small camera in yellow meadow

Travel Photography for Beginners – A Guide

This guide takes you through everything you need to know to improve your travel photography with tips to improve your photography skills, choose the right gear, learn how to edit your photographs and know how to plan the perfect photography trip.

Photography is something that I am still learning but I hope that I can help you to enjoy your camera and make some lasting memories. As a photographer it can sometimes be difficult to be out and about in public with a camera and so knowing what you are doing before you arrive at a location is essential.

Through trial and error I have adapted my techniques and have discarded thousands of images that just weren’t quite right. The rejects are getting fewer but they still happen on a regular basis.

Below are my top travel photography tips to help you get started in travel photography and learn more about the camera you own.


Getting Started With a Camera

Whatever camera you decide to use, or where you are travelling to, you need to start somewhere with learning how to take photographs.

Whether you are using a smartphone, a second hand camera or a brand new camera, the basics are the same and these are outlined below. Once you have mastered these skills everything else will fall into place.

The three basic factors in photography are aperture, shutter speed and ISO and learning how these work together will allow you to get away from Auto mode and get the photographs you dream of taking.

Aperture and Depth of Field

Have you ever wondered how photographers get those lovely smooth backgrounds or get some of the photograph in focus while the rest is blurry? This is all down to the aperture size that the photographer has selected.

The aperture is the size of the opening in the lens that allows the light to hit the sensor on your camera. The smaller the opening the less light that reaches the sensor, the larger the aperture the more light that is let into the camera.

The size of the aperture is given by an f/stop number. The higher the f/stop number the smaller the opening.

The aperture also controls the depth of field. If you use a large aperture between f/1.4 and f/4 the depth of field will be shallow with more light reaching the sensor, but the background will be blurred. This is called Bokeh and is really good for portraits, wildlife and where you want to emphasis and object.

If you use a small aperture between f/8 and f/22 everything in the image will be in focus. This is good for landscapes where you want the whole scene in focus.

The aperture options will be dependent on the lens you use with ‘prime’ lenses having larger apertures.

Selecting aperture priority mode is one of the first steps away from auto mode that you can take. This means that you are controlling the aperture but letting the camera select other settings.

READ MORE: DETAILED GUIDE TO APERTURE

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed is how long the shutter is open and therefore how long light is allowed to enter the camera and reach the sensor. The longer the shutter is open the more light that reaches the sensor.

In the daytime the light levels are high and you can take photographs with a fast shutter speed. This is great for fast moving objects like wildlife and vehicles. In good light you can use a fast shutter speed and capture your subject without any motion blur.

When light levels are low, slowing down the shutter speed allows more light into the camera to give you a suitable image. However, setting the shutter speed too low can mean that unless you are using a tripod your photograph will have movement blur. If you are setting your shutter speed and hand holding your camera you need to keep is faster than about 1/60 second.

You can use this movement blur to your advantage in intentional camera movement which gives beautiful artistic photographs.

ISO

ISO is probably the hardest part of the settings to understand.

It describes the sensitivity of the camera to the light that is available and is the last thing that you should change when you are setting up your exposure.

You should aim to keep your ISO below 200 unless you are in very low light conditions. As the ISO increases the grain or noise of the image increases and this is not good for your photograph.

If you are photographing at night or really low level light conditions and your aperture and shutter speed can not be adjusted, even with a tripod then you can increase the ISO. Try to keep the ISO under 6000 or the grain will start to become a problem.

Don’t set the ISO to auto, try to be in control of this factor at all times.

Camera Exposure – Pulling it all together

The three factors all work together to give you a photograph that you will love. This is known as the exposure triangle and depending on how you combine the three factors you can alter how the photograph looks.

If you get the exposure factors wrong you may get an image that is too light or too dark. An underexposed photograph will be too dark, an over exposed photograph will be too bright and may appear white.

The settings you select will always be a compromise, but with practice you will be able to work out what you need to set for the light conditions, movement of your subject and the depth of field you want.


Learning about your camera and choosing the right gear

When starting out in photography you don’t need to have the most expensive camera to get amazing photographs and capture amazing memories.

Starting with a Mobile Phone Camera

Starting with a mobile phone can allow you to capture memories without the hassle of a big camera. You can use it for landscapes and street photography while travelling.

A mobile phone can be discreet when photographing street scenes and easily carried when you want to experience the moment without a camera in your hand

Learning how to use your mobile phone can be a fun journey and can be a brilliant basis for moving on to a larger camera. It is simple to start out and you will always have your camera with you.

READ MORE: TIPS FOR USING A SMARTPHONE FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

BUYING A CAMERA FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Choosing your first camera can be a daunting experience. There are so many options to consider that it is worth thinking about what you will be photographing before you start looking.

You will need to consider whether you want an easy compact camera or a DSLR or mirrorless where you will need to think about the lenses you need as well.

If you will be going underwater or taking part in extreme sports then you may want to consider a more robust camera that will be able to endure the conditions.

Whatever camera you select you will need to consider the number of pixels that the sensor has along with sensor size. This will determine the quality of your photograph. A larger sensor with more pixels will give better quality images.

When looking at cameras you will also need to think about the size of the camera and how you will be carrying it. A large camera and lens cannot be tucked away in a bag when you want to go for a coffee so this needs to be considered.

READ MORE: COMPLETE GUIDE TO BUYING YOUR FIRST TRAVEL CAMERA

CHOOSING THE RIGHT LENS FOR YOU

The choice of camera lenses is mind blowing. There really is a lens for every situation from mushy artistic details to vast landscapes. Lenses are divided into two types – prime lenses and zoom lenses.

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length and a large maximum aperture, usually around f/1.4 to f/2.8. This makes them ideal for low light photography and situations where a faster shutter speed is needed.

Zoom lenses as the name suggests allows you to have a variable focal length. This is perfect for travel and wildlife photography where you don’t always have control over where your subject is in relation to your position.

Zoom lenses often have a smaller maximum aperture (usually around f/4) when compared to a prime lens, but this is outweighed by the flexibility of the lens. Sometimes a zoom lens will have a range of f/stop. At the shortest focal length the maximum aperture will be smaller. As the zoom is extended then the f/stop will increase.

READ MORE: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUYING A CAMERA LENS

GETTING YOUR CAMERA SET UP

Once you have chosen your camera it is time to learn how to use it. Nothing beats playing with your camera and learning how to use it.

There are so many settings and options that it is worth finding the instruction manual and slowing going through everything.

Things you will need to learn or find are:

  • Aperture
  • Shutter speed
  • ISO
  • Focus settings
  • Metering modes
  • File formats

READ MORE: GETTING STARTED WITH YOUR CAMERA


  • Buying your first Camera – An introduction to guide you in choosing the right camera for you
  • Getting Started with a Camera – You’ve opened the box, but now what? This will tell you how to get started
  • Tone in Photography – Black, white or lots of grey. A photograph isn’t all about colours
  • Aperture and Mushy Backgrounds – Do you want those silky smooth backgrounds that you see on photographs. Here is how it is done without photoshop
  • ISO – How to get your camera to work with the lights that is all around you
  • Shutter Speed – Get perfect movement blur or speed up for a crisp sharp moment.
  • Camera Exposure, putting it all together – It’s all very well knowing about ISO, aperture and shutter speed but how does it all fit together? Learn more to make your camera work for you
  • Composition of a Photograph – Four things to consider when setting up for any photograph
  • How to Emphasise the Subject of a Photograph – A few simple steps to make it clear what your photograph is all about
  • Photography Learning in your Garden – You don’t have to go anywhere amazing to get spectacular wildlife photographs. Even with your phone camera you can capture nature at its best
  • Mindfulness in Photography – A few simple steps to enjoy photography and not to always be chasing the perfect shot of everything you encounter

Landscape and nature photography

Once you understand the basics of photography you start to see new things that you want to photograph. Some things need a little bit of extra thought to get the best from the environment that you find yourself in.


Travel Photography

For most people, photographs are the lasting memory of any adventure. The list of what you could photograph is endless, but these tips will help get you started wherever you are in the world.


Wildlife Photography

Wildlife and travel often go together, but sometimes it is possible to capture wildlife close to home. Wherever you are these simple techniques will help you capture beautiful wildlife on camera.


Processing, Organising and Sharing photographs and memories

Once you have taken photographs there is no point in having them stashed on a computer never to be seen. Sharing your memories is half the fun, looking back a year, 10-years later will remind you of good times. Organising and sorting photographs can help you to enjoy them without overwhelm.

  • How to Sort Photographs on Your Phone – How much rubbish is stored in your phone? Get rid of the screenshots, the meme’s and the blurring pictures so you can enjoy the ones that really matter
  • Photo Organisations – Get your files organised after a trip. Get into a routine and get organised!

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