I’ve been a professional photographer for over 10 years, and I’m going to guide you through the finer points of travel photography. So how can you make your travel photos “pop”? I must say there’s just as much luck as there is skill involved in creating strong images that give justice to a destination. But, if you mix skill, patience, and some basic knowledge, you can absolutely improve your photography. In other words, you can be in the “awe” of your family and friends once you return home from your glorious adventures.

The basics of photography include starting with the right equipment, knowing how to use it, knowing when to shoot, knowing what to shoot, and knowing what to watch out for. Since there are hundreds of different brands and styles and levels of equipment, my only suggestion in this department – without going too deep into the differences in camera and photo-related equipment  — is to choose something that fits your style of travel and choose what feels right to you.

There are lots of tutorials and guides that you can guide online on how to use different settings and apply more advanced tricks of the trade, so it might be worthwhile for you (especially if you want to take a serious jump into quality travel photos) to think about purchasing an entry-level DSLR camera — one that allows you to control the settings and interchange the lenses. Comparable models can be found from the most popular brands, like Canon, Nikon, and Sony.

But for now, let’s jump into some of the basics for travel photography to be aware of:

Know Your  Camera’s Settings & What They Do

This is a subject with an entire blog post worth of details (and probably more), but learning all the different settings on your camera is an absolute MUST if you’re going to take strides with your photography. However daunting it may seem to understand them, there’s no reason to fret – I promise. Knowing the science and the technical aspects isn’t necessary when you’re getting started with the basics of travel photography. But there are a few settings that you truly NEED to know to take quality photos, no matter where you go on cheap round trip flights.

Take some time to read up online about the following and to adjust them on your camera model:

  • Shutter Speed: The length of time that the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light when taking a photograph.
  • F-Stop: The number that you see on your camera or lens that you change to the size of your aperture and affects the depth of field of the shot.
  •  ISO: Along with shutter speed and F-stop, ISO is part of three main “pillars” of photography and pertains to levels of brightness.
  • White Balance: This balances the color temperature of the picture, based on ensuring the color white actually looks white and removes unrealistic color casts.

RELATED: How to Caption Your Instagram Travel Photos Like a Pro

Ditch the Distractions from Your Pictures

Most people who don’t know the basics of travel photography take a good photo one time out of every 100-plus shots. But you can easily increase the ratio of good to bad by simply shooting with fewer distractions. I mean, do you REALLY need that power line in there? How about that car? See that big billboard? Ask yourself, “is that necessary? “ The answer almost every time is NO. Take a few extra steps, one way or the other or use your zoom, or do whatever you have to do to simplify the things in the photo.

Stop & Work with What Your Photographing

Another typical mistake that amateur photographers often make is that they “snapshot” a subject then move on immediately, but growth in one’s ability can happen quickly with the simple remedy of taking more time to improve each image. Challenging yourself to out-do each previous shot of the same subject by either moving to another spot, changing the perspective, removing distractions, or with other slight changes can seriously improve one’s travel photography overnight. Remember: With each click of a camera, your experience grows!

Editor’s note: You can learn more about Brandon Elijah Scott at EyeAndPen.com, where you can also see examples of his travel photography.

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