How To Take Better Travel Photos

giant redwood trees in California feature

I love looking through travel pics on social media, imagining the day I get to visit those beautiful places and take equally amazing pictures. But it’s easy to get discouraged, thinking there is no way I could ever take photos like that because I don’t have fancy camera gear and have never taken photography classes. Well, I am here to show you that you don’t need either of those things to take amazing photos for social media. All you need is a phone or a basic camera and some understanding of how a few simple photography elements work.

So are you ready to dive in?


How to take better travel photos:

Find Good Lighting
Look For Good Composition
Add a Pop of Color
Be Unique


Find Good Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of getting that perfect photo. Since most travel photos are taken outside, there are a few times during the day when natural lighting brings out optimal colors in photos. Those times are:

  • Sunrise
  • Sunset
  • Gloomy/overcast

Oftentimes people think that bright light and sun is the best for outdoors photos, but I have found it to be the least ideal setting for me. Whenever I try to take photos in bright light a few things can happen

  • Harsh shadows
  • Harsh highlights
  • Washed out colors
  • A person can look too dark, light or as a silhouette


Three Pools at Blue Pools Oregon


This photo was taken in the afternoon of a very bright day. As you can notice the background has very dark shadows yet the foreground and I look pretty washed out.


Three Pools by Blue Pools in Oregon


We returned to the same location the next day when it was more overcast. This photo that was taken the next day has even lighting and better color.

Try to schedule your photography around sunrise, sunset or when forecast shows cloudy or overcast weather. I have gone on multiple trips without considering the weather forecast to find the photos I had taken were un-usable because the colors were too washed out or half the photo was covered in dark shadows. Don’t make the same mistakes — plan to take your photos around the optimal times of the day.


Look For Good Composition

The second element that I consider when I take my travel photos is the composition of the photo. It’s important to find an interesting subject to photograph because without that the photo will simply be boring. Finding a good subject is like creating a purpose for the photo. Whenever you’re looking for good composition, think of the story that you want to capture in your frame. Is it a beautiful waterfall crashing from a mountain top, or perhaps an abandoned cute hut in the middle of a field? Whatever it is, try to look for interesting subjects to draw in the eye and tell a story about.


Umpqua hotsprings in winter Oregon


For example, in this photo of Umpqua Hotsprings, the outdoors hot pools are cool but the overall photo seems a bit boring.


Umpqua Hotsprings in Oregon


By adding a person in the photo now you can tell a story of a fun day exploring outdoors hot springs as the snow falls all around. Doesn’t it make you want to drop everything to go out and find this place?


When it comes to travel photography try to avoid selfies because those will always make the landscape subjects look smaller in scale compared to your face. Selfies are great to share with friends and family but they are not as appealing to strangers because the attention will be on you instead of on the landscape.


Multnomah Falls at Columbia River Gorge Oregon


Looking at this photo you are probably wondering what flavor coffee I’m drinking. It was a Vanilla Latte.


Multnomah Falls in Columbia River Gorge Oregon


But did you notice this amazing waterfall in the back? Probably not so much because my face was blocking it and drawing attention away from it.


Sometimes it’s hard to show the scale of how big something looks like a mountain, lake or the overall landscape. Many photographers like to place a person in the distance in their photos to show the scale of the surroundings.


Giant redwood trees at redwood national forest California


For example, this photo of Redwoods forest doesn’t do justice to show how giant these trees really are.


Redwood Trees at Redwood forest California


By placing a person in the distance in the photo now you have a scale to compare the trees to.


Add a Pop of Color

A great way to make your photo stand out is by adding color or patterns in the photo from props or clothing. Even the dullest scenery can be enhanced by a person wearing a bright jacket or other clothing.

Whitewater trail at Jefferson Park Oregon


In this photo of Mount Jefferson everything kind of blends in together.

Whitewater Trail Jefferson Park Oregon


By simply adding a colorful hat now the photo has an interesting element to it and something to catch your eye.


When it comes to outdoors photography amazing colors can often be found in nature as well. As I mentioned above, some of the best colors can be captured around sunrise or sunset. Sometimes photographing that amazing pink or purple sunrise or sunset can be the key to getting that perfect shot.


North Cascades National Park in Washington


This photo was taken at North Cascades National Park a few hours before sunset.


North Cascades National Park Washington


This photo was taken on the same night during a sunset. By waiting for the right moment you can capture some great colors in your photos.


Be Unique

Although all of these are general guidelines have helped me create more interesting photos and grow on social media, don’t forget to be original and think outside of the box. Sometimes the best photos are the ones that are just simply fun and spontaneous.


Mount Edit iceberg Canada


Next time you are out traveling try some of these suggestions in your photos! Certain elements like lighting, composition, and color will enhance your photos to create pictures that will capture your audience’s attention. Sometimes just switching a small key element can be the factor that distinguished a “meh” photo from a great one.



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4 thoughts on “How To Take Better Travel Photos”

  1. When I post a photo on our feed that has one of us in it it tends to get less engagement. Have you found that or is it just our particular following? @carlosandmatildatravel

    1. Hey, Carlos! I have noticed quite the opposite in my following. Whenever I post a photo without me in it, it tends to get less engagement. I think it depends on what your audience is used to. Although it’s good to experiment with a variety of types of photos, the more you diverge from your “typical” photo, the more it might confuse your audience and get less engagement. Hope this helps!

  2. Hey Laura,

    thanks a lot for your photography tips. While they are not all new it’s a pretty good summary – even though there are a lot of photographers, that had a lot of success with muted colours lately.

    Anyway, we totally love your style of pictures and put you and your blog on our Feedly and Instagram.

    Cheers, Dave from //
    PS: Thinking of putting you in our planned blog roll, hit me up if you’re interested.

    1. Hi, Dave! Thank you for your comment. I completely agree that there are a lot of great photographers that create beautiful photos with muted and desaturated colors. One of my favorites is @alliemtaylor. While I do enjoy these types of photos, I have found it’s not my style personally. I really like colorful photos on my own feed so whenever I edit my photos, I usually pick a color or two to focus on.

      I am not familiar with Feedly or planned blog roll. Feel free to email me more details to Cheers!

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