Independence Reflection

I’m working on a revision to a session on making better photos that I’ve presented several times in the past two years, this time specifically around the pictures taken when you travel.

This post certainly isn’t everything I discuss in two hours, but simply five fundamental ideas that should help anyone make better images, no matter where you go or what camera you carry.

Travel photography, of course, is a very broad category. But at a minimum most of us are looking to document our trip, showing off the culture, traditions, history, people, and landscape of the location we’re visiting.

And, of course, creating a collection of images that won’t bore friends and family when we return.

So, here are five ideas you may want to consider.

1. Composition is everything. Don’t just take snap shots at eye level and from the same vantage point as everyone else. Move around and look for different perspectives. Get down low and rise above. I alway try to find the highest point I’m legally (and safely) allowed to go for photos others rarely get.

2. Time of day matters because light is essential for good photos. Go first thing in the morning, which is also often the least crowded time of the day, and late in the afternoon to avoid harsh mid-day light. Don’t forget to include some night shots since artificial light can produce some amazing images.

3. Scout your locations, both before you go and as soon as you arrive. Guidebooks, travel blogs, photo sharing sites, and browsing the area in Google Maps/Earth can help you find locations that offer great shots. Early in your trip, consider taking a basic tour, such as those provided by hop-on-hop-off busses, to give you an overview of the area.

4. Be patient. You may need to return to a particular site several times to find the right combination of light and activity. Also, slow down and look around. The best images may not be right in front of your face. I’m especially fond of using reflections – in glass, metal, or water – to capture a different view of a location.

5. Finally, get lost. On purpose, of course. Look down alleys and walk down streets that are not necessarily on the tour. Although you always need to be aware of your surroundings, some of my best travel pictures were accidents, taken when I stumbled across something I didn’t expect to find and wasn’t looking for.

Thanks for reading to the end of the post, and I hope you found something valuable. If you’re interested in additional personal examples, far too much of my travel photography can be found here.


The photo above is a favorite example of using reflections. Lots of people take pictures of Constitution Hall in Philadelphia. This perspective shows that iconic tower reflected in the windows of the building that houses the Liberty Bell across the street. Ya gotta look up.