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Have you ever come back from vacation and excitedly downloaded your memory card, only to be let down with pictures that just don’t do your trip justice? Follow these 5 simple tips for taking better travel photos and you’ll be posting envy-inducing shots in no time – without the purchase of any additional photo equipment.

RELATED: How to fix the 7 most cliché travel photos-get the tips

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(left) Facing into the sun at 9am  |  (right) Back to the sun at 5pm  |  Location: Petra, Jordan

1. Get between the sun and your subject

As simple as it sounds, following this easy tip will drastically improve your travel photos. Most travel photos are taken outside with the main source of light from the sun. The problem comes in when you are facing into the sun. The camera is going to adjust itself for the very bright sun and leave everything else dark. Even if the sun isn’t directly in the frame you can still have heavy shadows on your subject and loose the details of the photo. Use the sun’s light to your advantage and always keep your back to the sun when taking a photo. Always be looking for the bright side of whatever it is you are shooting.

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The rule of thirds grid placed over a road through the Atlas mountains in Morocco

2. Compose your shot

Composition may sound like a word that gets thrown around at some snobby art gallery, but it’s also a term that can help you take better travel photos. Composition was first used by famous renaissance painters. In modern times, these principles are used by photographers to make their photos pop off thepage. One of the biggest mistakes people make is putting the subject directly in the center of the photo. Give your travel photos more life by applying the “rule of thirds,” the most widely used and effective way to frame your shot. The theory is to divide the frame into three parts both horizontally and vertically. Using those lines to place your main focus on one of the four intersecting points. The rule of thirds will give your travel shots more appeal and feel more alive.

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(left) The average picture of the Eiffel Tower | (right) A unique angle of the Eiffel Tower at night

3. Go somewhere different

The best way to end up with the same old boring travel photos is to stand exactly where everyone else is standing. Seek out places where others aren’t: For example, if there’s a hike up to a view point, take it. If you can’t get a different perspective, then try to change the angle or look for details that will remind you of the destination. This is particularly important when photographing something famous like the Eiffel Tower. There are thousands of photo taken there every day, so you need to somehow make yours unique or different.

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(left) Darkunder-exposed photo | (right) Properly selected exposure point | Location: Duomo di Milano – Milan, Italy

4. Pick your exposure point

All cameras are designed to evaluate your picture and set the brightness level of the photo. This all happens quickly without you, the photographer, even realizing. When your camera is set to an automatic mode it will try to take an average of everything in the frame and give you a photo that’s not too bright and not too dark. The problem comes when there are big differences between the bright areas and the dark areas of your photo. In this case the camera is going to guess which part of the photo should be the proper brightness. Take the guess work out of it and tell the camera what is important and what you want properly exposed. Most modern camera have this function, even smart phones. For touch screen cameras just pressing on the screen over the area you want to be the focus will set the exposure. For other cameras, you mightneed to break out the manual,or just Youtube it!

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(left) The photo you didn’t take | (right) The great shot you stumbled upon and took | Location: El Nido, Philippines

5. Never say “I’ll come back”

It’s easy to walk by something great on your travels, but tell yourself you’ll come back to it later. Chances are you won’t. Vacations are busy and I’ve missed lots of great shots by being lazy and saying “I’ll come back.” Even if you do end up back to take your pictures, depending on the time of day and the weather it might look completely different. Photography by definition captures a moment in time, a moment that may never repeat itself. Whenever you are abroad, always have a camera and stop and take that shot.


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Tagged: Photo essay

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Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers
Hannah & Adam are travel writers & photographers who have called the road home since 2013. Their passion for adventurous travel has brought them to 60 countries and counting. They blog about their adventures on their travel blog

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