Travel Photography: How to take Photos that Tell a Story

Sunset in Kerala

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in fact, it can sometimes be worth way more than that. In particular, this is true in travel photography. Taking great travel photos is one way to make your travel blog, photo blog, or portfolio stand out above the rest of the crowd. There are many elements that go into a great travel photograph.

Pinoy Skimboarder
Pinoy Skimboarder in Palo Leyte

Estan Cabigas shares what he likes on a travel photo – A travel photo should transport me to that particular place. One that gives an overall feeling either of two ways: I was there and this is a memory of that beautiful place, and I need to visit this place and experience it.

Whether you are focused on a particular destination or an exotic spot in your everyday hometown, the same essential elements need to be covered. As the photographer, it is your job to make sure that you are bringing the best possible photograph to the viewer, and in many cases, a good shot will be worth many more than just a thousand words.

On a hard seat train to Beijing
On a hard-seat train to Beijing

Ron of shares – “A good travel photo is more than just perfect framing, kick-as* composition and superb image quality. Travel photography is story telling. It is capturing real situations, emotions, multi-sensory stimuli and faithfully translating them to a two dimensional media. What I also like in a travel photo is not the color accuracy and dynamic range, or whether it has a wicked lateral chromatic aberration (Ano daw?!). But the courage of the story teller to mount his camera and click the shutter to capture the candidness of a story.”

The Key Ingredients

No matter where you are shooting travel photos, the things you need to take a great picture are the same. These elements or ingredients not only show the location but often, in a good photo, they also tell the viewer something about the people, the culture they live in, and the landscape that surrounds them.

Kids in Jomalig Quezon
Kids in Jomalig Quezon

Angel Juarez of shares “What I like in a travel photo is that we see the unusual stuff, those that we do not see everyday. It let me see what the photographer saw and experience what the photographer experienced right there and then, just by looking at it. It feels like traveling!”

First of all, think about the people you are photographing. This is probably the most important single element of any photo. What is their lifestyle? What is changing around them? Are they traditional or modern? What are their dreams? What is it that makes them different from anyone else you might see a photo of? Is it their clothing? Their skin? Their smile? Maybe it is their attitude. Think about the unique characteristics of your subjects and try to make that stand out.

Start Em Up
Start Em Up

Mark Go of thinks that a travel photo should present the place, it’s people, it’s culture in a different way than what we’re accustomed to. An image that will leave a mark only reserved for that place when time passes by and someone mentioned that place to you and one of the images you’ll remember was that particular photograph. It’s like an image to go along with the place, same way we put a face to a stranger who eventually becomes our friend and with that photograph we end up remembering that place we once upon a time visited as “home” we could always go back to”

Next, you should consider the landscape. Are you taking urban pictures or rural ones? Are you taking a photo of a well-known landmark or are you trying to show something new and obscure? Anyway about it, the truth is that you need to know what you are trying to show.

Sukothai Kingdom in Thailand
Sukothai Kingdom in Thailand by

It doesn’t make much sense to show a garden in an urban landscape without the urban landscape framing it. After all, that contrast is probably what caught your eye, to begin with. If you are shooting a tourist attraction, try to do it from your own perspective.

Assignment @ Magallanes, Sorsogon
Assignment @ Magallanes, Sorsogon

Gael Hilotin of shares “Oftentimes I find it hard of to translate into words a moment or a scenery, or describe the people, the life and the culture of my destination and that’s when I start taking and “making” travel photos. Some moments in my journey aren’t meant to be preserved in my memory, in fact, most of the time, they are meant to be taken home and shared to the world.”

Anyone can look up the Arc de Triumph on the internet, but they may not be able to see those Chinese tourists flocking around it that you just noticed. Location is all about personality, so don’t forget to include the personality of a place as well as of the people who are there.

Finally, don’t forget that what makes travel photography special is that you can show the differences in culture. Look for these and try to capture them in your photos. Whether it is a festival or a unique profession, try to show the differences. Costumes, dancing, and even the way children play can be a great way to do this.

And of course, finally (because the list never really ends) to take a great travel photo, you need to find a way to blend all of the above into one cohesive picture. Balance the elements and look for the essentials. Sometimes one person smiling says more than a whole street full of dancers and if you can focus on the smile and still have the dancers than you are on your way to taking great travel photos.

I just wanna share, Out of Town Travel Blog was listed in’s Top 15 Philippine Travel Blogs.. Yahoo!!!

Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

What do you think?


Thunderbird Resorts offers huge discounts exclusive to Facebook Fans

Singapore Flyer – The Worlds Largest Observation Wheel