But let’s be honest, all this doesn’t matter one bit when you finally arrive and achieve what you set out to achieve. It’s these memories which come flooding back each and every time I look back at my travel photos, in one of my many photo albums labelled ‘Asia 2018’.

It’s true what they say; a picture speaks a thousand words.