5 tips to take better travel photos

Last month our in-house photographer, Daniel James, saw one of the photos from our last India tour listed in Lonely Planets favourite Instagrams of March as well as Travel and Leisure Top 32 photos of the Modern Wonders of the World.

So we asked him, how do you up your Instagram game? What does he look for in a photo? What are his top five tips to capture the moment?

Taj Mahal

1. A photo should tell a story

‘A good photo should tell you something about a place’ Dan recommends. ‘In this photo at the Angkor complex I saw the monkeys running around and new they would instantly make the photo tell you more about the place.’ 

Patience is the biggest tip Dan could give on this, take the time to work out the photo you want and then take the time to get it, ‘Capturing animals is never easy, but once you have found the right position it is just a matter of waiting.’


It's the weekend so grab a buddy and go on an adventure! Tag someone you want to #monkey around with…

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2. Embrace people in your photography

When you are at super popular sights getting a crowd free photo is nearly impossible. So how do you tackle that? ‘Embrace it. If there are people around they can usually add to the photo and give context. By capturing this candid moment at the Taj Mahal I was able to show the colourful side of India in the women’s clothing against the backdrop of one of it’s most famous monuments.’


3. Shoot at the right times of day

‘Everyone knows a sunrise or sunset shot can make the sky come alive’ Dan told us, and we couldn’t agree more. ‘The best thing about shooting before the crowds is you can usually get the best spot to take photos from without having to try and crop people out’ was his advice. ‘Whatever you do, always arrive around an hour before sunrise and stick around for an hour afterwards – most people will leave once the sun disappears but this is when the magic can really happen with both the sky and lighting.’


But apparently it is not just the time of day that matters. ‘If you take photography seriously then you might plan a visit around the time of year – avoiding local national holidays and going in the off season usually allows you much greater freedom of getting the photos you want.’


4. Use movement in your photography

At Hands on Journeys we love photos showing movement as we think it brings a place alive – but how do you go around getting this?

‘If you are shooting with a DSLR in Manual you need to set the shot up and make sure you are on a fast shutter speed and manual focus – shooting on auto focus can delay the shot. If you see a group of birds flying along for example you need to be super quick in getting everything in position before they arrive. A standard point and shoot or your iPhone camera might be able to capture it, depending on the speed of the moving objects.’


5. Find a unique angle

‘I kinda hate taking photos of say The Taj Mahal or the Eifel Tower’ Dan told us. But surely taking photos of these mega famous destinations is expected and standard?

‘The problem is I like things to look unique, and lets be honest most of the best photographers in the world have already taken these shots better in the past.’

But he has a solution to keep it interesting, ‘I always hunt down unique angles at sights like this, sometimes it doesn’t happen but if you keep your eyes open you are sure to find a very different perspective. My photo of the dog in front of the Taj Mahal is my favourite example. Not only is it a much different picture from the standard reflection shot but I love that it captures both the beautiful architecture that tourists flock for as well as a more raw side of the country.’


By @danflyingsolo Taj Mahal,Agra! #Igramming_India

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You can follow more of Dan’s photography and adventures on Instagram or his Blog.