Photo: Blue mosque

Photograph by Thomas Abercrombie

By Robert Caputo, August 2007

From Photography Field Guide: Travel

Keep these tips from photographer Robert Caputo in mind as you're taking photos on your next trip.

  • Keep your eyes open and camera ready as you head out into the world. Architecture, colors, and mountains all give us a sense of place.
  • Wherever you go, be on the lookout for humor you can incorporate into your photographs.
  • The Internet offers a great way to do research. Search for both information and pictures of the place you're going. Good research helps you save precious time on your trip.
  • Carry a notebook that fits easily into your camera bag, and take notes about both what you want to photograph and what you already have. When you cover a lot of subjects, it's easy to forget.
  • Getting lost is a great way to meet people. Don't be shy about asking for directions.
  • When packing gear for a trip, carefully consider each item. When was the last time you used it? Are you really likely to need it? If the answers are "a long time" and "no," leave it behind. You don't want to be overburdened with equipment.
  • Be patient and friendly with customs and security inspectors at home and abroad. They have a difficult job, and getting impatient with them usually means it just takes longer.
  • Practice and experimentation are the keys to doing anything well. Try different compositional techniques on your family and friends and study the results before you set off on a trip.
  • Quite often, foreground elements are low to the ground. You may have to squat or lie down to get them properly placed in the frame.
  • Practice motion photography at home before you leave. Go to an amusement park with rides, a race track, or even a nearby highway. You don't want to waste precious time on your trip learning.
  • When you are on a trip, make an effort to get ahead of your companions so you can photograph them in the environment. Go in the first raft, on the first bus, or whatever, and shoot back.
  • Don't be shy about photographing people. The ways they are dressed and the ways they behave can help your images convey both the look and feeling of different seasons in different places.
  • Check the weather forecast in the local media as soon as you arrive somewhere so you can make plans for sunny, cloudy, or rainy days.
  • If you are without a tripod but want to shoot with a long shutter speed, set your camera on your camera bag, bundle up your jacket into a pillow, and use that—there is always something you can use for support.
  • Use some distinctive feature of the place you are visiting as a silhouette against a rising or setting sun. The sun itself is too hot to photograph unless it is masked by haze or some object.
Please select a test to run

Photo Tips Videos

  • White Balance

    Learn how simply turning off your camera's automatic white balance can turn drab, lifeless photos into amazing shots.

  • Image Resolution

    See how a few tips on image resolution will keep your photos crisp and clear.

Shop Our Store

Special Offers

  • multiproduct_email_100x75_jancover.jpg

    National Geographic

    Subscribe to National Geographic magazine and save. Print and digital editions available for as little as $12.