• Irina Duane

Ask the Photographer: 5 Secrets to Taking Beautiful Travel Photographs.


Let me start by telling you that I love to travel. I hate airports and unpacking my suitcase but nothing compares to exploring a new place. Whether it is a small village in Ireland or a big city on the other side of the globe - I make the most of every opportunity I have to see the world.

I've been in 30+ countries so far and every time I take tons of photographs. Pictures hold the best memories. Whenever I post a photo on my social media, I get inundated with questions about what is the secret to beautiful travel photographs?

Well, right now I am in Zurich airport waiting for my connecting flight, and I thought it would be a great idea to share with you some of my travel photo tips:

1. What To Pack.


Halkidiki. Greece.

I am a girl going on holidays who needs 7 outfits but packs 28 just to be safe! I would never sacrifice my shoes in the name of photography. So when it comes to packing my camera gear for travel, I always go light. I bring a camera, a charger, a few memory cards and one lens. It fits perfectly in my "large" handbag and I don't need to carry a huge rucksack. As much as I would love to bring my tripod and flashgun, 85mm for a beautiful bokeh and 24-70 for a wide angle photos, its not feasible to carry it around all day long!


A wide lens is the best option to consider. A wide lens allows you to photograph a big scene in a limited amount of space. For example, a kit lens that comes with the Nikon (18-55mm) is considered to be wide angle. But I prefer to bring only one lens and it's 50mm lens. If you are not familiar with the 50mm, I will quickly explain that it is a fixed lens, meaning that there is no zoom. If you want "close up" shots you have to come closer, if you want to fit something into the photo, you have to step back. 50mm has roughly the same angle of view as the human eye does. It takes time to get used to the lens. But after a while you will be able to see your perfect photograph before pressing the shutter button. You can find out more about what camera to choose and what is a 50mm lens here.

My 50mm f/1.8 is my number one travel lens and here is why:

1. It's super affordable, lightweight, incredibly sharp and produces amazing quality images. If something happens to the lens it won't cost me an arm and a leg to replace.


My daughter Angelina enjoying summer in Russia.

2. It's perfect for portrait photography. Hands up who looks through the photos on their smartphone or camera thinking: oh, this is a good one for my Facebook profile! (Please tell me it's not just me!).


Afytos, Greece.

3. It's absolutely fantastic for detailed shoots.


Gold souk, Dubai.

4. It's a really great lens to shoot with at night or in low light situations. If you’re serious about your photography you would need a tripod. If you travel light like me just secure your camera on firm surface to avoid camera shake.


Christmas in Moscow, Russia.

5. It's not bad for landscape either. It might require you to stand back at a greater distance. Just remember the rule: 50mm sees roughly the same angle of view as the human eye does.


Scottish Highlands.

2. Experiment with Composition.

There are guidelines which can help you to improve your photography skills. Some of the most important guidelines are the rule of thirds; leading lines; patterns; and, centre composition.


Rapeseed fields in West Waterford. Ireland.

The rule of thirds is a great technique for making photos more interesting. It is all about placement of the subject within the frame. Divide up your image using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines and then position your subject along those lines, or at the points where they meet (see below). Practically every camera and smart phone has a setting that enables a grid over the preview screen.


Bari. Italy.


Shanghai. China.


Paris. France.

Try different angles and distances. Some shapes are more pleasing to the eye than others.


Zurich. Switzerland.

Leading line is a very effective technique that naturally draws our eyes along the lines.


Al Badayer Desert. Dubai.

Using pattern is another good composition technique. It can transform an ordinary image into something very dramatic. Convert to black and white and you will get a masterpiece.


Vatican. Italy.

Center composition places the subject in the middle. It works especially well with symmetry.


Sharjah. U.A.E.

3. Tell your story

Let your images enhance your story. Let them be an illustration of your trip. How do you take storytelling images? Firstly, the images should trigger the emotional impact on your viewer. Secondly, the images should be meaningful. It could be one photo that will tell your story without typing a word.


Or a series of images like this from Kensington gardens, London.



4. Take Candid Photographs.

One of my favourite things to do when we travel is to take photos of local people. Candid photographs are the best illustration of your journey. Don't be afraid to ask to take a photo. Most locals will be happy to oblige.


Market street in Afytos, Greece.


Shanghai. China.

5. Beat the Tourists.

The early bird catches the worm. If you want to beat crowds of tourists, get up early and stay late. There are tourists waiting in long queues everywhere, which will waste a lot of your time and energy. Do a bit of research before planning your trip. With the right information, you can avoid nearly any line. Here is an example of the queues to the Eiffel Tower. Madness! But you can skip it buy simply buying tickets on the official Eiffel Tower website. You can purchase up to two months in advance for a specific time (up until 9:30pm) to access the summit (as well as the 1st and 2nd floors) via elevator.


But we weren't that lucky at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. We spent at least an hour in the queue to cross this tiny bridge. Honestly, I expected more excitement!



6. Keep your eyes open.

...and keep your camera ready. You never know who or what you are going to run into...

...Princes Anne, the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, leaving a tearoom in Edinburgh Castle.


... Royal Carriage on the streets of London.


Or just a true moment of happiness!


Irina x

#travelphotography #askthephotographer #Dungarvanphotographer #childrenPhotography #Familyphotosession #HappyMemoriesPhotography #storytellingphotography

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