Mrs. Limestone's Inexpert Guide to: Taking Better Travel Photos

So as I’ve said, I don’t consider myself an expert by any means – just my own experiences to go on. So its with caution I humbly present my inexpert guide to: Taking Better Travel Photos. For more inexpert advice, read my guide to planning a trip.

While these tips are written with travel in mind, they definitely apply for all kinds of photography near or far. While I hope you find these tidbits handy, nothing will substitute for understanding how your camera works and good old fashioned practice at making you a better photographer.

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Some of these may seem blatantly obvious while others might counter advice you’ve heard elsewhere. Take what works for you and leave the rest.
hong kong

Tell a Story: Rather than focusing on photographing the most picturesque landscape or tourist attraction of your destination, make a point to document other aspects of the trip. Imagine having the share the story of the trip with a friend using photos alone. That might mean you photograph your frightening drive through traffic or a long wait in line. The trip is more than just the picturesque parts. Extra points for photographing those less ideal moments creatively.

masai mara

Forget quantity, think quality: While practice is very important, try to resist the urge to take 10 or 20 shots of the exact same thing and angle. Spend that same time focusing on a few shots where you think and act carefully about the composition, position and timing. Really look through your viewfinder and think about how to make a better shot. It is often the difference between a lot of ok shots and one good one.


Carry your camera: And that means outside of its case, ready to go. (Having it turned off in your purse is almost as bad as not having it all.) This is a hard one for those with a bulky SLR like me. I hate to carry it around. Sometimes carrying it in plain view makes me uncomfortable. But invariably, the minute I don’t have my camera ready, something really interesting passes me and I’m left wishing I could have gotten a shot.


Vary your perspective: In addition to the landscapes you’ll not doubt be taking, include some close up of iconic or important items that are specific to your destination. That might mean photographing cans of sake at a Japanese supermarket or a pile of brass fixtures at a Paris flea market. Anything that has meaning can add interest.

buenos aires

Edit ruthlessly: Once your home, become your own worst critic. This is the time to take an objective look at your photos before you put your favorites online or in an album. Go through your photos with a careful eye so you keep the best ones in the final set. The goal isn’t selecting the most crisp or well framed photos but rather the ones that serve a purpose. Ask yourself: Does an image tell the story? Have some inherent beauty? Illicit an emotional response? Capture an important element of your trip? Make you look particularity hot? If the answer is no, don’t feel bad about deleting.

2011DSC_0542Barcelona, Feb 2011.jpg


So those are my 'secrets’'. Anything surprised you? Do you have your own tips you’d like to add?


  1. Kalyani9:41 AM

    This post is a great one and very fresh and useful. I think your photographs are great. And your succinct, edited writing style terrific. A fan all the way from India.

  2. Amanda10:31 AM

    Great tips - thanks for sharing! I'm a little ashamed, I have an SLR, but am not the best at knowing how to use it. I am going to be taking a class this fall and will definitely be incorporating these tips!

  3. These are great tips! I especially like the idea of telling a story. I really need to work on photography.

  4. MrGWHunting10:54 AM

    I share the same sentiments. I hate carrying my camera around  ( i have a DsLr). It gets bulky, but I am so grateful when I return because I can relive all of the amazing moments. 

    Rashon aka Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  5. Erin McKenna11:00 AM

    This post was SO helpful! Thank you!

  6. Julie deRochemont11:54 AM

    Wonderful tips from someone who always manages to take captivating photos (at least the ones you share with us, which proves that you have mastered your final tip "edit ruthlessly"). Thanks for sharing.

  7. Your pictures are beautiful. Love the DOF in the pigeon picture especially. How did you learn to to properly use your camera's settings when you were new to it? Did you take a class? Read a book? Any recommendations on that?

  8. Tonia1:43 PM

    I have to admit I fail miserably when trying to edit vacation photos.  We each take a camera - one SLR and a point and shoot.  After our last trip we realized that we had about 2,000 pictures.  I just can't bring myself to delete them.  I've found over the years that some that I don't really care for at the time later become favorites.

  9. Asuthernaccent2:15 PM

    Great stuff! Love the suggestion to tell a story. I walk around all of the time with my camera around my neck and I feel like such a tourist, but it does help me catch some of those shots I would have missed otherwise!

  10. MrsLimestone2:16 PM

    Years before I had this camera I did some homework about various photography techniques, took a learning annex class, etc. I didnt get a fancier camera until way after I had it a tiny bit more educated about it. The one book I really think sums it up well is Understanding Exposure.

  11. MrsLimestone2:28 PM

    Maybe I'm just impatient but if I had 2000 photos to look through, I'd probably never go through them again. Having a more manageable number makes looking at them more fun for me.

  12. Thanks.  As a student of film (35mm, 2-1/4, and 4x5) they are great and very spot on tips! I resisted digital for too long and am now looking for that perfect digital slr. Any suggestions? 

  13. I agree 100% about taking pictures of the non-touristy parts of a trip. We traveled central america last summer and we have a lot of memories riding in chicken buses and crowded vans, but unfortunately we didn't take any photos of this part of our trip and we're still sad about it. Our camera's viewer also broke so we took our photos blindly too, so that sucked too!! I hope to take better photos of our next vacation and will be remembering these great tips, thanks!

  14. Bethany Wuerch4:11 PM

    Hahaha...I love how you allow deleting any photos that don't make you look particularly hot. That's probably my #1 rule...and I swear I delete at least 50% of the travel photos with myself in them, because I look like a hot mess! I don't want to remember myself looking like a rumbled disaster with a muffin top...adios, awful photos! :)

    Your tips are ultra helpful. As a girl who recently started traveling a fair amount, I often get travel burn out...where I just long to put my camera away, because I'm tired of screaming "tourist!" with my beefy DSLR around my neck. But you're so right, if it isn't out there, ready to go you miss so many moments.

    Thanks oodles for your tips!

  15. Elizabeth Johnston5:40 PM

    Did you ever find your ultimate camera travel bag?

  16. MrsLimestone5:50 PM

    No, still looking. Nothing seems quite right and they are too pricey to gamble on so the hunt continues ;)

  17. MrsLimestone5:52 PM

    50 percent is a great success rate. If I get one decent photo per trip, I'm over the moon!

  18. Do you have any lenses you feel are a "must" for any trip? I always have a hard time editing down my lenses and only choosing a select few to take with me.

  19. MrsLimestone6:11 PM

    By virtue of my own laziness, I almost never carry anything but my 18-200 zoom lens with me on most days. I often pack my fish eye and prime because I have big plans of using them (and they are pretty small) but then when the time comes to take it out of my suitcase, I almost always leave them behind. The zoom is not particularly fast so that can be frustrating when shooting in low light but i just don't want to carry a lot.

  20. Heather11:55 PM

    Great Post!  I often find that when I get home from a trip and review my pictures,  they feel sort of empty, and although beautiful, don't hold much meaning for me.  These are all great ways to add soul to your shots.  

  21. Christine G.12:23 AM

    My advice is to not only look through the lens of your camera at all the amazing stuff ... remember to enjoy and take it all in with your own two eyes as well.  Seeing everything through a camera lens is one thing, but take the time to truly appreciate what it is that you're looking at/photographing!

  22. Forgot to include my own blog link!

  23. Gaya Myers8:31 AM

    Love this post and the photos - I would love to hear any handy tricks to mastering your DSLR camera

  24. Anna @ IHOD6:57 PM

    Oh I am so glad you stopped by IHOD. Your space is filled with creativity! Following along!

  25. Gorgeous photos! You really have a gift in photography!

  26. Making Lemonade9:19 AM

    I've been waiting for you to write this post forever!  Your photos are always stunning, and I'm so glad you let us in on your tips.  Another thing I love about your photos is the editing... any chance you'll write a post on how you take your great photos to AMAZING through editing?

  27.  My husband lugs the camera around and I must be honest, I get irritated a lot of the time WHILE on holiday but afterwards I'm always glad he bothered to get the strangest shots because they take me right back to that moment :)

  28. These are simple amazing photographs! Thanks for the inspiration!

  29. Peggy4:32 PM

    In the dinosaur age of film, we felt fortunate if one of the twenty-four or thirty-six shots on a roll was good, so those rare good shots meant a lot more to us.  With digital cameras I think we take way too many photos - and way too many sub par and bad photos.  You are exactly right that you must be a ruthless editor even though that can be extremely difficult.  You are also right about resisting the urge to take twenty photos of one thing from different perspectives.  This is a problem I find on blogs - too many photos of the same thing (pet peeve).  And think about this:  My sis and I go to a particular thrift store that specializes in estates in our area regularly and we are always shocked (and saddened) at finding old family portraits, photo albums, and slide carousels full of someone's wonderful memories - many of the staid travel photos that you are encouraging people to get away from - that were discarded once they passed away.  They just didn't mean anything to others.  So, that said, I loved your post!

  30. MrsLimestone4:39 PM

    So true...its so easy to take a million shots now. I wouldn't want to go back to film when each shot made an little ka-ching sound in my brain, but it certainly separated the men from the boys so to speak.

    Piles of old discarded photos make me so sad! Not so much the travel ones but when I think there about how important photos haven't moved on to someone else in the family that cherishes them as much as the subjects, it makes me cry a little on the inside. You have to wonder what happened to the person that took the photo that there is no one left in the world that wants them.

    In a message dated 8/14/2011 4:32:18 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:


  31. MrsLimestone5:20 PM

    Years before I had this camera I did some homework about various photography techniques, took a learning annex class, etc. I didnt get a fancier camera until way after I had it a tiny bit more educated about it. The one book I really think sums it up well is Understanding Exposure.

  32. MrsLimestone5:22 PM

    Sorry, I can't recommend a camera. I've been really happy with my Nikons but I have never used a Canon DSLR to compare it to.  (I used a Canon regular SLR back in the day but it was so long ago I don't really remember much).  I honestly think both manufacterers make excellent cameras so you can't go wrong.

  33. MrsLimestone5:24 PM

    You are lucky your hubs carries the camera for you!!

  34. MrsLimestone5:26 PM

    Thanks Christine.  For me, working on my photography skills is part of the enjoyment of a trip.  Seeing it through the lens adds to my personal experience of a place.  There are times when I just put the camera down and take a break but that is when I usually regret not having my camera with me.  It just adds a whole element of travel for me that is hard to explain. 

  35. MrsLimestone5:27 PM

    No tricks Im afraid ( or at least none that I know )  Have to invest the time and energy in learning how to use it properly.  So worth it but there aren't any shorcuts.

  36. MrsLimestone5:30 PM

    Thanks @MakingLemonade:disqus  I'm afraid that post won't be forthcoming.  There are whole blogs devoted to how to best edit photos but its not something that can be summed up in a post or two.  I've learned to use photoshop and lightroom to tweak images that don't come out as I want them to straight from the camera but it took years.  Lots of teaching myself and pratice (and I still have a lot to learn.) 

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  40. Initinere Guest House in Rome4:40 AM

    Very useful tips!!!

  41. You are a fantastic photographer!  What kind of camera do you have?  I have a Canon Digitial Rebel Xti SLR.  I find I get better photos with my canon powershot though.  I haven't been able to invest in better lenses, so perhaps that is part of my problem.  Before I bought the Canon SLR, I was really unsure of whether or not to go with Canon or Nikon, so I'm always interested to see what other people use.  Any special lenses? 

  42. Amie Days1:06 PM

    What do you use for editing?


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