Travel photography basics part 2: Setting up your shots

Australia Julaymba Restaurant
Julaymba Restaurant, Australia

I’m following up my last post “Travel photography basics part 1: Take great pictures – even with your phone” with some tips for setting up your photos. There are a few basic rules you can follow to do it.


Rome - spanish steps
Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy

I mentioned this in part 1, but lighting can make or break your photo, so I wanted to include it in this post. Soft, warm morning light helps create great images like shown in the image above of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Getting up early also means you will have fewer tourists out trying to take pictures.

One hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset have soft, warm tones and perfect shadows for photos. The hour after sunset is also a great time. The sky is still blue, and lights have been turned on.

Take your time

I mentioned this in the first post too, and I want to expand on the importance of waiting for your moments. Slow down and make an effort to become more aware of your surroundings before snapping your picture.

You don’t have to spend the kind of time a professional photographer takes to get the perfect shot; but the more patience you have, the better your pictures will turn out.

Pay attention to the details

St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

Photography is about truly getting a sense for what’s in front of you. Start looking at things from different angles and sides when you’re walking around. It can help you develop a better eye for looking for your best shot.  If you’re trying to take a picture of artwork or architecture, are you positioned in the best spot to capture the full beauty of it, or at an unusual angle where you can catch amazing detail? Try studying it to get the best detail you can.

Compose your picture with the “rule of thirds”

Rimini, Italy
Picture of my mom in Rimini, Italy

One of the first tips I learned about photography was to create more balanced compositions with the “rule of thirds.” Think about breaking a picture into thirds vertically and horizontally, so it’s split into sections.

What you’re trying to do is place the important parts of an image into those sections to make the picture more visually appealing. You can turn on your camera’s or phone’s grid feature, which show the grid lines. You can google how to do this specific to your camera or phone.

Before taking your photo, ask yourself what the key points of interest are and where you should place them on the grid. It helps improve the look of your pictures.

One example is taking a photo of a person, rather than putting them in the middle of the picture, place them on the left or right grid line.

Experiment with composition and angles

St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

I vary my positioning when I take pictures to see what works best. Try some of these when you’re taking a photo:

  • Different angles. Take regular shots standing up, but also kneel or get on the ground to get a low angle, or try climbing things to shoot from a higher angle.
  • Different distances. Start with a regular shot, then close up and farther away.
  • Include elements. Find something interesting to add to the background, middle-ground or foreground of your picture to help show scale and give a 3D feel to your photos. For example, if you’re trying to take an image of water, try to find an interesting rock, or wildlife to include.

Include people

Picture of my dad in Rome, Italy

People in a picture is powerful. I travel alone a lot for work, so I don’t get these as much as I would like, but it makes a difference.

Adding a human element to your photo helps to tell a story, create emotion and gives a sense of scale to the scenery. You can change the feeling of an image depending on what you do with the people or person in it. Are they facing the camera, walking away, looking off into a distance? All of these make people feel different things.


Putting your camera on a tripod allows you to shoot much slower shutter speeds, so more of the image is in focus. They are perfect for shots like landscapes, self-portraits, things in motion, when the lighting is low, and for shooting sunrises or sunsets. I have a small travel one, but I don’t carry it everywhere. I use it for these specific purposes.

In my next post, I’ll discuss ways to improve your photos after you’ve taken them.

These are some of my tips for setting up shots, what are some of yours?




    1. Thanks a lot! Appreciated. Ahaha! I It’s definitely personal preference. A lot of people like to see people, especially on social media. I like them without or with, but prefer scenery shots without someone in it. Have a great day

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