Top 5 Travel Photography Mistakes You May Be Making

The thing about travel photography is that if you’re going to do it a lot, I mean really do the crap out of it, you’ll want to travel to many different places and see many different things.  Some of the most interesting places (to you) may be on the other side of the world.  If you’re traveling around the globe you surely want to capture the best images you can the first time around…  You know, just in case you don’t make it back because you’d rather cut yourself than fly 22+ hours in the stale air Petri dish of an airplane.

By avoiding the pitfalls below you’ll save yourself the headache of realizing your images aren’t what you wanted once you’ve returned home from your travels (or back at the hotel room for you eager beavers who can’t wait to drool over your images at the end of each day).  Avoiding the travel photography mistakes will in-turn give you the comfort that if you don’t return for a while (or ever) you’ll have captured great dynamic images that are representative of your vision.

Not Shooting Raw


Have you ever taken some really great photos, ones that as soon as you click the shutter you think “Dang, Me…  Those are gonna be some dandy photographs!”?  Then, fast forward to you sitting in your briefs editing your photos and realizing your highlights are blown and your shadows are so dark that they look like it’s snowed colorful little snowflakes all over when you try to recover them (noise).  Should have shot in RAW.

There is no excuse for not shooting in RAW anymore, even the simplest of photo software converts RAW files for you to edit, upload, or print.  RAW images have far more flexibility than JPEG’s which is a huge help in difficult lighting.

Only Shooting In Portrait or Landscape Mode


Choosing one over the other can sometimes be a tough choice, but being so closed-minded as to only shoot one way no matter what is just plain dumb.  Leave shooting exclusively horizontal to the beginners and branch out to using whichever framing makes the most sense.  Think about what adds to the subject and what distracts from it…  If you shoot horizontally and there are elements in the frame that distract the viewer from said subject you can flip your camera on end and eliminate the distractions.

Not Revisiting Interesting Areas


I revisit interesting areas… a lot.  Even in my home town.  When I travel I keep my eye out for interesting areas and try to envision what they would look like at different times of the day with different light.  If you come across an area that looks amazing at a certain time take a mental note to return with your camera and take the photograph.



The time of day and the amount of time you spend in a particular area are paramount to great photography.  Simply waking up a couple of hours earlier than normal could yield you award-winning photography with the morning fog, golden light, or rays of sun split between buildings.

The same goes for the evening…  Every time I visit a new place I like to search for a great spot to photograph the sunset.  It doesn’t take long, once you know where the sun rises and sets you can narrow down the potential spots based on what you want in your foreground.  It’s no secret either, rarely to I find a place where I’m the only person shooting the sunset.  However, it never fails, once the sun has set everyone starts packing up their gear and shuffling off for their bubble baths and warm milk.  The rub is, the best light hasn’t even happened at this point.  After the sun dips below the horizon some of the most spectacular colors erupt in the sky to make the most beautiful sunsets.  Sadly, most everyone has already left.

JMB_4844If there is a shot you envision make sure you stick around to see it through…  Once I get an idea in my head I stick it out until it’s realized.  I’ve learned that going home without the shot I want is far more painful than staying out past the point of exhaustion.

What’s the worst travel photography mistake you’ve made?  Perhaps you left your camera on manual focus for the day and came home with blurry images?  Maybe you left your exposure compensation dial on +2 and blew all of your highlights?  Leave your worst mistake in the comments below.


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3 replies on “Top 5 Travel Photography Mistakes You May Be Making”
  1. says: Anonymous

    I did not take a shot I thought was good .. result no picture, and I could never return 🙁

  2. says: Ben Casper

    Some very useful points John. I enjoyed the article and images and I think some of us should copy it and carry it in the camera bag at all times as an aide memoire. With your permission of course.

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