15 Photography tips on your road trip
Everyone loves taking road trips but many travelers spend more time planning the trip experience first and the photography as a secondary function to chronicle the adventure. It’s always disappointing to come back home from the trip and bring back photos that are lackluster and just don’t show the magnificence of a location. This can be very disappointing, but with some pre-planning, you can return home from the trip and bring back some amazing pictures to share about your experience. It just takes a little more time to plan the photography part, try some basic photography techniques and being at your destination in the right time and place, so you will have better opportunities to photograph your subject. I’ve done a lot of road trips around the world and have learned so much from doing these adventures and how to maximize your timeframe while traveling to showcase your journey from your photography.
Here are some photography tips to keep in mind when you are on your next road trip
1. Plan your photo trip requirements – just like planning your road trip, it is also crucial to plan your photography approach for this trip. This could be anything you can do in thinking about the destination and checking out websites, blogs and magazines for inspiration of where certain images were taken and how to even get to those locations. Planning the logistics for getting to a certain spot including the important golden hours in the morning and sunset are important considerations to coming up with stunning imagery from your trip
2. Keep flexible with your plans – when it’s a road trip inspiration comes at anytime especially when you are passing through some interesting areas that you may just want to spend more time in to explore and cut things out from your regular agenda. Being flexible in your timeframe, places of interests and what looks attractive that you may want to explore in more detail.
3. Consider your photography equipment – road trips allow you to bring as much or as little equipment with you as you are comfortable with. If you are willing to slepp all your electronic gear with you and keep it handy in your trunk, then go ahead. But for those that are more comfortable traveling light know what you are capable of doing with the equipment you have and how much you are willing to walk to get yourself in a better range to the subject, either in a close up or panorama. Make sure you also bring your handy tripod or monopod for those shots you want to get perfect.
4. Always be ready to shoot – It seems like when you are driving or just happen into something unusual, the moment comes and goes quickly. This is when it makes sense to always have your camera ready to shoot. In fact get those preset camera settings already in place for your shutter speed, priority setting or manual mode so all you have to consider is shooting. Or if you have not time for trying out the perfect setting, just put it on program or automatic and at least you will get the shot that normally you would have missed because the camera setting was not in place.
5. Tell the whole story – Getting a sense of place in a location better known as an environmental shot, really gives a perspective to the place you are visiting. Try to include some of the local scene, graphic elements and signage, architecture, people, food and anything else that gives us a sense of place that is truly unique and tells us a complete story without any words or captures to describe your photograph.
6. Have fun on your trip and show that in your imagery – Be curious and really be in the moment while you travel, this is part of the joy of doing road trips and finding something new to experience. Now the challenging part is to photograph that experience to convey what you are actually doing or seeing at that moment.
7. Golden hour – It’s important to plan and be somewhere specific in order to capture those wonderful sunrise or sunset moments (the golden hour which includes the timeframe before and after sunrise or sunset). These are the best timeframes when you want to be at the site shooting those gorgeous landscapes and landmarks. It does take a little effort to plan on a road trips to be at a location for the golden hour timeframe. But, you will be rewarded for your efforts at the destination when lighting conditions are ideal and you get to photograph your subject at the golden hour.
8. Take those obligatory famous landmark photos, then show us something different about this place. This can be done by infusing some local people or fashion, a different angle to present this landmark or framed in an unusual format. This is a great time to experiment and try something out of the box to see what you can do that’s different now that you have taken the standard tourist shot of that venue.
9. Shoot fast – along with keeping your camera ready, if you are on a drive and doing the drive by shootings, have your camera set on burst mode so at least you can have a variety of shots to choose from instead of the one blurry image you took of that place or an experience that happened only during that moment.
10. Take the scenic route – get off the main highway and go on those slower but more scenic routes. These roads really do live up to their reputation to show you the more genuine and almost forgotten towns, quirky venues, fun locals and those wonderful landscapes that you will see from taking the time to drive through these scenic routes
11. Don’t just show us the scenery – road trips are filled with those wonderful small details: the fascinating people and traditions, delicious local foods and roadside stands, architecture and anything else that stands out beyond the traditional photo shots in front of a landmark or beautiful landscape. It’s also great to use people within a landscape to show a sense of scale, doing something active or being place in a strategic spot to create an interesting composition.
12. Balance between taking that photo and savoring the moment – Yes it is amazing to capture that scenery or landmark, but it is also important to be present and admire that visual for just what it is and how special it is. This definitely is a balance of being present and enjoying that immediate scene and taking the time to portray just the way that you are experiencing it for the moment.
13. Using a tripod – Not every situation deserves using a tripod on your road trip especially when you are always on the go. But for those really spectacular scenic shots or even difficult imagery with challenging lighting conditions, using a tripod is mandatory. You can also look for alternatives like some a solid stand/surface or even a makeshift prop you can put your camera or even a monopod if you don’t have space to travel with a tripod.
14. Looking from above – when you are at a vista point or location where you can climb up to get a nice view, make sure you do it! Having a different perspective of a landscape, city or landmark is more interesting when you can see it from above, and you will be able to capture a sense of place looking down from a high vantage point.
15. Time to experiment – Road trips are the perfect excuse to take risks and show us something new or creative. This is really the best time to be curious and explore anything that fascinates or peaks your interest. Try different camera settings, different camera angles, shooting from above or below and using your remote timer to include your subjects or yourself into the scenery.
If you enjoyed these camera tips, please check out some of my other photo tips below
Black and white photo tips for beginners
Capturing street images – some photo tips and techniques
15 Instagram tips for better photos and compositions
10 Photography tips for grey sky or rainy days
Flower and nature photography – tips on making your images pop
Photographing people – some tips and techniques
Photography tips for travel Photography
Travel photography – what to pack
Photo tip – backlighting your image
Food photography – making your images pop
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“If you like what you see, come and check out my other social media channels for more updates, including Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.” None of these links seem to work, Noel.
Great tips. It is always good to have a refresher course in photography. On my recent trip to Trinidad, I rediscovered that golden hour in the morning after sunrise. Got some great shops and have jet lag to thank for it.
Some great tips here. I like the one about pre-planning and researching your photos in the same way you do everything else in your trip.
Great advice, thanks. We try to follow most of this but will keep working on it.
Love road trips and these are great tips! Really need to remember to capture more than just the scenery as it adds so much more to the destination as a whole, as well as the story. 🙂
Thanks for the tips (and more great photos)
Great photo tips Noel. I’ll put them into use right away. I’m off to read your tips on food photography.
This is tremendous advice!
I was already thinking I should have a plan for the photos on my next trip.
Your tips have clinched it.
What a great article, thanks!
Great tips. I have to pay more attention to the Golden Hour. I also like the tip about telling a whole story with the photo. Looking for that perspective should make for some interesting photos.
Talk about timely! Your tips are a great reminder to me as I head off to Bhutan in 2 weeks. I liked #8 and #11 because I tend to do a lot of landscape shots and getting other details and close ups can really help tell a story. So glad you wrote this post….and once again, I LOVE your photos!
thanks so much for the comments, check out some of the other tips that I have also included in the post Janice, they would be perfect for your trip!
Thanks for these wonderful tips that encourage the slower, off-the-highway road trip style we love. Can’t always build our stops around the golden hour, but it’s really nice when we do. When possible, I love to include a person in large landscape shots to give some perspective (pretty tired of the “person jumping in front of the scenery shot” though). Love your Route 66 picture!
Love these tips. The Golden Hour is a great one. I will have to remember that.