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Our 6 Top Tips for Avoiding Generic Travel Photos

While we’re not all just thirsty for Insta and Facebook Likes, everyone still wants amazing travel photos to remember their trip and show their mates—to wow them, inspire them, and maybe make them more than a teensy bit jealous.

But short of hiring a professional photographer to tag along, what can you do to score those unforgettable shots that deserve to be actually printed? How do you avoid taking obvious photos and really tell the story of a place and your journey through it with images?


This might be the Great Wall that you saw, but does it really tell of your journey? Image c/o Jasmin, Flickr.

Well, one tip is to not take pictures where everyone else does. But how could one know that, you ask? Behold the Camera Restricta, a concept by designer Philipp Schmitt. The idea is that when you point the camera somewhere it connects to GPS and searches the Internet for how many photos have been taken around that area—if it’s too many it blocks the viewfinder and you’ve gotta find another spot from which to shoot. Of course there are loads of problems with this—you may be wanting to capture a family snap near the Great Wall rather than the icon itself—but it’s still a pretty interesting idea.

Inspired by this, we’ve compiled five other handy tips to avoid those cliched shots and escape the #sorrynotsorry on your Taj Mahal post.

You talkin’ to me?

The number one resource when traveling is locals. They know the best places to eat, the best places to visit and might give you a different perspective on a spot—they might recommend swapping the peopled sunrise at Angkor Wat for the twisting nature of Beng Mealea. It’s also always a massive must to ask a person if it’s cool to take their picture. Aside from being common courtesy, having a subject who’s engaged and willing will make for a far better photo than some weird across-the-street creep-shot.


Apprehensive about asking folk whether you can take their photo? Toss a few coins into a bucker’s bag and snap away. Image c/o Giuseppe Milo, Flickr.

Three’s the magic number

It’s time to turn on the grid option that you never ever use on your phone or camera. The ‘rule of thirds’ divides whatever scene your looking at into three horizontal and three vertical sections. Your job is then to place whatever you find interesting at the points where these lines meet (this being where the viewers’ eyes will naturally be drawn). Take a typical sunset: for maximum effect don’t put the sun exactly in the centre. Instead make the image two-thirds sky, one-third land, and place the sun in the bottom right where two lines join. Also remember the words foreground, midground, and background to give your snaps scale and depth. Photo gold awaits.

Ain’t nobody got time for that

Good travel photography isn’t about busting in, clicking off 50 pics and rushing to the next site. Patience my friend—if you spot a good setting, watch and wait. See if a new subject wanders in or if the scene changes in a way that might better tell its story. Same goes for the light. While the sunset crowds stagger off in search of beers, linger a little. You might be rewarded with colors that are a real #nofilter.

What you anglin’ for?

Get that body moving—up high, down low, up close; twist, turn, move your arm this way, spin you body that way; look for shadows and reflections or clamber up this and hang off that (health and safety permitting). This way you’ll find new angles and perspectives on even the most commonly captured places and icons.


Soft light, early morning, from an angle less seen and far from the maddening crowds. Image c/o Mariusz Kluzniak, Flickr.

Boy, do I got some stories to tell…

Imagine yourself as a documentarian and try to make your photos about the experience, not the actual thing you’re shooting. Sure, you took a photo of a sweet looking waterfall or a cool building, but what about when you look back on the pictures months or years later? What will it make you feel then? Consider someone who wasn’t there to smell, touch or hear the things you did. What will they see? Is your photo telling the tale of your trip?

We hope these tips help you get countless unforgettable photos (and sure, Likes too), but remember, sometimes it’s best to just put down the camera and really experience a place through your own eyes.

—David Nagle

This article was originally published by Intrepid Travel under the headline Our 6 top tips for avoiding generic travel photos. It is reprinted here with permission.

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

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