Nigel’s top 5 tips for better travel photography

NI’ve been taking pictures ever since I can remember and invested in my first SLR camera in my early teens. Digital photography came along at about the time my daughters were born and although, looking back, the picture quality was not great, the ability to edit on a PC was a huge boon. There was very little by way of post-snapping editing in the days of film.

But I still believe that much of what makes a photograph great happens when you press the shutter. And I have 5 top tips that you might like to try out. They apply to almost all picture-taking, but will certainly make your travel pictures stand out.

1I see so many people miss out on such a simple technique. Have a look through the last 30 or so pictures that you took. How many of them are taken from about 1.5 metres off the ground? We spend most of our time looking at the world from this height. Why not vary it up a bit? Get close to the ground! Put your camera above your head! Stand on a wall! It can make such a difference and provide something a little bit unique. I took this woodland photo low to the ground with my phone last month and it was way more effective than at head height.WP_20160419_18_00_22_Pro

2My second tip is the rule of thirds. This is a classic tip, much talked about in discussions of picture composition. The principle is that the eye is generally drawn to four points in a picture – essentially where lines splitting the frame into thirds intersect. It sounds terribly complicated, but it really isn’t. This picture of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw works because the most striking feature – the clock, is placed a third of the way from the top and a third of the way in from the left. Try it!


3My next tip is all about focus. Cameras and most cameraphones have the facility to focus on different parts of the picture. This can produce some interesting effects and sometimes it’s not always the obvious element of the picture that deserves the focus. The key thing here is to experiment. Take several shots of the same thing, focussing on items close to you and then further away. You may well decide that the best shot is not the one you would have taken naturally.

[Note: this technique is best tried in bright conditions. You will find that the difference between in and out of focus will be more pronounced]

Which one of these two examples do you prefer? [Click to enlarge]


In order to get the most our of your photography tech – whether it’s a phone or a camera – you have to know what capabilities you have at your fingertips. That means spending a bit of time finding out what is available and how to use it. I find lots of great resources on YouTube that give me what I need. And then you need to go and practice with it. But do that before your ‘big trip’. You don’t want to be working it out while you’re away or realising when you get back that you could have taken more creative photographs if only you had known X or Y.

As an exercise, get into the routine of finding out one new feature on your camera each week and give it a go. You’ll have fun and you’ll be amazed how quickly your skill level increases.

My top 5 capabilities to understand are:

  1. Optical vs digital zoom
  2. Overriding focus and exposure settings
  3. Panaramas
  4. Rapid capture
  5. Self timer

5Finally, forego the obvious. With travel photography, it’s so important to get under the covers … behind the scenes. Keep asking yourself the question, what is it about this place that gives it its unique character? The answer will vary on your destination, but for me people and food usually come high on the list. So explore those every time. Of all my pictures taken in stunning Kathmandu, this picture truly stands out. So easy to capture and the children were very willing subjects.


And as for food, how about this one:


I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips. Got any of your own? Feel free to comment below.

6 thoughts on “Nigel’s top 5 tips for better travel photography

  1. Hi Nigel,

    I can’€™t argue with anything you’ve written re travel photo tips but there is another composition tip that I would add and that I always try to bear in mind.

    As well as being something of a thirds pedant, I also look for opportunities to frame the subject. Finding a natural or man-made frame often enhances a picture, especially if one intends to include the picture in a screen presentation.

    This first example was taken in Portugal. Our tour bus stopped some distance from the medieval town of Figueira Castelo Rodrigo so that we could take pictures from a distance. All the other passengers immediately crossed the road (as if being 10m nearer would make a difference). I noticed that there were trees on our side of the road, so by going 10m in the opposite direction, I was able to make the shot more interesting. And the green of the foliage contrasts nicely with the terra cotta colour of the roofs.

    It’s just a pity about the lamp standard, though it could easily be photo€‘shopped out as could the intruding fellow tourists.

    Carnarvon Castle tower is more impressive viewed through this arrow slit in a tower on the opposite side of the courtyard. I’€™ve also tried to get the main architecture lines coinciding with the thirds – as far as the window opening would allow.

    Just two examples from my portfolio.

    David Ridpath


  2. It appears that WordPress does not allow images to be embedded in visitors’ comments. But I have managed to link to your two photos. They illustrate the point perfectly. Thanks … Nigel.


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