Travel Photography Tips

How to get unique pictures that capture your vacation perfectly.

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Capturing the sun set in Kenya. Photography courtesy of Justin Harrington.

The one way most people capture that moment in time during a trip? Pictures. Whether you’re snapping wildlife on a safari in Kenya, trying to photograph that incredible sunset over the ocean and beach in Turks & Caicos, or looking for a unique way to get a picture of Notre Dame in Paris, we’re all searching for the coolest pictures to come back with from our trip (or at the very least for Instagram). Travel & Style Magazine gets professional travel photography tips from Justin Harrington of Justin Harrington Photography on how to get the most out of your travel pics.

1. The Golden Hour

While it may not last the full 60 minutes that an hour does, the golden hour is a time that comes twice each day: once in the morning after the sun has risen and once at night before the sun has set (note: the weather report must include sun). As opposed to the harsh light of midday, the light during the golden hour is softer and warmer, appearing in hues of red and orange. “If you’re looking to snap a golden hour photo of the sun rising or setting, and you don’t have an image stabilized lens, you might want to use a tripod to steady your shot,” explains Harrington. “With less light available, cameras, when used in automatic settings, will often resort to using slower shutter speeds and this is where camera shake can become more evident in and possibly ruin the finished product, depending on your end goal.”

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The Colesseum in Rome through a reflection. Photography courtesy of Justin Harrington.

2. Don’t Always Opt for the Obvious

Look for unconventional ways to take a picture. “It’s common when visiting a foreign tourist attraction to ‘follow the herd’ and wind up with the same shot as everyone else, but it can be very rewarding to think outside the box a little,” says Harrington. “I love reflections. In the case of this picture of the Colosseum in Rome, the reflection meant that you didn’t see all the tourists streaming around the structure, and you got a clean, interesting shot.” By changing your angle or focusing on overlooked details, you can offer a different, more dynamic perspective.

3. Aperture Priority

The aperture is a hole at the rear of a lens through which light travels from the front element of the lens to the camera’s image sensor. In photography, adjusting the aperture by opening or closing it will determine the depth of field in your photo. “Larger aperture numbers, or f-stops (i.e. f11 or f16), can give you a greater depth of field, bringing more of your image from front to back into focus,” explains Harrington. This is useful for landscape shots with focal points in both the foreground and background. By selecting the Aperture Priority mode (often marked as A or Av on your camera’s dial) and using an f-stop number similar to those above, you’ll be able to capture more of the details of the mountains in the back while still having a focus on the foreground. On the other hand, if you’re shooting a portrait and want a shallow depth of field, opening the aperture to f-stops like f4 or f5.6 can help give you that eye-catching background blur. This takes practice, as every change you make to one camera setting will have to be compensated for elsewhere. Moving away from fully automatic modes can really expand the possibilities of photography. “Cameras are smart, but photographers are smarter,” explains Harrington. “We know what we want to achieve with our photos much better than our cameras do.”

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Using a wide angle lens to capture a church in Lima, Peru. Photography courtesy of Justin Harrington.

4. Think About Equipment

More than just bringing extra batteries, having extra camera gear (even just one extra lens) can make all the difference. Swapping between lenses can give you more variety in your travel photographs. “While I will always travel with a medium focal length lens like my 24-70mm (a do-it-all lens), I typically always carry a wide-angle lens (16-35mm) too. It allows me to get dynamic compositions even when close to my subject,” says Harrington. If the investment in a new lens doesn’t make sense, many camera shops either at home or abroad will rent lenses, helping you save a little money and still get the shots you want.

5. Have a Plan

Knowing where you want to go and what you want to photograph before you arrive at your destination can help ensure you don’t come back disappointed. “I will usually have a list, whether in my head or written down, of at least a dozen photos I want to make sure I get,” explains Harrington. “It gives me a great starting point and something to work towards.”

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