5 Tips for Taking Better Photos as a Tourist

In life you could say we are all tourists, but on holidays we most definitely are. As a tourist you want to visit new and different places, maybe learn something about the culture of the people in the area you are staying in and possibly the history. While doing this you want those digital mementos to take home and organise into a slide show or share on Facebook. But how to take the best photos, here are some tips.

  1. Go light. Walking around doing touristic things can be hard work for your feet (unless you do it on a Segway or in a car . Of course you want to be prepared for lots of different shots, but do you want to be carrying around five or six lenses in a bag? which will weigh a lot and after a while make you tired. I have found that I end up with just one lens on my camera a 28-300mm and if I need wider lens I can take two photos and merge them in Photoshop, plus my back wont ache.
  2. Inside Prague Cathedral

    Photographing over peoples heads using the LCD screen to compose my shot/

    Play with ISO. There are many scenarios when you need more light or a faster shutter speed. The first response can be flip the flash, but adding artificial light to the scene may change the scene completely. Also flash has a fall off distance and in some instances will light the foreground but leave the background dark and under exposed. Of course high ISOs add more noise but with most modern cameras you can push them quite high before the images become unusual. I would also add that there are some places where you can’t or shouldn’t use flash; you really shouldn’t use flash in churches that have frescoes as the flash will help speed up the degradation of them.

  3. things you can see

    Although it looks cloudy, the daylight white balance leaves the building in the background white and preserving natural colours. Taken while the tour guide was talking about John Lennon.

    Change the light balance. Auto light balance is good but it can get it wrong and sometimes majorly wrong. If the camera calculates the wrong light balance you may get a warmer or colder image than the scene, generally auto is good when you have a mixed lighting situation. If I can see blue sky I use daylight, if there is no blue sky cloudy, indoors tungsten, ect. This can mean that if you are outside and the morning is sunny and afternoon becomes overcast you will need to keep an eye out and change the white balance. The same as if you are indoors and then outdoors. Of course you can change the light balance in Photoshop but the colours won’t quite be the same. A good example is using Daylight white balance at sunset, you will get the added purples and red hues in the sky making it look incredible compared to the auto colours.

  4. Listen with your ears look with your eyes. I tell my students all the time that you have to listen with your whole body. When on a guided tour I tend to ignore my advice and listen with my ears. While everyone is standing around the tour guide looking and listening to him/her, I have my back turned or wandering around photographing everything around me.
  5. Work around people. If you go to a touristy place then there will be people and unless the people with you have the patience and time for you to set up a tripod and take a series of burst shots to remove people from the scene in Photoshop later. People can add context or even an aesthetic to an image but you can also use a higher or lower view point as well as using your legs to get the shot you want. But there will always be photobombers so beware.Statue and Presidents wing overlooking Prague

If you have any other tips, add them in the comment box below.

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11 thoughts on “5 Tips for Taking Better Photos as a Tourist

    • Good question Helen, the answer is no I dont. Mainly because I can guess what ISO I need when I walk into a scene for example, inside a house about 800-1200 ISO, old churches 2000 iso, outside and sunny 200 ISO ect.

      Another reason I don’t use auto is when I was taught photography I started with film and my camera didn’t have an auto setting and I was already used to changing the ISO for the film as well as pushing and pulling the film by setting a higher or lower ISO than rated. Transferring to digital I then naturally set the ISO on my camera as it was part of my process.
      Having never used Auto ISO I would be afraid of the camera setting the ISO too high making the images unusable.

      With ISO one of thing to do is to go out and play around with the different settings and see how much it changes all the other settings or even the exposure on auto exposure compared to having it on auto.
      Taking control of the ISO doesn’t mean you have to leave all auto settings but it may set you on a path of moving to more manual auto settings like Av and Tv modes.

      I hope that helps.

  1. Some good ideas. I plead guilty to carrying too much gear. I do use a form of auto ISO sometimes. I have auto set to min 200, max 6400, default, 200 and min speed 1/100s. On a tripod I use 200 all the time.

    • I saw a guy while in Prague on monday with a white whale on his canon something and canon speedlite taking shots of love locks on a fence. He had to back up quite a way had the flash pointing at the sky bouncing off the clouds for his close up shot. COuld have been done with a 50mm 1.4 and get a similar result. It is what inspired my post to be honest. Nothing wrong with carrying gear I just think about my back, or I am lazy.

  2. Agree heartily with # 4 (which resulted in your little gargoyle-like photo) as there are never good photos looking at the tour guide! And I pick one lens when I go out and force myself use it well, but am far less tired for having left the rest of the gear behind.

    • Our tour guide was getting everyone to look at a wall of graffiti when I turned around and saw that little man crouched. not sure what it is but hey looks good. BTW when people saw what i was photographing many turned round to take a look.

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