11 Travel Photography Mistakes and How to Easily Fix Them

Jun 17, 2019 | Travel Photography | 0 comments

travel photography mistakes
Written by Karin van Mierlo
Karin van Mierlo is a pro photographer with 25+ years of experience in family, documentary, travel, and street photography. She is the driving force behind Photography Playground and loves to write about all things photography related. She teaches aspiring photographers to photograph their world as it FEELS like ~ not what it looks like.

Travel Photography Mistakes

Making mistakes is how we learn, right? Nothing wrong with making mistakes unless you’re not aware you’re making them. Which is why I thought it would be a great idea to approach improving your photography from the angle of travel photography mistakes you might be making. Because becoming aware of your travel photography mistakes is a sure road to fixing them.

Wanna preserve the wonderful memories of your adventures with meaningful photography? Fix these very common travel photography mistakes and you’re good to go!

#1 You’re Not Prepared

A little preparation goes a long way and this starts at home. Doing some research on the places you’re planning to visit is the best way to start your adventure and it’s a lot of fun.

You can research on places like Instagram, Flickr, and 500px. Reading books or watching movies is another wonderful way to get you in the right mindset.

I know, it’s stating the obvious but you should know how to work with your camera. To be sure download your camera manual and save it to your phone. That way you can always go back in and refresh your memory. Bring enough memory cards and always carry a spare battery!

Have your camera ready at all times. You never know when you’re running into a great photo opportunity. So, don’t stuff your camera in the bottom of your backpack. There are a lot of different straps for any kind of camera so invest in one that you find comfortable and use it.

Prepare your trip by researching the area, knowing your gear, having enough memory cards and spare batteries. Have your camera ready at all times.

Go here to check out this post chockful of Travel Photography Safety Tips.

#2 Bringing Way Too Much Gear

Remember that you need to carry everything you’re bringing. Most people have a tendency to overpack, not only with photography equipment. How many times did you come home and while unpacking your suitcase thought: “Oh, I never wore that dress and I really didn’t need 5 pairs of shoes!”

The same holds true for your gear. If you bring it all it’s very likely you’re not going to use all of it. I get it, you wanna bring everything because you’re worried you’re gonna miss shots. I know, I’ve been there. But guess what! There’s power in constraint.

Limiting yourself in the gear you bring actually makes you more creative. Because it encourages you to think of alternative ways to get the photo you want.

Constraining yourself in the gear you bring is not only good for your back but also for the expansion of your creative skills.

#3 You Think the Camera Takes the Picture

It’s not. A camera is just a tool. But how many times have you heard or said it yourself: “Wow that’s a great camera, it takes such good pictures.”

It is a common misunderstanding that the camera is the most important tool in taking a photograph. Be honest you probably think this as well. But deep down you also know it’s not true.

It is you that’s the most important tool in taking pictures. You are the defining factor! You are the creator of every single image your camera produces. The camera is merely a humble servant to your craft and creativity.

Become aware of the huge influence you have when you’re taking pictures and work on developing your skills and vision.

Read More: The Most Powerful Tool in a Travel Photographers Toolbox

#4 Being a Static Photographer

A static photographer takes every picture from eye level and from the place she or he happens to be standing when the photo opportunity presents itself. The sad and simple truth is that a static photographer is a lazy photographer.

This may sound harsh to you but there’s no way around it. Static photographers settle for the obvious shot, the one everybody is taking. 

So what can you do about it? There’s a simple solution! You become an active photographer by walking around your subject and exploring different points of view. You come close, you get down on your knees or climb on a wall.

Being a dynamic photographer involves going deeper into the thing you’re photographing, by observing your surroundings. Take the time and have the perseverance to look for something different than everybody else is shooting. Most of all, be curious!

Make the change from being a static and lazy photographer to being a dynamic and active photographer by moving around and exploring different points of view.

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#5 You’re Not Connecting

The static photographer is usually the photographer that doesn’t connect to the people and the places she or he is photographing. You’re photographing like a drive-by shooter and fail to connect to your surroundings.

The result is a lot of empty and meaningless registrations of the places you’ve visited. If you wanna go deeper and bring home photos that tell the story of where you’ve been you need to observe and connect first.

If you are like most people you find it a lot easier to connect to a place than to make a connection with the people you’d like to photograph. Often this comes out of fear that people might not want to be photographed so you try to do it quickly and sort of sneaky so people will not notice you.

The truth is that if people don’t want to be photographed you should not do it. You’re not entitled to take pictures of everyone that catches your eye. It might feel a little scary to walk up to people and start a conversation before you ask if you can take their photo. But here’s the thing, once you do you’ll discover it’s not scary at all. The photos you take during those encounters will be more meaningful than the drive-by shootings.

Of course, it’s not always necessary to talk to people first. But don’t be sneaky about it. Quite often a smile and showing you’re taking pictures is enough.

Observe and connect to your surroundings first, then start photographing.

Read More: You Think The Best Spot Is Behind Your Camera?

#6 Thinking Now is Not the Right Time

There could be a lot of reasons why you might think ‘now is not the right time, I’ll come back tomorrow’. Maybe you didn’t bring the right lens, maybe the light is ‘wrong’, maybe you’re tired or strapped for time.

But the thing is there’s no better time than right now. If you don’t have the right lens, make it work with the one you have. If the light is wrong, make the shot anyway and work with what you’ve got.

When you come back tomorrow chances are the circumstances are completely different. And the reason you wanted to take the shot in the first place is no longer there. 

Get in the now mindset and don’t postpone until tomorrow what you can shoot today.

#7 Shooting in Packs

Always photographing with the people you’re traveling with is another big travel photography mistake. Because the best time to deepen your skill and vision is when you’re able to follow your curiosity and creative instincts.

And let’s be honest that’s not possible when you’re traveling with a lot of other people. I know, I’ve been there myself. It’s unsettling when you wanna take the time to go deeper into your subject when you have a couple of people waiting for you. The first few times they might be understanding and accommodating but after a while, it gets on their nerves.

Frankly, I can’t blame them, I understand completely. It’s not the most exciting thing to watch someone taking pictures. Which is why you should carve out time to explore on your own.

It’s way better when you’re alone and don’t have to take other people’s interests into account. Then you can go with your own creative flow and turn another corner and another one just because you want to.

Set aside some time to go out shooting by yourself and make sure your travel buddies understand why you wanna do that.

#8 Your Subject isn’t Clear

Not having a clear subject is another travel photography mistake that comes from being a static photographer.

Quite often a photo doesn’t work because there’s too much going on and it’s not clear what the photo is about. You have to make sure it’s clear what the picture is about by making your subject stand out. The way to do that is by paying attention to your composition.

How to create a compelling composition? By moving your body. Do you see where I’m getting at?

You carefully determine what’s in the frame and what’s out. What’s gonna contribute to the photo and what’s gonna be distracting.

Make your subject stand out by creating a strong composition. You do that by being an active and dynamic photographer.

Go here to discover what it takes to create a strong Composition in Photography.

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#9 Thinking Too Little of Your Phone Camera

Hey, I get it, I love shooting with my DSLR as well. It’s the best! But when I come across an interesting photo opportunity and I don’t have my DSLR with me what do you think I do? Yep, I take out my smartphone!

I actually invested a lot of time to become a better smartphone photographer because it’s the only camera I have with me all the time.

Investing in the skill and knowledge to know how to take great photos with a smartphone is time and/or money well spent. Once you’re aware of what your phone camera is good at and what it’s not good at you too can start to take better pictures with your phone.

Don’t underestimate your phone camera. Invest in knowledge and skills to improve your phone photography.

Wanna discover what you and your phone are capable of? Check out Fabulous Phone Photography and Fabulous Phone Editing.

#10 Not Culling Your Pics

Ever came home from a wonderful adventure and you’re excited to show every single frame to your friends and family? Yeah, I guess we all love to show our work, especially after a trip. I wonder, did you notice the glazed over looks after 20 images of the same thing? This happens when you’re not culling.

Go in-depth with culling your pics in this tutorial about the Library Module in Lightroom.

When I come back from a trip the selection process takes me a lot of time. Let me tell you something, not every photo you make is gonna be brilliant. Because you need to make a lot of pictures to get to that one brilliant photo. All the other images are rough sketches, exercises, improvisations.

Culling is the process of taking out the weed, the sketches, the photos you took to get to that one good photo. When you take away the lesser photos you give space to the better photos. So they can take their rightful place in the spotlight and shine!

Make a selection of your photos that will leave your viewers begging for more instead of patiently waiting for the end of an endless stream of photos.

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#11 Not Editing Your Pics

Every photo needs a little aftercare. Especially when you’re shooting in raw, which I highly recommend you do!

In the editing phase, you want to lift the photo to a higher level. Editing can underline your own voice and vision. But it can also be as mundane as straightening a crooked horizon.

Check out this post on How to Edit Photos in Lightroom and discover it’s not really that complicated!

Editing is like dotting all your I’s. It’s the phase where everything is coming together. It is a very important step in the entire process of creating strong and compelling photographs and should not be overlooked.

After culling your pics give them the aftercare they deserve in the editing phase.

Fixing these travel photography mistakes will greatly improve your travel pics. Especially becoming a more active, observing and curious photographer will do your photos a lot of good!

Tell me, what’s one travel photography mistake you’ve been making and gonna stop making now that you know how to fix it?

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