7 Small Ways to Improve Your Travel Photography

October 5, 2017

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I'm Helena!

A sunny gal from Cali living in the south of France. I adore slow living, magic, and celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I’m a self-proclaimed Disney nerd (as is my husband!), obsessed with cats and cocoa, and you can often find me swimming with the fishies in the salty sea. Come along and enjoy the magic, the simple joys of life with me...



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Traveling and making memories around the world gives us the great opportunity to tell our stories! But being able to freeze those moments in time and treasure them visually for decades to come takes our storytelling to a whole other level! Whether it’s taking pictures of your day-to-day life with your smart phone or capturing your adventures on a fancy dSLR, here are my 7 small ways you can improve your travel photography.

Photograph at certain times of day

Throughout the hours of the day, the lighting changes, which is the most important part of capturing beautiful imagery. In the afternoon sun, the lighting can be quite harsh, which generally makes photos look unflattering. The two best times to photograph are at 1) Golden Hour, or the hour before sunset, and 2) Sunrise, which is perfect because most people aren’t up at sunrise, so you won’t run into anyone photo bombing you! Sunrise and sunset creates this soft, dreamy, dimensional light, giving it this look of magic as opposed to the harshness of afternoon. Almost any location can look gorgeous at these times. I also love to photograph in the hour after sunset (Blue Hour) when the colors begin changing dramatically, and the sky eventually turn a clear, dark blue before evening. Keep in mind, the darker it gets, the more likely you’ll need to use a stable tripod and slow your shutter speed.

Don’t stop snapping!

When I first picked up photography, I was not skilled in the slightest and I could sure as heck not understand how all the fancy dials and buttons on my camera worked! But consistent practice yields results over time. Take your camera with you everyday and snap whatever you see around you. Anything that makes you smile. Whether it’s a portrait of a friend or a sunset spotted on your way home from work, capture those moments. Adjust the settings. Move around and take the same picture but from a different angle. Keep experimenting. Even if it’s a single photo a day or 30 minutes practicing on some flowers. The more you experiment on your camera, the more knowledgeable and skilled you will become at photography.

Clean Your Lens

Cleaning your lens is one of the most underestimated actions when it comes to dealing with our camera. That little phone of ours collects a ton of dirt, grease, lint, fingerprints, and dust and when the lens is dirty, it will block light from entering the sensor. Take a quick second before snapping that photo and wipe your lens to make sure it’s clear, so your photos will have clarity and focus.

Editing is your best friend.

Be sure not to underestimate the powerful tool of photo editing. In this digital age, we have photo editing apps at our fingertips. Not to mention, a lot of them are free! Whether you pay for Lightroom and Photoshop, or you like to keep it simple and use your smartphone apps, a bit of editing can really make your images pop. After I transfer my images from my camera, I open my images in a variety of apps.

My go-to smartphone apps are SnapSeed and VSCO. Snapseed is really great for adding some oomph and brightness to your images, Adjust the clarity and sharpness, bump up the ambiance feature, and play with the contrast and highlights. With VSCO, I often use a select few presets (usually A2, A6) and lower the opacity. I sometimes will also use ColorStory.

Touch Retouch I use very rarely to edit out clutter or little specks of items I don’t want in the image. I then will make some minor last minute adjustments on Instagram before sending it out to the public.  In terms of curating my gallery, I love the UNUM app, which allows you to plan out your Instagram feed and switch it around before deciding what to curate and where to place it.

See the Potential

So often when we’re traveling, we rush to the same famous landmarks, snap a quick photo and then continue on. But there’s something so simple and lovely about slowing down and seeing the potential. Whether it’s adding something to the foreground or capturing something as simple as the rain pouring down on your window. There is a stunning photo in every aspect of life. Composition is key. It’s not just what you shoot that counts, but rather how you shoot it. Try a different angle. Squat down or stand on some steps to get a different perspective. So often, I see the same pictures being taken in the same exact spot. Add some YOU to it! How do you view this scene differently? Don’t flock to the super typical vantage points where everyone is lining up to take their photos. (You know the one’s I’m talking about: the leaning tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building from Top of the Rock) but instead, escape the crowds and go around the back and discover a different point of view. And what can you add to the photo that would make it different?

Use What You Already Own

Let’s be real: camera equipment is expensive. But bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to travel photography. When you’re traveling around, the last thing you want is to lug around a heavy peice of equipment as you go. Cameras can be heavy, and if you decide to leave your camera at home, chances are you’ll miss that perfect shot. (Yup. I’ve been there.) If you’re heading in the pro photography world, then definitely start saving up for that fancy DSLR. Those professional cameras can produce beautiful quality imagery. But I find that oftentimes you can get just as good of a shot as you could on those new smart phones. These Apple IPhones nowadays are legit, and I often meet pro-bloggers that use just a smartphone for their images. A smartphone paired with a few nice editing apps, and you’re just as great as a fancy DSLR. Don’t feel that you have to spend a ton of money on a fancy camera. It’s the photographer, not the camera, that creates good work.


Just as writers often find their voice through continued practice in their craft, so do photographers. When you develop that “eye” for the types of work you’re drawn to, you’ll start to create an #authentic style that is only true to you. Despite the millions of photographers out there, there is and will only ever be, one you. No one can capture photographs quite like you can. Be true to yourself, your values, your style, the imagery you’re intuitively drawn to, and create work that screams who you are and what you represent. Just because every other photographer has that instagram-able straw hat on with their long hair swept up in the wind, does not mean you need to grow our your hair and buy a straw hat. If everyone is taking photographs of mountains, that doesn’t mean you need to specialize in landscape photography. If the popular thing to do on the ‘gram is take pictures of macaroons but you aren’t really fond of macaroons, don’t buy the macaroons! Find the real, honest moments that capture your attention and capture that.

Alright enough about me talking about photography, go out there and get to snappin’! 🙂

If you enjoyed these tips, please make sure to comment and share this post! Oh and follow me on Instagram!

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I'm Helena, your new kindred spirit.

Sunny free-spirit, writer and creator in love with documenting the simple joys of life. I am passionate about noticing light and truth around me and reflecting it back to others.

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