If you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you’ve taken your share of disappointing or boring travel photos. I know I have. I get it though. Creative travel photography can be a challenge. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when you’re traveling. It can be hard to take cool photos sometimes. Everything is new and exciting and incredible, and you can hardly think about composing the perfect shot. Sometimes you just don’t have enough time to think before taking a photo. With so much visual and audible stimuli it can be difficult to focus on taking a nice travel photo.
Then you get home or back to your hotel, eager to look through your photos, and your heart sinks. “This isn’t what that thing looked like. It was so much prettier than this,” you think to yourself. How did your photo turn out so boring? Don’t worry, I’m here to help. In the first part of this two-part series I’ll share 12 ways to take more creative travel photos. You’ll learn how to take different and unique shots and engage your viewer.
There’s even a cheatsheet you can download with the full 24 ways to take more creative travel photos. Download it and keep with you for reference if you find yourself struggling to take interesting shots while you’re on the road. For part 2 in this series, click here.
1 Play around with composition
A super easy way to get different types of photos is to play around with composition. Composition is a huge topic in photography, and there are tons of different things to try and experiment with. An easy way to do this is to position the subject in different parts of the screen. See if the photo works better or is more balanced if the subject is centred or off-centre. If it should be on the left or the right side of the screen. How can this image be best balanced.
2 Lead the eye
Leading the eye means making use of leading lines. Leading lines are are straight or curved lines that move through the image from one part to another. For example from the foreground into the background. Leading lines take the viewer on a journey through the image by showing them exactly the path to follow with their eye. An easy way to incorporate leading lines is by using roads, paths, and bridges.
3 Add layers (depth)
A photo can have a foreground, a middle ground, and a background. These three layers help to add depth and dimension to your photos. They help to show size, perspective and distance. Adding depth works well when taking landscape photography and can make for more creative travel photography. An easy way to do this is to find a subject in the foreground when taking a landscape photo, such as a tree, rock, creek, or some other interesting object. People also make great foreground subjects to add depth to a photo.
4 Look for patterns
To get interesting and creative travel photography, look for patterns. Patterns can be natural or man-made, and they could be large or small. Patterns are one of my favourite things of which to take photos, and I always like looking for rows, lines, or masses of similar subjects or details. Patterns can force you to pay attention to different subjects in ways you might not normally.
5 Shoot symmetry
Symmetry can be a type of pattern, but not always. Looking for symmetry is a great way to get more creative travel photography just because symmetry is pleasing to the human eye. Look for symmetry going vertically, horizontally, or even diagonally. When taking a photo of symmetry it’s often best to keep the subject centred otherwise you will lose the effect and the symmetry will be lost. You can also take a photo of broken symmetry.
6 Look for reflections
Reflections can be found in any shiny surface, like water, mirrors, glass, and more. Reflections can make very powerful photos because it forces the viewer to look at a subject in a completely different way than normal. For example, after a rainfall you can shiny surfaces all over the place. Use a rainfall to your advantage to look for unique and interesting shots that you normally wouldn’t have. Besides reflections, there lots of other advantages to taking photos in the rain, and you don’t have to let the rain keep you inside your hotel when you travel.
7 Play with shadows
Light is extremely important when taking photos. Think about it – if you don’t have light you simply cannot take any photo. And with light comes shadows. Just like reflections make for interesting photos, use shadows for more creative travel photography. You do need to be careful with shadows though because sometimes they can be unwanted. Look for shadows and high contrast scenes that make a dramatic image. For example, shadows of people work well. Don’t forget, as the sun goes down shadows get longer, so see if you an use this to your advantage.
8 Try a different exposure
Most of the time you want to keep the exposure as neutral as possible. This means not over exposed or under exposed. However, a purposefully over or under exposed photo can create an interesting look. Try over exposing a photo to make it brighter or under exposing a photo to make it darker. It’s easy to adjust the exposure of your iPhone camera by sliding your finger up or down on the screen, and this is one of the basics of iPhone travel photography you should have in your toolkit. The thing about playing with different exposures though is to not use poor exposure as an excuse for bad photography. Don’t try and pass it off as your style. Make sure it is intentional.
9 Convert into black and white
Back in the day, photos were only in black and white. Black and white photography is a great way to learn about light, shadows, exposure, and composition. Although most people take photos in colour now, black and white is still just as powerful as it has always been. If you haven’t tried black and white photography, I encourage you to try it out. To do this with your iPhone you can select a filter while you take a photo with the native iPhone camera app, or you can convert a photo into black and white in post processing. Black and white can result in extremely dramatic and creative photography.
10 Change your perspective
Most of the time, you take a photo at your eye level. But there are so many different perspectives you can use to take creative travel photography. Take a photo from down low or right from ground level. Or try and get up high and get a birds eye view of a subject or a scene. Force yourself to look at something from a different perspective, and you’ll engage your viewers more. This will be especially helpful if you have a travel blog. If everybody is taking the exact same photos of the exact same things, try and find a different way to take a photo so your stands out.
11 Move your camera
This means moving your camera with a moving subject so the subject is in focus and the background is blurred. For example, if someone is is on their way to riding their bike past you, focus on them when they are still a bit further away. Keep your iPhone (or other camera) on them as the come towards you. Keep focused on them as they move past you and take a photo while still moving your camera. You should end up with a photo where the cyclist is still and the background seems to be moving. This is a great way to show movement for more creative travel photography. There’s a chance the subject will not be completely sharp, and parts of it might be out of focus. But keep trying and you’ll improve.
12 Go abstract
For even more creative travel photography, try and take abstract photography. This could be focusing on a random part of a building, intentionally blurring a street scene, or mixing different composition techniques. You probably won’t want all of your travel photos to be attract. People won’t understand them, and you might turn viewers away. But a few abstract photos here and there can show off your artistic side.
Creative travel photography conclusion
As you can see, there are loads of ways to take more creative travel photography. I hope this post has opened your eyes to the different possibilities and opportunities you have to stretch your creativity and take engaging photos. A collection of various types of travel photos will add life to your photo albums, blog posts, or social media feeds, so don’t be shy to try new things. Click here for part 2 in these series on creative travel photography.
And let me know your favourite way to take creative travel photos that are different than the rest. Leave your comments below.