Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography

Post Published September 30, 2023

See how everyone can now afford to fly Business Class and book 5 Star Hotels with Mighty Travels Premium! Get started for free.

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography - Picking the Perfect Travel Camera

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography

Choosing the right camera for your travels can feel overwhelming with the sheer number of options out there. But having the perfect travel camera makes capturing those magical moments so much easier and more enjoyable. The key is finding the right balance of portability, image quality, features, and price to suit your unique needs and style.

For many travelers, a mirrorless camera hits that sweet spot. Mirrorless cameras deliver DSLR-level image quality in a more compact and lightweight body. They have swappable lenses so you can shoot wide landscapes one day and wildlife closeups the next. Models like the Sony a6000 series and Fujifilm X-T20 are excellent starter choices, with great performance at reasonable prices.

Another option is an advanced point-and-shoot or bridge camera. These have fixed lenses and smaller sensors than mirrorless models, but the tradeoff is enhanced portability and simplicity. The image quality and zoom range easily beat smartphones. The Sony RX100 series and Canon PowerShot G7 X line are leaders in this category.

Size and Weight - The smaller and lighter your gear is, the more likely you'll be to take it everywhere and shoot spontaneously. But don't sacrifice too much image quality and versatility for portability's sake. Find the right balance for your needs.

Lens Versatility - Having a variety of focal lengths gives you creative flexibility. A 24-200mm zoom lens may be the only glass you need. Prime lenses offer superior sharpness and low light performance.

Features - In-camera RAW processing, wifi/Bluetooth connectivity, touchscreens, and 4K video recording are just some of the handy features found on the latest models. Consider which features will enhance your shooting experience.

Smartphone Cameras - Don't underestimate them, especially flagship phones like the latest iPhones and Samsung Galaxies. They can deliver surprisingly good results thanks to computational photography. The best camera is the one you have with you.

Ask yourself how and what you want to shoot when traveling. Will you be hiking to remote areas for landscape photography? Shooting quick street scenes in foreign cities? Photographing your family and friends? This will help determine your ideal camera.

A DSLR like the Nikon D3500 provides amazing image quality with access to expansive lens options, but it's bigger than a mirrorless or point-and-shoot. The Fujifilm X100V has a fixed 23mm lens which is perfect for discreet street photography, but limits your compositional flexibility.

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography - Composition Tips for Stunning Scenic Shots

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography

Capturing breathtaking landscape photos while traveling requires thinking about composition in new and creative ways. Landscape scenes present unique compositional challenges with so many elements competing for attention across a vast space. Utilizing proven techniques can elevate your scenic shots from mundane snapshots to frame-worthy works of art.

The Rule of Thirds is a foundational composition guideline in photography and incredibly effective for landscape images. Mentally divide your camera’s viewfinder into thirds, both vertically and horizontally. Place important elements like horizons and leading lines along these dividing lines or at their intersections. This creates a sense of balance and aesthetics pleasing to the eye.

Leading lines direct the viewer’s gaze into and through your image. Roads, fences, rivers, and shorelines make great leading lines. Position yourself so these lines intersect with the rule of thirds grid rather than running dead center through your scene. Leading lines create depth and pull the viewer into the frame.

Another key compositional tool is negative space. Don’t feel compelled to cram every inch of your viewfinder with the landscape. Negative space adds breathing room and separates your main subjects from the background. Allow extra room in the direction an animal is walking or person is facing to convey a sense of movement about to happen.

Most scenes benefit from foreground, midground, and background elements. A gnarled tree in the foreground overlapped by mountains in the distance makes for a more compelling image than just mountains filling the frame. Those layers of depth draw viewers in and hold their attention.

Watch your horizons. Keeping horizons straight is crucial for landscape shots. Even slightly tilted horizons can ruin an otherwise great photo by creating an unsettling disjointed look. Carefully frame your shot using your camera’s gridlines, and double-check the horizon orientation in playback.

Look to frame focal points within natural frames formed by surrounding elements. Trees, bridges, arches, and tunnels serve as creative frames highlighting specific details. This technique directs eyes right where you want them to look.

Where you position the horizon matters compositionally. Placing the horizon high creates an expansive sky feeling, lowering it emphasizes the landscape’s scale and mass. Adjust the horizon placement to communicate the impression you want.

Most importantly, don’t neglect the foreground. Many amateur photographers become so focused on capturing the iconic landscape they neglect the foreground. But the foreground sets the overall tone and draws viewers into the scene. Interesting textures, patterns, and leading lines in the foreground add depth.

The direction and quality of light massively impacts landscape photos. Side lighting creates texture and shapes shadows to add depth. Photographing at sunrise or sunset produces colorful skies and paints the landscape in warm light. Seek out great lighting conditions for next-level shots.

Look for patterns and repetition to incorporate into your compositions. Repeating elements like trees, flowers, and rock formations add rhythm and harmony. Symmetry also composes nicely; reflective water doubling a mountain's beauty, for example.

Panoramic formats work wonderfully for sprawling vistas. Rotate your camera vertically to capture more of the sky. Or take multiple, overlapping horizontal frames and stitch them together into one epic wide-format image in post-processing.

Break the rules when dramatically appropriate. Centering your foreground interest intentionally against a symmetrical background or horizon can achieve a powerful, graphic quality. There are no hard and fast rules, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Patience and persistence pay off in scenic photography. Revisiting locations at different times of day and in varied weather conditions can yield dramatically different results. Return to a spot again and again until all the elements come together perfectly.

Talk with locals and park rangers to discover insider vantage points only accessible to those with inside knowledge of an area. The iconic landmarks get photographed constantly. Finding unique perspectives takes some digging.

Use filters like neutral density, gradient, and polarizing filters to enhance lighting effects and really make colors pop. Circular polarizing filters cut glare and saturate skies and water. Graduated neutral density filters balance overly bright skies. Bring a full arsenal of filters.

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography - Editing Your Photos On the Go

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography

With all the photos you’ll be taking during your travels, editing them to perfection will be essential to making them pop and share-worthy. But what about when you’re on the move between destinations without your desktop setup? Thankfully, technology has progressed to the point where you can edit photos on your mobile device nearly as well as on a laptop. Having the ability to edit your photos on the go is a game-changer for travel photographers.

Powerful mobile apps provide robust editing capabilities right on your smartphone. Impressive AI “auto enhance” tools make global adjustments to contrast, brightness, saturation, and more with a single click. But you can also dive in and selectively adjust color and tone, apply custom filters, remove distractions, and creatively tweak photos to your heart’s content.

Make sure your smartphone or tablet has enough memory to handle the large file sizes of high-res images. You may need to offload the originals to a laptop or external hard drive, working with copies on your mobile device to save space. Processing power is also key. Newer flagship phones and tablets can handle advanced editing tasks smoother and faster.

Working with Raw image files on mobile used to be problematic, with few apps offering full support. But that’s changed in recent years. Apps like Adobe Lightroom now provide robust Raw processing and editing on both iOS and Android. The ability to harness greater dynamic range and color data from Raw files is a huge advantage.

Take the time to really learn your mobile editing apps. Don’t just apply the same few filters repeatedly on autopilot. Dig into the manual adjustments to develop your own style and achieve your creative vision. Watch tutorials to pick up new techniques. Experiment and find what works for the types of photos you shoot.

A good editing workflow is key to efficiently processing a lot of images on the go. Start by culling out the bad shots, duplicates, and near-misses so you’re only spending time editing the very best shots. Then apply basic global enhancements first before tackling more targeted fine-tuning. Edit in batches when possible, synchronizing adjustments across multiple similar photos.

Always shoot in Raw+JPEG mode so you have access to both the Raw files for optimal editing flexibility and sharable JPEGs straight from camera that still look great. Some mobile apps also allow you to save edited versions separately without overwriting the originals, giving you a built-in backup.

Take advantage of editing shortcuts and presets to speed up your workflow. Many apps allow you to save effect and adjustment combinations as presets. Then instantly apply that “look” to new photos later with one click. Use shortcuts for common tasks like cropping, rotation and lens corrections to save time.

Selective editing through brushing is a hugely useful technique for travel shots. You can brighten just a dim face while leaving the rest of the photo untouched. Saturate only the vivid colors in a landscape scene without going overboard on other elements. Remove pesky lens spots and other distractions by cloning over them. It’s like a mini version of Photoshop.

Don’t be afraid to take it up a creative notch by incorporating dramatic edits. Convert shots to black and white for more artful street photography. Go wild with prismatic color effects. Add filters and textures for unique impressions of place. Shoot creatively in-camera knowing you can instill your vision later during editing.

Back up finished photos immediately after editing either to the cloud or external drives. Nothing sours a trip faster than losing a slew of edited shots before you can share them online or with family back home. Budget extra for cloud storage and local backups. You’ll breathe easier knowing your edited masterpieces are safe.

Post-processing HDR and panoramic photos on the go takes more time and image merging capability. Consider saving those tasks for your laptop/desktop back home if not totally necessary during your trip. Keep your mobile workload realistic for your needs.

Take advantage of editing apps’ sharing and publishing integrations for getting your photos out into the world faster. Most will share directly to leading social media platforms and photo sites. Enter captions and keywords on the go while memories are fresh. Some even allow collaborators to remotely access your image library for real-time feedback.

Don’t overlook your phone’s native photo app. It likely includes a robust built-in editor with many of the same adjustments offered by more advanced apps. You can always start there before moving images to a preferred editing app. Every bit of polish helps.

Ultimately, don’t let minor imperfections deter you from editing and sharing photos from your travels. Even quick tweaks using your phone’s native tools make a difference. The most important thing is maintaining the creative joy and momentum. You can always refine them more later. Your followers want to go along on your journey.

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography - Learning Photography Skills from Online Courses

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography

In the age of YouTube and Skillshare, accessing photography knowledge is easier than ever before thanks to online courses. While nothing beats first-hand experience behind the lens, online photography courses are invaluable for getting a solid grounding in camera techniques, composition principles, editing workflows, and more from the comfort of your own home. The diverse range of high-quality courses out there cater to all skill levels and specialties.

For travel photographers in particular, online photography courses enable sharpening your skills before embarking on big trips. And who knows, you just might discover a new passion area or creative style from an instructor who inspires you!

I’ve taken a number of online photography courses over the years and firmly believe investing the time and small fee is well worth it. The structured, cumulative learning journey forces you to stick with lessons instead of randomly watching tutorials in a scattershot manner. Building a solid technical foundation first in areas like exposure, shutter speed, aperture, and RAW processing is key. Mike Browne’s fundamental photography course gives newbies just what they need to grasp the basics. Then more specialized courses can take your skills to the next level.

Online platforms like Skillshare and CreativeLive offer extensive libraries of photography classes at affordable subscription rates. Or you can purchase individual Master Classes from top pros like Jimmy Chin and Annie Leibovitz. Options abound for diving into your interests whether it’s travel and landscape photography, portrait techniques, post-processing workflows, artificial lighting, macro photography, astrophotography and more.

Many online photography instructors like Mark Denney take engaging instructional approaches by critiquing student images and explaining exactly what could be improved and how. This feedback loop is invaluable for cementing concepts and growing your skills. Other courses focus on insider tips and hacks for specific scenarios like wildlife, low light nighttime, sports, and street photography.

Don’t just watch passively - follow along! The most impactful online photography courses give you homework assignments to shoot your own versions of demonstrated techniques. With travel photography, recreate sample composition methods and challenging lighting situations when you encounter them. This experiential approach cements the lessons. Some classes even offer community forums for interacting with fellow students. Feedback and critiques improve everyone’s work.

Make sure to carve out dedicated time to fully engage with any photography course. Don’t just play videos in the background. Take notes on key concepts, rewatch segments multiple times until they sink in, test techniques in real shooting scenarios. This focus and repetition develops lasting skills faster. Consume the material in small chunks if needed - no shame in revisiting lessons between travel outings.

Skillshare - Travel Photography: Capture Amazing Photos Wherever You Go with Elise Swopes. Great for picking up tips tailored to common travel photography scenarios and subject matter like cities, landscapes, people, and action shots in an engaging, conversational format.

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography - Safety Tips for Photographing on Your Trips

Capturing Your Wanderlust: The Best Tips, Cameras, and Courses for Travel Photography

Let’s switch gears and talk safety, because while photography inherently involves chasing inspiring subject matter, it’s critical not to compromise personal wellbeing in the process. Safety should always be the top priority. Travel inherently carries risks, and even seasoned jetsetters can get caught in dangerous situations if they aren’t vigilant. As adventure sports photographer Chris Burkard says “Never allow the art to become more important than the person.” He stresses building safety awareness into your mindset. That said, commonsense precautions go a long way towards staying secure.

Situational awareness is hugely important anytime you’re photographing, especially in crowded public places. Maintain your guard against pickpockets who can relieve you of gear in an instant. Be aware of exits and locations of authorities should an emergency arise. Keep an eye on who and what is around you. If someone or something raises red flags, move to a safer spot. Avoid staring at your camera’s rear screen obliviously for long stretches. Doing so advertises expensive gear and disconnects you from your immediate surroundings.

When shooting solo, consider carrying a safety device like Sabre personal alarms to ward off criminals if needed until help arrives. A simple whistle also works. Check for local restrictions on pepper spray or stun guns. An emergency beacon locator may provide peace of mind in extremely remote areas. Apps like Noonlight can alert emergency responders to your location if you feel threatened. Enable location tracking on your phone so others can find you if separated. Every destination has its unique risks, so research ahead of time and take reasonable precautions.

Avoid venturing into deserted urban areas alone at night when most street crime occurs. Scout daylight vantage points beforehand so night shoots go smoothly. If staying out after dark shooting cityscapes, remain in active areas like bustling pedestrian zones, avoiding dimly lit side streets. Uber or taxis provide safer transit between locations at night versus walking alone. When shooting empty night scenes, have a companion serve as a lookout.

If you sense imminent danger, comply and hand over gear quickly, no questions asked. Nothing is worth a violent confrontation. File a police report after the fact and contact your insurance provider. Some travel policies may cover theft losses, especially with an official report. But avoid resistance at all costs in the moment.

When shooting in rough neighborhoods anywhere in the world notorious for gangs and violence, find a local guide who can steer you safely to subjects worth photographing without wandering into hazardous territory. They know the turf and can converse with suspicious residents explaining you’re just capturing daily life, not making trouble. Defuse rather than inflame tense situations.

Natural hazards like slippery overlooks, wild predators, flash floods, and crumbling ruins pose risks for overeager photographers fixating on the shot rather than personal safety. Always remain a safe distance from cliff edges and waterfalls. Get local insight on recent wildlife sightings and follow park service guidance. If weather takes a severe turn, seek solid shelter immediately. Never risk injury or death trying to frame the “perfect” photo. No picture is worth getting stranded or hurt in remote areas.

When shooting overseas, understand cultural norms and sensitivity around photography to avoid causing offense that could draw ire. In conservative societies, discreetly ask before taking portraits. Refrain from snapping photos of military, police or infrastructure like bridges and transit which might be misconstrued as dubious surveillance. Always comply respectfully if confronted over photography, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Better to lose shots than stoke animosity through arguing.

On excursions, let someone back at your hotel know your plans and expected return time. Check in with photos at waypoints so they can monitor your progress. Share location continuously with relatives back home. Consider renting a satellite beacon/messenger like a Garmin InReach if venturing into extreme backcountry.

Avoid climbing and other daredevil maneuvers for shots without proper training, safety gear and conditions. Carry a first aid kit in case of minor injuries like scrapes and sprains. Know emergency numbers for your destination to call for help quickly if injured or lost. Never let ego put you at risk.

See how everyone can now afford to fly Business Class and book 5 Star Hotels with Mighty Travels Premium! Get started for free.