7 Common Travel Photography Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Woman taking pictures of a hilly landscape.
kudla / Shutterstock

Every budding photographer makes a mistake here and there. Here are seven common mistakes you should avoid when it comes to travel photography.

Traveling to a new place is one of the most exciting ways to excel and to photograph. You can participate in trips dedicated to photography or simply bring your camera during your vacation. However, travel is expensive. Therefore, if you plan to take pictures, think about it a bit. You do not want to spend a lot of money on a trip and not have images that you are proud to show for it. Let's look at some of the most common travel photography mistakes and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

Do not do your research before your trip

Boys playing in a tide pool.
Harry Guinness

The secret of natural and impromptu travel photos lies in a lot of planning. Almost all great trips start at home. You can not expect to come across the most amazing things in a new city for the first time.

Since time and money are often the main limitations of travel photography, it's worth spending a few hours researching before you leave. Determine what kind of photos you want to get, where you can get them, what time will work best and when you get the chance. If you can, expand a hit list. In this way, you are ready to film as soon as you arrive.

And, if you come across an incredible situation as you go astray, so much the better. But you will also have some hits in the box.

Make the same pictures as everyone

Similar photos of the Eiffel Tower.
Hey, look at all these really different pictures of the Eiffel Tower!

When looking for a trip, you will see the type of photos that most people take at this location. You will discover what are the famous sites and how they are slaughtered.

And then you can do something different.

Taking the same thing as everyone else is not a problem, but it is useless to take a picture offered by 100 photographers on storage sites. Instead, see what has been done and try to do something different. You can work from a different angle, use a different composition or anything else. Force yourself to be more creative.

Start too late (or stop too early)

Sunrise on a harbor break wall.
Harry Guinness

Large photography occurs at unsociable hours. The best times for travel photography are sunrise and sunset times. The night brings interesting changes to a place that many people do not capture because they are in bed or in a bar.

If you want to take better travel pictures, get up earlier and take the picture before dawn. Rearrange your dinner plans so you can shoot for an hour or two at sunset. After dinner, go back to what's happening at midnight. The exceptional lighting at sunrise and sunset will greatly improve your work.

Go too fast

Sunrise on a harbor with a boat coming home.
I waited for the boat to enter the frame. The shot without it was a bit boring. Harry Guinness

Travel photography is an exercise in patience. Often, it's about finding a good scene or background and then waiting for something to happen. Maybe an interesting local will cross the frame, or that light will change or that something unexpected will happen. The best travel photographers tend to choose a place and work it in many different ways.

Do not take a single picture and think you're done with a particular scene. Be patient. Be slow. Take a picture and wait; see if anything else catches your eye or how things will change in the next few minutes. The more you move slowly, the better your photos will be.

If you can, avoid taking pictures with non-photographers. You will never slow down enough because you will be afraid to annoy your friends or family. If you are on vacation, take a full night out on your own and devote yourself to a serious photography session rather than taking a few minutes here and there.

Bring too much speed

A Canon camera with a long lens sitting on a table in a train.
My favorite configuration. Harry Guinness

You do not need a lot of material to get great travel photos; your camera and a single versatile lens are enough. Choose a decent main lens, such as a 24mm or 35mm lens, or a useful zoom lens, such as a 18-55mm, 24-70mm, or 16-35mm lens. Of course, you may miss some opportunities to take pictures because you do not have a long telephoto lens, but you will not miss it because you are busy changing lenses. In addition, it is much easier to transport and support a light photo installation than each item in your kit.

Shoot only with a digital SLR

Just because you have your DSLR or mirrorless camera with you, do not ignore your smartphone. The cameras of modern phones are excellent and can even take RAW images.

Smartphones have several interesting advantages. They are small, light, and you always have it with you. They are also more discreet. So you can often take pictures with your phone that you could not use with your digital SLR, like in a cathedral, for example. And they are super fast to use; If something interesting happens, you can take your phone out in no time.

Shooting in automatic mode

An Italian in a shop, standing in front of a shelf of trinkets and glass figurines.
Harry Guinness

Like any other type of photography, you can not keep your camera in automatic mode and expect great travel photos. You must control what is happening. If you're still shooting in automatic mode, take a few hours to learn how to control your camera before your next trip.

To help you, consult our guide on become an expert with your camera. You can also give my article on the camera settings you need to use for street photography and travel in How-To Geek a lecture.


I never travel anywhere without my camera. It's still a big part of my trip. Do not make the same mistakes as I did at the beginning – all the tips above were learned the hard way.

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