Instagram has changed the way we travel.
Not only is it the perfect medium to share the best of what you see, do, eat and experience while traveling, it also serves as a source of constant travel inspiration for when you’re not on the road (if you’re following the right accounts).
But capturing moments while traveling that are truly worth sharing isn’t always easy. It takes practice. A lot of it.
I’ve been at it for a few years now, and my style, technique and ability are still evolving — I remain far from being able to call myself a photographer without feeling like a fraud. But I can call myself a professional traveler, and one whose been taking travel photos for long enough to have picked up a few rules to guide me along the way.
These are my 5 tips for how to take better travel photos for Instagram:
1) Wait For The Right Moment
Having both patience and a fast trigger finger would seem to be juxtaposing skills to master in order to take better travel photos for Instagram, but actually, they work hand in hand.
While every photo is a moment captured in time, certain photos, like ones that capture movement, can more fully bring the viewer into the environment of the photo. To capture such moments, you’ll need the patience to wait until a specific moment with a movement occurs, and a fast trigger finger to take the photo at that second.
Take for example the photo of the pier above. In the foreground, the wave has just crested and is about to crash. This captures an exact moment in time and can create a more sensory experience for the viewer (because in their minds, they’ll imagine the soothing sound of the wave crashing). I took photos before, of the wave swelling, and after, off the wave crashing, and this one was by far the most interesting.
Next consider the shot of the birds a dock, with one bird in mid flight. Or the women biking down a cobblestone street in Amsterdam. In the case of the latter, I waited until the women were at a point on the bridge which I felt framed them nicely and which the women on the left was turning her head slightly to the left, as if she was looking at something. The more you can capture movement, the more story your photos can tell.
2) Show Scale (“Little People In A Big World” Photos)
This is a two for one. Showing scale and less is more can each be taken as separate pieces of advice, but for purposes of my tips on how to take better travel photos for Instagram, we’ll approach them as a package deal.
When photographing people, getting up close and personal can really capture emotion and result in a beautiful photo (just remember: if you want to take someone’s photo, always ask, don’t sneak it). But instead, take a step back and consider what I call the “little human in a big world” photo. It’s a photo that shows a human, preferably just one, from a distance and in an environment that reminds the viewer just how little we and just how big the world is.
Just like photos taken up close, “little human in a big world” photos make us feel a sense of our place in the world and help transport the viewer into that environment. And of course, it doesn’t have to be a person, it can be a building, an object or an animal (like the photo of an elephant, captured in a expansive environment that makes it look small).
3) Look For Interesting Lines And New Perspectives
This is a universal tip for taking great photos, let alone taking better travel photos for Instagram. Look for unique lines that draw the viewer’s eye into and around the photo. Additionally, look for new ways and new angles from which to approach the subject of your photo.
Lines can be simple, such as the line of a path that draws the eye to a vanishing point in the distance. The presence of a variety of lines, such as a horizon line paired with the line of a pier, or the curving line of a street paired with the criss-crossing lines of lights hung above the street, for example, can make your photo more dynamic. Either way, interesting lines help take the viewer on a journey into the world of the photo.
And when comes to framing, don’t be afraid to get creative. Look at your subject from above and look at it from below (if you need to knell down then knell down). Play with distance too. Try get up close and looking up at your subject (like I did with the photos of the church above) or step back and frame your subject at the bottom of the screen (like I did with the photo of Mount Rushmore) to show parts of the environment not often seen in photos of that subject.
4) Learn How To Edit (It’s Easy)
It’s no secret, almost every travel photo on Instagram is edited in some way or another. I edit my photos for one main reason — to restore things like color and the light to a state closer to how the scene looked and felt in person (and iPhone camera so rarely captures it perfectly).
To edit, I use:
1) Snapseed (free, iOS and Android) – With it you’ll be able to enhance your already amazing photos and salvage dark ones that your phone wasn’t able to properly capture. Use the “ambience” tool under “tune image” and the brush tools to pinpoint you edits. Don’t bother with their filers, for that use VSCOcam.
2) VSCOcam (free, iOS and Android) – This app has the best filters (and they’re way better than Instagram’s). 9 times of of 10, I use the “F2″ filter. Just make sure to adjust the strength of the filter from the preset level 10 down to a more natural level. Many more edit,s like adjusting the fade level and colors of highlights and shadows (for which I usually use purple set on level 1, 2 or 3) can be accessed by clicking on the wrench icon.
Back on Instagram, you can then make some small final touches using the in-app editing tools.
5) Take A Video Instead
It took awhile for people to accept Instagram as a platform for viewing videos. After all, they were used to scrolling through photos at lighting speed and slowing down to watch a few-second video was a lot to ask. But with time, the tides have changed and video on Instagram has finally found its footing — people are watching and people want more.
So instead of taking another photo, why not post a video instead? With a maximum length of 15 seconds, a short video can transport a viewer to a destination and evoke more emotion than than a photo ever could.
While natural sounds (like waves lapping against the beach or a busy night market) might be the key to your video’s success, also consider adding music. With the Spark Camera app for iOS ($3.99), you can select a video, trim it, and add in any track from your iTunes library.
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