Guides Photography

How to Take Awesome Photos While Traveling

Hi, everyone! Karen Lao here. I’m based in Dallas, Texas, but I travel often and take lots of photos along the way. I want to share a trip I went on last May to Santiago and Easter Island, Chile. I was with a group, so the shots I wanted often had to be quick. I learned a lot about travel photography on that trip, and I wanted to share some of those tips with you today.

1) Walk and Shoot

I normally do this when I want to enjoy the scene around me without looking through my camera at all times. If you’re traveling, you’ve gotta enjoy the experience, right? Leave your camera on as you’re traversing the streets or trails. If you see something even slightly worth capturing, point your camera in that direction and press the shutter. I suggest that you have burst mode on so that you can take quick shots in succession. When you’re looking through your camera roll later, you can pick the best shot. I failed to do this and missed a lot of opportune shots, so I’ve taken a note of it ever since.

Snapshot of bicyclist riding past us on our way downtown

2) Rule of Thirds

Many of you may have heard of the rule of thirds. It’s a really good basic rule that makes your photos instantly better. “The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.”

Here are some examples. I try to eyeball the rule of thirds (elements placed along the lines or their intersections):

There are stray dogs all over Santiago, and the people of the city take care of them. These dogs joined us on our walking tour! But notice how during this quick snapshot, I placed the dogs in the bottom left intersection.

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When you’re doing the walk-and-shoot method, don’t worry too much about the rule of thirds. Just try to capture that photo. Cropping and editing can come after.

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3) Be Patient

A lot of shots happened when I had framed the image and was patiently waiting for someone to pass by. This can result in great candid shots with a bit of action. Fleeting moments are the best!

Cattle driver in the Andes Mountains


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oQGuYLMKBK4YxZ85n4T_4zZkTrXhOEp24WMi7WpMRqFsGUOpKCyaiQ25jEPDi4mIuQW3hQDNiidf5swu9cp_78N1xyakX9AD5fZfvKuVx14D0J3jqQnY2JewWtgpVB_3bTwgsjwI was way too close to this horse, and he was about to pass me by leaving me no time to change to a wider lens! But I decided it was a moment that had to be captured anyway!

4.) Be Aware

Be aware at all times! This goes for capturing photos and being safe. I actually lost my backpack with 2 of my lenses on Easter Island 🙁 It gave me an excuse to upgrade my equipment, but it was definitely a costly mistake.

5.) Take Photos of the Ordinary

Don’t be afraid to take a photo of something even if it’s not magnificent. If you’re on a trip, these memories are yours to keep. A few of my photos may be generic and ordinary to others, but it reminds me of what I loved about the trip.

I learned that I loved this fruit, especially as an ice cream flavor. I present to you: lúcuma.

Best friends on Easter Island

6.) Landscape/Cityscape Shots

As for scenery… go big and go wide. Nothing is more beautiful than huge landscape and cityscape shots. I still like to use the rule of thirds, mostly using the horizontal lines.

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7) Be Mobile

Ah, yes. My favorite part. I’m a huge Instagram fiend, and a lot of my travel shots are actually taken with my phone. You can apply the same tips I’ve mentioned above to your phone photos as well. Have fun!!

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Karen Lao Photography





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  • Melissa March 23, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Great tips! The burst mode while walking is a great idea – one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments. And of course it’s always a good reminder that cropping can come later. Thanks for a good read!

  • merritt March 28, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Great advice! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Drew April 25, 2017 at 11:43 am

    I haven’t heard of the rule of thirds for years! I’m so glad you could remind me. Thanks so much for sharing these tips.

  • Angela June 19, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    My husband always reminds me of the rule of thirds 🙂 This is a great article, thank you for sharing

    • Sushree Kanti March 13, 2018 at 10:11 pm

      This article was so useful. I got to learn about a lot of things. Thanks for such great posts .. Looking forward to more photography tips by you .

  • StephanieRMontgomery August 9, 2017 at 4:49 am

    I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people. It’s always nice to hear and be inspired by such success stories. Thanks!

  • StephanieRMontgomery October 17, 2017 at 5:43 am

    Excellent post! I must thank you for this informative read. I hope you will post again soon.

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