In The Moment Take Like-Worthy Trip Photos Without Missing a Moment

by Tanya Shami | May 16, 2018

Photo courtesy of Tanya Shami

The first time I visited the rice terraces of Bali was in the middle of the day.

I was surrounded by tour groups and peak humidity — not exactly the most favorable atmosphere for capturing photos in my unique and alluring take on this exotic setting. So my travel partner and I returned at sunrise the following day and had the rice terraces completely to ourselves. Voila! Shots galore.

1. Schedule shooting around the best light

Why was that morning spent roaming and shooting the rice terraces so successful? In large part because I took advantage of what professional photographers call the “golden hour” — essentially the hour after sunset or before sunrise: It often produces the best lighting for those much-coveted dreamy-style photos.

By planning to shoot at one end of the day or the other, you’ll be freer of crowds distracting you from the experience. Plus, you’ll have more of your day to enjoy other sights at a leisurely pace.

You could embrace this as a photo challenge to only post one ideal golden hour shot to your feed. Less time spent checking your phone means more time for you to truly take in the scenery.

2. Shoot when no one else is

Gaggles of other tourists generally don’t make great scenery. But if you’re not a fan of early wake-up calls, consider spending the night somewhere popular with day-trippers: Once the busy time of day has passed and the buses have departed, you should have it all to yourself.

Likewise, don’t be scared of the rain! You’re never going to get perfect weather every day of your vacation, so embrace the showers for their ability to clear the streets. Shoot reflections in puddles, for example, or of a colorful umbrella twirling.

woman walking through Balinese rice terraces

Photo courtesy of Tanya Shami

3. Find a unique angle

At popular tourist attractions, people line up to take the same photo as everyone else. Fine for them, but not for a budding artist such as yourself.

To ensure your images stand out, always seek a different angle, setup and perspective. A top attraction in Hong Kong is the viewpoint at The Peak — which means it’s nearly impossible to snap a photo here without additional heads. Rather than simply giving up or resigning myself to the lesser shot, I ran to the nearest ice cream stand so I’d have something fun and colorful to photograph.

Remember, not everything needs to be shot at eye-level. Try getting higher by standing on a bench or even in a bush or taking the image from a lower position — not always the most flattering angle for people, but it works perfectly for landscapes. I often look back at photos and wish I’d shifted ever so slightly, so be sure to scroll back through your photos before moving on.

Adding props to a photo can also create a nice focal point — especially if you don’t feel like being the star of the photo. Whenever I’ve just hiked up to a vista and I’m not feeling my freshest, I’ll dangle my feet in the photo, or hold up a postcard of the same scene or some tempting food.

During your travels you’ll also discover “the place to go” isn’t always an ideal destination for photographs. Most tourists will spend at least one morning of a trip to Australia watching the sunrise from the lighthouse at Byron Bay. However, during our visit we hadn’t given ourselves enough time to hike up, so we decided to abort our mission and head to the beach instead. The view there was 10 times better and sparsely populated with just a few locals on their morning run.

If you need some inspiration at a given locale, try searching relevant travel hashtags and locals’ accounts to get a sense of the areas and landscapes might best suit your photography style and interests. You can do this while trip-planning, too; it’s a fun way to research your itinerary. Once you arrive, you’ll be less focused on using your phone to try to figure out where to go next, and more present right where you are.

woman walking along the beach of Byron Bay

Photo courtesy of Tanya Shami

4. Good shots come to those who wait

Sunsets and sunrises in particular are when you’ll be glad you hung around. Often, the sunset crowds start to disperse before the colors have finished developing on the horizon, and this is usually when I get my best shot. Patience is the key to getting a memorable travel image.

5. Seek action shots for a more candid feel

Movement is so important to creating a more natural and less-staged image.

An easy way to capture a great action shot is to be mid-step when the camera clicks and adjust your body position only slightly so the image still comes out sharp. For a more natural feel, don’t look directly at the camera but, rather, above, below or away. If you’re taking photos with other people, look at each other rather than the camera.

Also, take photos once the shoot is over as the subject is walking back for a true candid shot. Most importantly, set the tone for what you hope to capture — laugh, smile and have fun throughout. That’s what you’ll want to come through in any photo.

6. Don’t let the perfect shot be the enemy of the good time

Though it can be easy to get caught up in your quest for the perfect shot, be sure to capture that fun, goofy selfie with your friends for the memories — even if it’s not postable-perfect. Upload that beautiful photo touched up with a filter, but also show what’s happening behind-the-scenes — you know, the line of people waiting behind you for their photo moment, or another photographer going into contortions to get their own shot.

Even the less attractive moments — say, the plate of food that ends up in your lap rather than your mouth — are part of the adventure. Lastly, it's important to open up space in your day to set aside your smartphone and simply experience the moment.

woman seated in ornate doorway of Moroccan temple

Photo courtesy of Tanya Shami

Your vacation should guide your travel Instagram pics, not the other way around. After all, both the best excursions and pictures are often the result of happy accidents.

Tanya Shami

has yet to travel through a country without uttering the phrase 'this is so feed-worthy’ at least once (a day). Her work has appeared in Flight Centre, GENIC and on her travel blog One World Just Go.