Capturing the Essence of Your Travels Through Photography 17

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You may have seen it written in various articles and travel photography how-to-guides, but how do you exactly capture the essence of your trip through photos? Read on below for tips on how to take travel photo book-ready photos that don’t just attract but also captivate your audience by the stories they tell.

  1. Pay attention to the composition.


A great image starts with superb composition, according to nature photographer Willis Peterson. “It has to inspire a thought. It has to communicate a statement—this is spring, or this is fall, or this is love, or this is youth, etc.”

So when framing your image for landscape, wildlife, or portrait photography, make sure to keep the colors, textures, and all other elements interesting to engage your audience. Bring out the emotions in your subjects, whether inanimate or living. Experiment with lighting, filters, and other tools that will allow you to achieve your desired mood or effect for your travel photos.

  1. Create a shot list


It pays to do your research when you’re going to a new travel destination. Find out that place’s story, what makes it unique, and how you can create a shot that captures everything you’ve found out about the place. Come up with a list of the shots you want to take so that when you get to your shoot’s location, you’ll have more time for trial and error, as well as more opportunities to take that photo you envisioned.


     3. Take pictures of the locals


Nothing represents a country’s culture better than its people, so make the locals a vital part of your travel pictures. Go out there and immerse yourself in an entirely different lifestyle. Get a feel of how these natives live—may it be through their traditions, practices, or cuisine. Document your experiences with them. And if you’re snapping portraits of these people, don’t make them pose. But rather, capture their real emotions. This will make a whole lot of difference to your travel pictures.

  1. Include shots of people wearing their native clothing


Very few countries nowadays still have people wearing their native or traditional clothing. In Japan, you’ll probably see a few roaming around the streets of Kyoto (and sometimes in Tokyo), as the government gives incentives like free public transport and free museum entry to those who do. If you visit the Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, you’ll chance upon a few geishas and maikos there in full kimono attire, too. In India and in the Indian communities of Malaysia and Singapore, you’ll see some women in sari and men in their dhoti kurta on the streets or in the fields. Don’t miss snapping people clad in their traditional outfits to add interest and character to your photos.

  1. Get a snap of the street signs

Although often overlooked, street signs and store signs in foreign languages add authenticity to your photos. So don’t forget to include them in your shot list when traveling. If you see hand-painted or engraved ones, focus your lens on the intricate details. Also pay attention to the witty and funny signs on the road, as they can reveal something interesting about the place

  1. Take pictures of your food


Food is very telling of a place’s culture, so be sure to take a lot of food shots during travel. To make your pictures more appealing to the senses, draw attention to the color, texture, ingredients, shape, and presentation of a certain location’s local cuisine. Give your audience something to feast their eyes on, and hopefully, something that will make their mouth water as well.

  1. Be on the lookout for stories on the streets


If you observe hard enough, you’ll be surprised at the many human interest subjects you’ll find while exploring a place on foot. So keep your eyes, ears, and nose open—an interesting subject might just be around the corner!

And when all else fails…

  1. Set a theme

This will give you the structure and jump-off point that you need to get those creative juices flowing. And even if you don’t feel like it, your photos will come out inspired when you set a theme for them.


When taking travel photos, it pays to capture the whole experience rather than just showing how a certain place looks. This will allow you to relive the moments as vividly as possible when you look back on your travel photos.

-Jenn Sitterly
Budding photographer and freelance writer.

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