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How to photograph your travels and still be in the moment

How to photograph your travels and still be in the moment

I love the fact that travel photography is such an accessible hobby to us all. Even great quality cameras can be picked up second hand for a couple of hundred pounds and virtually everyone has a smartphone in their pocket at all times.

We take more photos than even before and it’s only going to increase – even my two year old knows how to use my camera and my one year old is desperate to get his hands on it (he’s got at least another year before he can be trusted!)

But with access to cameras at our fingers tips, it can be easy to spend our travels photographing our perfect moments, rather than just enjoying them.

Did you see this article: Instagrammers are sucking the life and soul out of travel ?

She talks about social media influencers being guilty of ruining experiences while they pose for the perfect shot. But let’s be honest, it’s not just the official influencers, it’s everyone. Every man and his dog has an Instagram account and everyone wants that perfect selfie.

It’s not just millennials and their Insta feeds, it’s parents and grandparents too. I see them spend their holidays desperately trying to get the perfect photo of the kids but end up missing that super cute moment completely.

I’m guilty of it too. I was so busy taking photos of George the other day I hadn’t noticed Joseph had climbed onto the kitchen worktop to reach a cake! Bad parenting on so many levels there!

I struggle to get nice photos for my blog when I’m on holiday with the kids because I already have my hands full. So what I tend to do is leave them with Sam for an hour while I go and take all my photos. This means I don’t need to think about photography while I’m with them and I can just relax and have a nice time. If I see a nice photo opportunity I’ll take it but I don’t feel like I need to. This happened while we were in Poland recently and you may be able to tell all of my photos from the trip were taken within about half an hour – despite being there for a long weekend!

Read more: Postcards from Poland: A weekend in Warsaw

It is possible to take great travel photos without missing the moments and here are my tips to do so….



#1. Plan the shots you want to take

Know what photos you want to take before you even arrive in your destination. If you’re going to Paris for example, you might want a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower so do a bit of research and know the best location for your selfie as well as the camera angle and the pose you want. If you know this before you arrive, you can quickly snap that perfect selfie and spend the rest of your time enjoying the epic monument.

I look for inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram and will save the pictures to a private Pinterest board or save them to a collection on Instagram.


#2. Stick to photographing at Golden Hours

After years of taking hundreds of photos during each trip, I finally realised the only photos I ever used were taken during golden hour. Golden hour is just after sunrise and just before sunset. It’s when the natural light is soft and golden and it makes everything look gorgeous. Photos taken at midday often have harsh, strong lighting and dark shadows so they rarely turn out well.

These days, I take virtually all my photos at golden hour so I rarely even get my camera out between 9am-5pm. I’ll go out of my way to make sure we’re doing something nice just before sunset so I can get some lovely pictures. I usually get up early and go out alone at sunrise as this is a great time to photograph destinations – not only because the lighting is lovely but because it’s very quiet.


#3. Use a tripod and continuous mode

If you want to get some natural, candid photos of people then I recommend setting your camera up on a tripod and putting it into continuous shoot mode.

I use this really cheap lightweight tripod and the camera I use is the Lumix G80 which has a time lapse function. I set it to take a photo every two seconds for a few minutes and get hundreds of photos. Admittedly, the majority are terrible but there are always some great ones in there too. A GoPro is also a good camera to do this with as this also has a simple time lapse function. I have the GoPro HERO 6 and love it.


#4. Don’t bother if it’s not going to be a great shot

It takes a bit of practice to realise what will make a good shot and what’s just going to turn out horrible. If I know that a picture won’t be great, I just don’t take it. So it’s things like food shots in dimly lit restaurants which always turn out grainy and dull, photos of people with busy or cluttered backgrounds, photos out of car windows and photos of animals that refuse to face you! The list goes on but if I can see a photo isn’t going to be great, I don’t bother.


#5. Accept that the first photo is often the best

This particularly applies to taking photos of people – especially children who won’t sit still. Whenever I take a selfie or a picture of the boys, the first shot is always the one I use. Once you take 2-3 photos you notice people’s smiles fade and it begins to look staged and formal. The first one might not be perfect but it’s normally the best.


#6. Practice at home

It’s true that practice makes perfect so get out and practice with your camera as much as you can – but do this while you’re at home so you’ve mastered certain techniques ready for your holiday. I know, it’s not as exciting taking photos of your home turf but if you put the leg work in at home, you’ll be able to quickly take photos while you’re away and enjoy the special moments without being frustrated at your crappy pictures.


#7. Take it in turns being photographer

If you enjoy taking photos then it can be difficult to put the camera down, but it’s even harder to hand it over to someone else! But if you put someone else in charge of taking photos you can enjoy the moment and also be in a few pictures too!


Do you have any more tips to help you take great travel photos while still enjoying the moment?





Monday 18th of April 2022

Hello! Do you have any advice about pick pockets when taking your own travel photos? That’s my biggest fear especially when travelling at very touristy places like Italy!


Monday 25th of April 2022

It does happen but it's really not something to worry about so much it ruins your trip. I'm ALWAYS taking photos while I travel and I've visited many of the places well know for pick-pockets and it's never happened to me. If you're using a phone or small camera then it's much easier as you can slip your camera into your pocket or a small cross-body bag after each use. My main tip is to not have so much stuff that you wouldn't notice if someone stole your camera. If you're wearing a cross-body bag and inside the bag you've got nothing more than your phone, your credit card and your hotel key then you'd immediately notice if someone took something. It's also small enough to keep close and constantly keep your hand on it. But if you have a large backpack with lots of heavy things then someone could easily sneak something out of it and you wouldn't notice.


Wednesday 21st of March 2018


As a photographer who is constantly traveling and exploring new places this is a real issue I suffer with. You have the anxiety for missing some good shot opportunities in a beautiful location but at the same time you need to experience these places!

Thank you for the write up. I will use some of these tips on my travels!




Monday 12th of February 2018

Never though about it but this is actually great advice. I take a lot of pictures, both private and for my blog and sometimes it feels you never enjoy the moment. Always behind the camera. Thanks for great read!


Friday 9th of February 2018

Love this! I read that article a while back and it's really had me thinking about how to strike a balance my love of travel photography with my love of travel (period). It's a fine art for sure, but one that's worth mastering!

Deanna Friel

Monday 5th of February 2018

I really enjoyed reading this Guardian article so it’s good to read your tips on how to avoid being one of those people. I’m very guilty of still taking photos that I know won’t be good in the hope that they will turn out alright (!). I think it’s worth knowing when to put the camera away though. Quite often I don’t bother taking sunset photos just because I know that colours will never satisfy me afterwards and I’d just prefer to watch it. Some great tips. I’m definitely guilty of spending too much time with the camera in my hand. Less is definitely more when it comes to photos too. I recently went on a hike and took over 200 photos, but when it came to editing later that evening I only kept 8 and deleted the rest If you wanted to know more information please visit