At one point in time, we’ve all wondered how to take better pictures. It’s easy to fall into the comparison game when you’re scrolling on Instagram.
If you’re like us and you follow a gazillion travel influencers, you’ll see that your Instagram feed isn’t just pictures of your friends and their new cat anymore. It’s all about business. People are trying to sell themselves. And while making a little bit of money is never a bad thing, traveling and photography should also be about having fun. We all want to know how to take better pictures.
So, let’s stop taking ourselves so seriously. Let’s stop choosing destinations to travel to just because they’re trending and Instagrammable. Instead, let’s put our heads together, find out how to do what we love to do, and how to take better pictures.
How to Take Better Pictures 101
We’re sure you’ve been told the first step on how to take better pictures is to invest in a really nice (and really expensive) camera. It’s partially true. If you want top notch pictures, you’ve got to save for a top quality camera. A point and shoot won’t do the trick all of the time. But it also depends on what your photography goals are. Are you trying to grow a small travel business? Do you want to offer your services to local companies in your area? Or are you just trying to take some pictures to make some memories?
1. Invest In a Good Camera
For more serious travel photographers, we recommend investing in a great DSLR camera or mirrorless camera. This is one way how to take better pictures. More often than not, these run a pretty big price tag, so save up for it. It’s more than worth it though.
Don’t try to go cheap and buy an old DSLR based off of some good online reviews. Trust us. We’ve been there and it won’t work nearly as well. If you want a good camera, try one of Sony’s mirrorless ones or Canon’s 5D Mark III and Mark IV. Instagram’s famous world traveling duo, Gypsea Lust and Do You Travel use these cameras!
Do you just want to capture some good photos of your latest trip to Hawaii to send back home? Try to buy a camera that’s a little bit of a step up from a point and shoot. The Olympus TG 5 would be a good (and waterproof option).
2. How to Take Better Pictures: Practice Makes Perfect, So Go Out and Shoot Every Day
Here’s another way how to take better pictures. The best way to develop your skills as a photographer is to practice. If you’re in a creative rut, try going somewhere new or photographing a new subject. One of our favorite books for creative photo prompts is called: Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll. This book is brilliant. Buy it and keep a copy in your travel backpack at all times. You’ll thank us later.
Spend hours behind (and maybe in front of) your camera. Get a feel for how it works. As your technical skills improve with time, your ability to story tell will too. Trust the process and don’t rush yourself.
3. Get Up Close With Your Subject
A third way to how to take good pictures is to get up close to your subject. Don’t zoom in with your camera. Move forward with your body. Using the zoom (in general) and flash at night have to are a photographer’s worst enemies. There’s something authentic about getting close and real with your subject. From the viewer’s perspective, it’s intimate. It looks like the photographer is well-connected with their subject, its life, and movement. Don’t leave too much empty space.
4. Use Natural Light to Your Advantage
Before you even lift up your camera, try to determine where the light is coming from. We’re sure you’ve seen so many travel photos of your aunt and uncle squinting on a beach in Miami, direct sunlight hitting them in the face. Whether the light is coming from the sun or it’s artificial light like a lamp, you can use it to make your photos better. Ask yourself ‘how does the light create a mood?’ How does the light interact with your subject?
5. Ask Permission to Photograph People
When traveling in other countries, it can be a little awkward to get all the photos you want without sticking out like a total tourist. Who cares. Once you take the photos you want, you’ll be glad you did. Just be sure to ask locals or others if you can take their photo.
In certain countries, if you photograph without permission, it can come with some pretty rough consequences. So ask. Don’t be afraid to do it. Not only will you make great memories, but you’ll also gain more confidence as a travel photographer. The only opportunities you’ll regret are the ones you didn’t take.
6. Use Flash During the Daytime
This sounds silly, we know. You’ve probably been told to only use flash at nighttime and outdoors. But using flash at night just results in red eye and washed out skin tones. Use flash during the day. This is one of the ways how to take better photos. If it is an extremely bright day outside, using the flash can diffuse and soften light, eliminating harsh, unflattering shadows. By forcing extra light into the frame and onto your subject, you will create an even exposure.
7. Know How to Use Your ISO
Master your ISO. Keep a lower ISO during the day and raise it slightly at night to brighten up your image. Unless you have an absolutely stellar DSLR camera, raising the ISO levels too high result in grain and a ton of background noise. To check what ISO level you should use, make sure you’re using it at the right time of day.
When you’re out and about shooting during the heat of Rome, keep your ISO levels at 100 or 200. If you’re shooting at night without a tripod, you’ll have to increase your ISO a bit to record light on the camera’s sensor. If the scene is still too dark, don’t be afraid to turn your ISO up to 800 or even 1600.
8. Know How to Adjust Your Aperture Accordingly
Know your go-to aperture. When conditions are just right and if your camera is able, use f/4. If you pair this with a long lens (200mm-400mm), you can clearly distinguish the subject from the background. It works one hundred percent of the time every time.
9. Try to Get Your Subject to Act Naturally
Don’t pose. And don’t have your subject pose. It looks forced. One way how to take better pictures is to take pictures as you’re traveling throughout the day and just exploring a new city. When your friend or significant other isn’t looking or geeking out over seeing the Colosseum in person, snap a photo. Candid photos capture reality and an essence you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. We know you want to move away from those posed, cliche photos.
10. Edit After You’re Done Shooting for the Day
When you’ve wrapped up a leg of your trip and you’re dying to post pictures right away, don’t. You will be surprised at how a little bit of editing can bring out tones, shadow, and light you didn’t even know it could. Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop are two of the best editing software programs.
While Adobe Lightroom focuses on tones, light curves, grain, and shadows, Adobe Photoshop fine-tunes more detail. You can even add things into your photos that weren’t there and take out things you don’t want to be in it. Hello tourist in the bright orange shirt. We see you.
11. Join a Photographic Community
Credit: Brandon Woelfel
Yes, this is a thing. And it’s awesome. If you want to grow your skills and connect with local creatives in your area, consider joining a photo community. This is just another great way how to take better pictures. You’ll grow from each other.
Look up Hinfluencer Collective and Nubko. These are two awesome sites where photographers, models, videographers, and other creatives meet up worldwide to collaborate on something cool and creative. It’s crazy how social media brings people together. You’ll have a blast!
12. Envision What You Want to Shoot and Then Create It
A trend had to start somewhere. Don’t copy popular photography styles you see on Instagram and Pinterest. While it’s okay to use these sites for inspiration, you’ll be a lot more proud of yourself it you dream up what you create. Trust us. We know from experience.
What Should You Do When You Want to Know How to Take Better Pictures?
Make a mood board. Draw up some rough sketches. Connect with people. Tell them what you want to create. Think outside of the box. Envision what you want to create and then make it happen. You’ll create something beautiful. What better place to do this than when learning about new cultures in a whole new country? Go to a Bedouin tea ceremony in Jordan. Dive into the hustle and bustle at a market in Mumbai. Visit the Taj Mahal. Make new friends at a local pub in London. Get outside, explore, and push yourself to grow.
Related Article: 10 Best Travel Cameras For The Adventurous Photographer