There are so many things I wish I had know as a first time travel photographer. Once we got off the plane, I was so overwhelmed with everything. From what I wanted to shoot to whether or not my gear was safe. The trip ended up being great, but the photography side of things were stressful. Most of my shots weren’t good at all and have never seen the light of day. First time travel photographers can find it difficult to enjoy the photography side of their trips, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

9 Tips for First Time Travel Photographers

Traveling as a photographer for the first time and hoping to get some amazing shots is a daunting and sometimes frustrating experience. Here are some things that can help make your next adventure a little less overwhelming.

Leave Stuff at Home

You may have heard the phrase “the gear doesn’t make the photographer” once or twice before. First time travel photographers should take this literally. Having a wide selection of lenses at your finger tips is nice, but those lenses get heavy and will make your life miserable while traveling. Your camera, maybe two of your favorite lenses, a few batteries, a charger and a few accessories are really all you need, especially if this is your first time traveling as a photographer.

Know the Gear You Do Bring

If you’ve been shooting for a long time this tip probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re still new to photography and hoping to get great shots on your adventure it’s important that you know how your camera works. It’s also important to know the basics of photography. Practicing before you leave is a great way to get the hang of it before your plane hits the tarmac. Even better, practice on subjects at home that may be similar to those you want to shoot while you’re away. Want to capture the beautiful architecture of Prague? Try shooting in a nearby town square. Heading to Iceland and want to get some gorgeous waterfall shots? Practice at a local creek.

Bonus: Check out my guide to getting out of auto mode to really up your game.

Protect Your Gear

Gear protection is super important to all photographers, but if you’re a first time travel photographer you may not know exactly how to do this. Here are a few things I do to make sure my stuff is safe:

  • A plastic bag to put over my camera when it’s raining or snowing or I’m shooting a super misty waterfall. Cut a hole for the lens to poke through then cover the rest of the camera. I leave the bag open in the back so I can still see the screen on the back of the camera.
  • A rain cover for my camera bag. There are a lot of bags out there that are weather proof, however if it’s pouring down rain there is a chance this won’t be enough. Many bags come with a rain cover to help further protect your gear from the elements.
  • An umbrella – Admittedly, I really only use an umbrella if I’m shooting real estate and it’s misting or drizzling. In these conditions, my camera is already in a plastic bag, the umbrella is to help prevent water droplets from hitting my lens and making editing a nightmare later.
  • A lock – Preferably a combo lock so you don’t have to keep up with a key. Many hostels have lockers or trunks to put your stuff in and a lock is necessary to keep your gear safe while you’re sleeping or going out without your camera.

Get Your Camera Cleaned Before You Go

first time travel photographers - sensor dust

Sensor dust is one of the worst parts of photography. If you shoot a lot of portraits or frequently use a wide aperture, you may not notice too much dust on your sensor. However, once you start shooting landscapes, those tiny little specs may start showing up everywhere. And, they become a nightmare to edit out if it’s been a while since you’ve had your camera cleaned.

Your best bet for a good camera cleaning is to find a local camera shop and have a professional do it for you. You can also find sensor cleaning kits online. Just make sure you look up a tutorial for your camera before you try it yourself.

Find a Comfortable Camera Bag

My first trip abroad with my shiny, new (refurbished) Nikon was a nightmare when it came to being comfortable. I bought a cool looking cross-body messenger bag and regretted it about four hours after landing in London. This kind of bag may work for you, but my back and shoulder were killing me at the end of everyday. I stick to backpacks with extra padding now. It’s important to do a bit of research and find a camera bag that fits your needs and that you can carry for long periods of time.

Try Some New Angles

You’re on a great adventure, now’s the time to have some fun with your photography. Experimenting with some new angles is a great way to get interesting and unique photos. For example, while I love focusing on small things like leaves and flowers, looking up is just as fun for me. Some of my favorite shots are of clouds with just the tops of buildings in them. Interesting shots are all around you if you look for them.

Take The Path Less Traveled

This may require a bit more research on your part, but there are so many things to discover outside the big tourist attractions. For instance, this waterfall in Iceland. It’s so close to one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls – Skogafoss – that you can walk to it from Skogafoss’s parking lot. I had no idea it was there and most other travelers didn’t either. We saw maybe five other people in the two hours we spent here.

The big attractions are big attractions for a reason, but keep in mind that there is almost always a path less traveled.

Focus on the Small Stuff

Half the reason I travel is to get photos of sweeping landscapes and bustling cities. However, I love shooting stuff like leaves and flowers, close ups of wall tiles, brick walls covered in graffiti, fun colored doors and so much more. These things help tell the story of the place I’m visiting and shooting them makes the trip that much more memorable. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking every image needs to be a beautiful landscape because you may miss some beautiful details in the process.

Have Fun

This is probably the most important tip for first time travel photographers of all the tips. Have fun! Traveling is about experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, trying new things and having a memorable time while doing it. Don’t bog yourself down by trying not to miss a shot. It’s okay to not photograph every moment of your trip. You’re allowed to put the camera down and enjoy the experience.

9 Tips for First Time Travel Photographers Conclusion

Being a first time travel photographer can be an overwhelming experience. There are so many beautiful and unique shots to take and so many things to worry about. But with a little bit of practice and patience and some help from this guide, you’ll be able to get some incredible shots on your next adventure.

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Hey there! My name is Leah and I'm a photographer, blogger and wanderer from north Texas. I've been doing photography for nearly a decade now and absolutely love it. My day job is real estate photographer and in my free time you can often find me at a park taking pictures of leaves and flowers. Outside of that my fiance and I love to travel. We spent nine months backpacking through Europe and now spend our free time attempting to plan and going on shorter trips both in the States and abroad.

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