5 Common Travel Photography Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Five Common Travel Photography Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

You don’t have to be a professional travel photographer to take stunning photos of your travels, but without experience, you may end up disappointed with your shots. Luckily, you can learn from the experience — and the mistakes! — of the many travel photographers who have gone before.

Five Common Travel Photography Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)


Common Travel Photography Mistakes & How to Avoid Them


#1. Not Knowing Your Setting

Say you want to snap a photo of an icon like the Eiffel Tower, only there’s a huge crowd blocking the path. If there’s a place you want to photograph, it helps to search ahead of time and make a note of the hours the location is accessible, when it has the most traffic, and whether photography is even allowed. If you’re going to a nature location, see what you need to get there safely. Moreover, if you’re aiming for a certain time of day, look up the appropriate camera settings for the lighting.

Five Common Travel Photography Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)


#2. Only Shooting From Eye-Level

When you flip through your travel album, you may be disappointed if your photos look generic. To make your shots unique and evocative, look for different angles from which to shoot. Try the “worm’s eye” view from the ground for a new perspective, play with distance to make trees, buildings, and statues more majestic, or position the main attraction off-center with the rule of thirds for a pleasing yet unusual composition. There are many ways to take amazing photos of your travels, so don’t be afraid to experiment!


#3. Overloading With Gear

All you want is some beautiful photographs of your travels. You don’t want to lug around twenty pounds of gear to get them! Luckily, you don’t have to. While it’s tempting to over pack equipment to get the best shots possible, one or two good lenses should meet most of your needs. If you still haven’t found the perfect photography kit, read our post with tips on how to find the best camera for travel photography.

If you know for sure you’ll be photographing wildlife, then you can bring a telephoto, too. I use the Canon 70-300 to get all of my wildlife shots. It’s just the right amount of zoom, but not too heavy for travel photography.

I make sure all of my gear fits in this well-padded camera/laptop bag. While I’m on the ground, I use this small backpack and these lens covers while hiking or this cute padded camera bag while walking around in cities.

Five Common Travel Photography Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)


#4. Missing Sunrise and Sunset

You want to capture the breathtaking colors and inspiration of sunrise and sunset, but find that a building blocks the horizon, or you arrive at your location too late? Not planning for sunrise and sunset is one of the biggest travel photography mistakes I find with new photographers.

Doing some before-hand research here will make sure you don’t miss the most beautiful times of day. There are plenty of websites and even apps that will tell you the times of sunrise and sunset down to the minute, so plan ahead accordingly. Arrive a half hour early and stay a half hour after the sun sinks to get the most vibrant colors.

If you’re not an early riser but want to catch the sunrise, try going to bed earlier. You can still have fun and have a few drinks in the evening, just do it a little earlier than usual. I try to go to bed before 11 when I want to photograph the sunrise. This is where jet lag really comes in handy. I also plan my outfits the night before and just grab a quick piece of fruit or toast in the morning so I’m not wasting any time while I’m groggy in the morning.


#5. Not taking enough photos

Even professional travel photographers don’t just line up for one perfect shot! While finding the right location, time of day, and angle all help, taking dozens of photos gives you the best chance to find a true gem among them. You won’t regret having lovely reminders of your memories, so take lots of pictures wherever you go and get multiple shots of each subject so you can pick one that truly shines.

Five Common Travel Photography Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)


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  1. Beer and Croissants says:

    Completely agree with #2. My brother is a photographer and I learnt this from him. Some of the angles he uses you would never even consider. I try to think about this but could probably do it more. Number 5 – you can never have enough can you? I just wish it didn’t take so long to manage them.

  2. Sonal Kwatra says:

    Very useful tips – especially the sunset and sunrise point. Although I always miss the sunrise but some of my best shots have been around the sunset time. Question: point 3, is the location of the picture Laos?

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      It is! Just across the river — Riverside Bungalows, I believe it was called.

  3. Piotr Kulczycki says:

    Christy, this is very helpful post. I’m just writing an ebook about travel photography. Don’t you mind if I ask you for an advice?

  4. 365traveldates says:

    Hey Christy,
    Thanks for the reminders. #5 really hit me. We use to do hotel reviews in exchange for places to stay and would sometimes find we didn’t take enough photos to choose from. In a lot of instances more is better. Shoot for that one shot and then shoot for more! Never know what might pop up!

    Also, I enjoyed the idea of looking for different angles and perspectives aside from eye level shooting.

    Continuing to learn more from your blog!

    Thanks again…

    Love from the Philippines,

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I’ve definitely done the same when it comes to hotel reviews! I’m glad you found the post useful. Thanks for reading!