Learning Photography for Beginners – Take Better Travel Photographs

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Travelling allows you to explore the world.  And what better way to have tangible memories of your travel adventures than having excellent photographs of the places that you visit, the people you meet and the things you do?  Here are a few tips for learning photography for beginners that will help you take better travel photographs.

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Close

eiffel-towerFamous American-Hungarian photographer Robert Capa said that if your pictures aren’t good enough, it means you’re not close enough.

Such is true, both literally and metaphorically.

When taken literally, it means that the closer you are to your subject, the better you will be able to capture much more detail and interest.

Metaphorically, it means being close to the essence of your photograph.

To take a good picture, you must be a part of what’s going on in the photo rather than being a distant spectator.

In other words, you shouldn’t be afraid to get intimately involved with what you are capturing.

Photos with “People, Places, Things” – Tell a Story

When you travel, you are overwhelmed with lots of new and exciting people, places, and things. Put this newness to use by including these three as elements in your photos. What better way to capture a travel photo than to have it complete with these three compositional elements?

A picture of the Eiffel Tower positioned in the center may get you a decent picture. But if you want to take it a step further, then you can include people in the frame, with the Eiffel Tower standing tall and mighty behind them, and sun or moonlight completing the story.

A good photograph does more than capture an image, but it also tells a tale. To showcase a story with your pictures, you have to take all the elements, such as framing, colour, lighting, angle, and more, into consideration. Before taking the shot, decide what’s the story you want to convey, and figure out the best way to tell it.

Remember the Rule of Thirds

One of the basic rules of photography is the rule of thirds, which states that a good image is broken into three equal parts, both horizontally and vertically. The subject should then be placed at the intersection or along one of the lines.  By placing the key compositional elements into these thirds, you’ll achieve a more interesting and compelling picture.

rule-of-thirds

Foreground, Midground, Background

Often, you may find that a photo you have taken of a great view doesn’t quite seem to capture the magnificence and grandeur of what it looks like in real life. The reason for this is the fact that a photograph is a two-dimensional image, and it doesn’t have a sense of scale, thus failing to capture the beauty that a real-life three-dimensional image carries, unless you know the tricks of the trade.

The key to capturing an image that can convey real-life beauty is composition. A properly composed shot draws the eye to the intended subject. Keep in mind the different elements that are in the foreground, midground, and background of the shot. This process requires some creativity and practise, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Foreground and Background

Framing and Use of Focal Points

Framing refers to using elements of a scene to surround your subject as in a frame, capturing it in the context of its surroundings.  For example, branches with leaves of a nearby tree provide a natural frame to the steeple of a cathedral, giving one a window to shoot through.

Arches or doorways can be used as frames too.  Photographing subjects from indoors or a darker area draw the eyes to the brightest part of the photo, making the picture more interesting.

framed-by-archway

Proper framing ensures that viewers are not confused about what the subject of the shot is, regardless of how the photograph has been framed. Don’t hesitate to fill the frame while taking pictures during your travels. A good tip is to fill the frame such that the edges of the subject image include as little background or other elements as possible. Once you get the hang of it, you can experiment with your framing.

Remove distracting backgrounds.  While framing is incorporating the other elements of the scene to represent the environment, blurring can make your subject pop out by removing the distracting background. Some subjects will have more impact if it is sharply focused, like a colourful flower with its pistil and stamens.

Make Use of Colours….or Not

In photography, colour plays an important role. To get a visually appealing shot, all you need is a basic understanding of what colours go well together.  The colour wheel can help you with this. Or even better, take a cue from nature.   A bright blue sky heightens the greenery of landscape.  A  field of purple wildflowers is breathtaking against a backdrop of green landscape and blue/grey sky.

use-of-colours

On the other hand, a monochromatic shot can add a  more emotional touch to an image. This can be captured both in a natural environment, or produced through technical image applications.

Wake Up Early, Stay Out Late

If you wish to take beautiful, breathtaking images naturally, then either waking up early or staying out late will help you. Lighting is the most critical element of any photograph, and you will be surprised at how beautiful your images can turn out when captured under the soft glow of the warm morning light.

sunrise

Sunset is also a great time to catch some natural lighting. The golden hour is perfect for capturing some excellent images with natural illumination.

Use a Good Camera and a Lightweight Tripod

We usually ask ourselves whether we need to bring our camera and a tripod during our travels, considering that we also carry smartphones with excellent camera features.

There are situations when smartphones will be appropriate.  However, there are tons of reasons to consider bringing a camera.  It does not have to be a sophisticated, top-of-the-line camera.  For starters, a mirrorless camera perhaps is all you need to get a quality recording of your travel stories.

We also suggest bringing a lightweight tripod because it allows you to fix your camera in one position and helps you in stabilizing your shot. You also have the time and space to arrange a perfect composition for your shot.

GET YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR NOW


Travelling allows you to explore the world and have great memories of your experience, which may be once-in-a-lifetime.  Beautifully captured photos will enable you to remember such experience.   We hope these tips will help you do that.

If you have questions on the topic or would like to share any experience you may already have with this network, please feel free to leave your comments below.

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(18) Comments

  1. Telly

    Great article on photography this will really help me going forward In taking better pictures than I would even thought about doing.Well done

    1. JRandZen

      Hi Telly,

      Glad to know that this article will help you in taking better pictures. Yes, some of these we also did not put much thought when we started out. On your side, which one gave you that AHA! moment?

  2. Mohamad Haszuan Bin Abdul Hassan

    This site will be the most amazing website..and many thing that we can learn here..nice job friends

    1. JRandZen

      Hi Mohamad,

      Thank you for your comments. We will always strive to share useful and related information. Do you have anything in mind (with respect to travel and travel photography) that you think we can share our perspective on for the benefit of all who comes across our site?

  3. Frank

    Thank you for this great article.

    I can see how, by just following a few simple rules, my photographs can suddenly be made to look way better.

    I can also see now how some impressive photographs that I have seen have been impressive, at least in part, because the photographer applied one or more of these basic rules.

    I will certainly be applying some of these rules myself soon.

    1. JRandZen

      Hi Frank,

      Thank you for your comments. We are glad that you found them useful and will be applying some of the rules to get better photographs. Do you normally use a camera or rely on your smartphone? Either way, the basic rules should apply. Would you agree?

  4. James

    Excellent tips! Thanks for such clear explanations, too! 🙂 I’ve enjoyed the idea and process of photography since my school years, but never took it too seriously. As that changes, I’m sure these tips will help me and many others in their journey of learning photography.

    I particularly like your quote about a photograph telling a story. With all the other practical tips such as considering getting involved with the photograph and using the correct ratios (etc.), deciding on a story to tell and then letting a photograph convey it definitely would inspire creativity.

    Thanks again,
    James

    1. JRandZen

      Hi James,

      We were on the same boat when we started out, particularly when we were just relying on our smartphones – we did not really pay attention to these basic rules. But our travels have opened opportunities for us to take great pictures. So we invested in a mirrorless camera and that pushed us to understand the rules to follow in getting great pictures that can do justice to our experience. Which ones gave you the most realization?

  5. Stephanie

    Growing up I used to love taking pictures of absolutely anything with disposable cameras. Once digital ones started being more popular, I just stopped. Recently, I have been going on road-trips with friends and I’ve been focusing on taking some close-up pictures of plants. For some reason, that makes me feel so at ease with myself. I will definitely be applying that 3 step method you mentioned! 

    1. JRandZen

      Hi Stephanie,

      Yes, if you are keen on close-up pictures of plants (or any other subject), the basic photography tips we mentioned will serve you well.  We have found these basic rules useful for us.  And if you invest in a nice camera (does not have to be top-of-the-line), it will return you a hundred-fold in terms of professional-looking photos.  During your road trips, do you also fancy taking pictures of landscapes, architecture, people, animals?

  6. Parveen

    Hey, I enjoy a lot while reading your guide on Learning Photography for Beginners . I found it is very useful and helpful to Take Better Travel Photographs. Your step by step guide is very helpful for me to understand photography. Now I know that Color plays an important role in photography. To get a visually appealing shot, all we need is a basic understanding of what colors go well together. Your guide is helpful for beginners like me.

    1. JRandZen

      Hi Parveen,

      Colour definitely adds life to pictures.  And a good understanding of the colour wheel helps in the process.  However, as mentioned in our post, there may be situations where a monochromatic shot is just as good or even adds more character.  Don’t worry.  You will get the feel along the way.  What sets of colour do you know normally go for?

  7. Sadie

    Thanks so much for posting a great article. You have beautiful shots. As a complete amateur (the extent of my “photography” has all been from iphones 🙂 I am happy to read these tips since I feel like I’ve been doing these things naturally! It’s interesting to read how you broke down the importance of composition, depth and color since these are some things I don’t usually think of when I’m taking pics. Now it totally makes sense. Great tips – thanks!!

    1. JRandZen

      Hi Sadie,

      We are so glad that you found our tips useful.  We were on the same boat a few years back – i.e. we just relied on our smartphones.  There are situations that they may be good enough or necessary, e.g. when you are in a rush and you really do not have time to set-up.  But otherwise, having a good camera is worth it.  In our case, we went for a mirrorless camera.  You may want to get one for yourself.

  8. George

    Thank you for this interesting article.  I take a lot of photos of people and events, but haven’t done very much with travel photography.  The part about using architectural framing was especially helpful.  When traveling, it’s not easy to carry around a lot of photography equipment.  What do you do for flash photography (where allowed)?  Do you find the built in flashes are enough or do you add on a dedicated flash or light ring? 

    1. JRandZen

      Hi George,

      Thank you for your comments.  

      Yes, indeed it is not easy to carry around a lot of photography gear when travelling.  In our case, we normally bring with us the camera and lens that would take care of most of our shots and then just play around with the various settings.  Other than the fact that they can be heavy, it may be cumbersome to keep changing lenses for example, and you may not have all the time to do that.  What about you?

      In terms of flash, since we normally go for outside shots, we rarely find the need for a flash.  If we do, the camera’s built-in flash typically serve the purpose for us.  What’s your experience?

  9. Michel

    Great post! I’m working in the TV/film-industry as a film editor and I watch hours of footage daily. Now, I’m working with moving pictures, but the rules are the same and you really nailed them all.
    I would add though; when you know these rules and they are second-nature to you, try breaking them! The results can be very interesting. But it is essential to know the rules before you break them.

    1. JRandZen

      Hi Michel,

      Thank you for your insightful comments. We agree that once you have grounded on the basic rules, it would be interesting to break them once in a while. That would further trigger the creative juices in us!

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