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

Woman taking photos of a hilly landscape.
kudla/Shutterstock

Every budding photographer makes a blunder here and there. Here are seven common travel photography mistakes you should avoid.

Traveling to a new place is one of the most exciting ways to push yourself and your photography. You can go on dedicated photo trips or just bring your camera along on your vacations. Travel, however, is expensive so, if you’re planning to take photos, you should put a bit of thought into it. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a trip and not have any images you’re proud to show for it. Let’s look at some of the most common travel photography mistakes and, more importantly, how you can avoid them.

Not Doing Your Research Before Your Trip

Boys playing in a tide pool.
Harry Guinness

The secret to natural, impromptu travel photos is lots of planning. Almost every great travel shot starts at home. You can’t expect to stumble on the most amazing things wandering around a new city for the first time.

Since time and money are often the biggest limitations on travel photography, it’s worth it to put in a few hours of research before you go. Work out what kind of shots you want to get, where you can get them, what time will work best, and when you’ll have the opportunity. If you can, develop a shot list. That way, you’re ready to start shooting as soon as you arrive.

And, if you do stumble on an incredible situation as you wander, so much the better. But you’ll also have a few sure shots in the can.

Shooting the Same Photos as Everyone Else

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

When you research a trip, you’ll see the kind of photos most people are taking of that location. You’ll find out what the famous landmarks are and how they’re being shot.

And then you can do something different.

There’s nothing wrong with shooting the same thing as everyone else, but there’s little point in taking a photo that’s available from 100 photographers on stock photo sites. Instead, see what’s been done and try to do something different. You can work from a different angle, use a different composition, or shoot something else entirely. Force yourself to be more creative.

Starting Too Late (or Stopping Too Early)

Sunrise over a harbor break wall.
Harry Guinness

Great photography happens at unsociable hours. The best times for travel photography are the hours around sunrise and sunset. Nighttime brings interesting changes to a place that a lot of people don’t capture because they’re in bed or a bar.

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