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Tips for capturing the best travel photos while on holiday

Last Updated at March 30th 2022
When going out on a holiday, there is no better way to immortalise your trip than through photography.

Key points:

  • Get to know your camera or phone settings before heading off on your trip
  • Research locations and destinations you are visiting for the best times to take photos
  • Try to be present in the moment and don't focus entirely on taking good photos
Older woman taking photos while on holiday
While photos can live on, so can memories. Appreciate the sights in front of your eyes and not only in front of your lens! [Source: Shutterstock]

Many people scrapbook their holidays, whether it's a drive through the Kimberley or a trip to Kenya, it's an opportunity to share your experiences with friends and family - and these books remain an important coffee table staple for years to come!

But photography has developed a lot in the last few years from the previous "snap and go" method. Getting the perfect shot isn't as easy as you think! Even quick snaps on your phone require a bit of thought to get the best photos.

Here are some tips for improving your photography while on holiday!

1. Understand how your camera works

If you have just bought a camera for your upcoming trip, don't tick it off your to-do list yet! You should be well versed in how to do the basics on your new camera, whether it is a basic digital camera, film camera or a DSLR camera.

Cameras can have a lot of different settings, especially if your camera is a professional level device. You don't want to head off on your trip and find that all of your photos are too dark or look odd.

You should be looking through the manual of your new camera and watching basic educational videos online to help you get to know your camera and how it works. This also means you won't have to spend time on your holiday getting frustrated by all the settings on your camera.

Even a basic understanding of how your camera works will ensure better quality photos compared to if you do no research. This can include the camera options on your smartphone, like how your phone handles low light or if you are able to manually adjust settings on your phone camera.

Once you have the basics down, you will easily be able to whip out your camera and grab the money shot without a second thought!

2. To get the best shot, do research on hot spots

If you want to get a perfect pristine shot of an amazing waterfall or important landmark, then it is fair to say you might not want all the tourists in the shot to ruin the photo.

Tourists can be the biggest pain when taking photos, whether it be someone walking mindlessly in front of your camera or someone purposely "photobombing" your shot.

To get the best shot of a breathtaking rock formation or other natural beauty, do research about the peak times at the location you want to take photos at. This can ensure that you beat the crowds and get a less congested background for the shot.

Everyone knows that the early bird gets the worm, if you want to get photos without too many tourists in it, then you need to visit during off-peak hours.

For instance, the iconic Eiffel Tower has less visitation on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9 am and 11 am, or 8 pm and 10 pm. So you will be less likely to come across huge crowds of tourists that you would normally find on busy weekends.

It can also be a great idea to talk to any locals for their advice on good vantage points for taking photos of monuments and natural wonders.

3. Timing can make the difference

When getting the perfect shot on your trip, you want to be mindful of the best time to take photos. You won't be able to grab the best photo of Uluru if you are taking the photo when it starts getting dark.

You should be aiming to take a photo when a location is at its best, whether that is at sunrise, sunset or midday. Some places may even be amazing for photos at night, like for shots of the city lights.

For example, the best time to visit the Taj Mahal is right at sunrise, when it first opens. You will get a shot of the amazing architecture when the sun hits the side of the building, which causes the building to change colour and sparkle thanks to the many jewels decorating the amazing marble mausoleum.

Another example of great timing for a photo, the Standley Chasm near Alice Springs is best photographed during the middle of the day - as the light comes down the cliff faces at the perfect time!

Having a general idea of the photos you want to take and the best way to do it can make sure you get the best picture possible.

Again, asking locals about the best times to visit locations can be helpful, and may result in advice on secret beaches or hidden waterfalls to visit. Locals know best!

4. Enhance your photos

While you may not become a professional photographer overnight, there are some tips and tricks that can help improve your photography.

When taking a photo of a subject or person, use the rule of thirds principle. This principle essentially means you would mentally divide the shot you are going to take into thirds vertically, and try to get the main subject on the intersecting lines of the thirds.

Rather than having a photo subject dead centre in the photo, having the subject following the rule of thirds principle can enhance your photo and create a pleasing balance to the image.

Depending on your phone or camera, there may be a grid setting that can place guidelines that can help you follow the rule of thirds principle.

5. Highlight key elements in your photos

When taking a photo, you want to enhance the key elements that you are trying to shoot.

For instance, if you are taking a photo of your partner, it can be better to get "up close and personal" and have your photo subject take up most of the frame of your shoot. Because you are highlighting the most important part of your shoot - your partner - by capturing their gorgeous smile.

In regards to tourist locations, you need to think about what you want to achieve when taking photos. If you want to highlight the significance of the location, you may want to include 'negative space' to add to the grandeur of the photo. For example, the vibrant blue sea backdrop can make the 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road pop out in a photo.

If you are able, using the camera or phone focus tool on your subject can help build the importance of a monument, as the subject is completely in focus while the rest of the world fades into the background.

While this tip can help create drama and interest in your photos, you don't have to stick to these tips. Sometimes you should let your instinct take over when taking photos.

6. Showcase the emotion of your destination

Pictures are meant to convey a thousand words as the saying goes. If you can capture the emotions or atmosphere of where you are visiting, it can make a huge difference to your photography.

You don't want the thrill of visiting Gold Coast theme parks to have the same feeling as when you were visiting important, sad historical landmarks.

When taking photos, consider the depth of field in your photography. This refers to the distance between the object you are capturing near you and the objects furthest away. The closest subject of the photo would be in shot whereas the background would add character and vibrancy to the scene.

The placement of a subject in your photo, also known as the focal point, can also have a dramatic effect on how your photos appear. Where you pull the eye for a point of interest can make your photos unique and tell a story.

7. Think outside of the box

Photography is meant to push the bounds, so try to be creative with your photos.

It is incredibly common for tourists to take photos of themselves holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. A clever, but common, illusion and perspective technique. Why not try to be more creative and come up with a unique way to take a photo of the monument? Like pretending you are stuffing the tower into your backpack or that the tower is actually a part of your ice cream - and the only prop you need for that is a cone!

Camera technology allows you to experiment with your photos. You no longer have to stress about getting the perfect shot, now you can get 20!

Try out fun ideas in your photos or test out a different angle on a photo subject. And if doesn't work? Just delete the photo and start again!

8. Don't run out of charge

There is nothing worst than unexpectedly running out of charge on your camera or phone. You may have thought you charged your camera the night before and next thing you know, you have a dead camera while you stand next to the Pyramids of Giza.

Always double-check that your camera, phone or battery is charging overnight or when you get back to your hotel.

You will be kicking yourself for the whole trip if you missed out on that "once in a lifetime" photo because you had a dead battery.

It can be a good idea to bring two camera batteries with you that you can swap out in case one runs out of charge.

9. Be present in the moment

While photos can live on, so can memories. Photography can be fun to dabble in and become a hobby while travelling, but it is important that you are present in the moment when visiting different destinations and locations.

You don't want to miss the moment because you are fiddling around with your camera settings trying to get your next masterpiece.

Be present with your travelling partner or your gorgeous surroundings and enjoy your holiday! Appreciate the sights in front of your eyes and not only in front of your lens.

*Content created in collaboration with Big4 Holiday Parks

What are your go-to photography tips when taking photos on holiday? Tell us in the comments below.

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