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Travel Photography

Updated on May 13, 2010

Any kind of pleasure or holiday trip, whether at home or abroad, presents excellent opportunities for photography.

The sort of holiday, the method of travel, and the photographer's interests all affect the photographic results, and some advance planning is always advisable whether for the nearest seaside resort or the next continent. Equipment. Amateur photographers, at least, are apt to carry large quantities of equipment which they never find time or the need to use.

Basically, assuming it is digital, only a camera is necessary for taking photographs. Since, however, the object will be to produce the best possible photographs, it is as well to include some extra memory cards, an exposure meter, a lens hood and, for protection, an ever-ready camera case. A lens cap adds nothing to weight or bulk and keeps the lens cleaner even inside the ever-ready case which, if velvet-lined, seems to attract dust, sand, fluff and other unwanted foreign matter.

For hikers, cyclists, campers, climbers, and all who have to keep baggage to a minimum, this list represents the photographic minimum.

For motorists, coach tourists, hotel and guest-house residents, more equipment may be comfortably included but even they need not go beyond a couple of filters and a lightweight tripod. The latter is better than a camera-clamp because there is not always a suitable feature situated where the camera might be placed. It is better to be occasionally inconvenienced by an accessory that is usable when needed, than have one that is easy to carry but may turn out to be useless. A light yellow and a deep yellow or green filter should be enough, although in mountain and seaside territories it is advisable to take an ultra-violet-absorbing (UV) filter.

Which Camera?

What camera to take is no problem. The camera to be taken on any holiday trip is the one that is completely familiar. The make, type and size matter little in comparison with ease and certainty of operation. Every traveller should carry his own favourite instrument, whatever the size- so long as he can be sure that negative material will be readily obtainable for it.

Holidays and journeys are no occasions for trying out a new camera. Nor is it wise to use a borrowed camera; unless it is one that has been borrowed so often before that all its idiosyncrasies are known.

Much the same applies to accessories. Nothing new or untried should be taken. An incorrect lens hood can cut corners off shots; unfamiliar filters can produce unexpected effects.


Very broadly speaking, no trouble need be expected if equipment has been honestly come by and if holiday intentions are equally honest. Customs are concerned only to see that nothing is illegally imported and that all necessary dues are paid on incoming goods, if they have not already been paid. Many holiday-makers pass unquestioned through Customs on leaving the country and on reentry; others may be examined once; and some twice. The safest and easiest thing is to carry the receipted dealer's invoice as proof of purchase of each camera carried, and to include with this any Customs slips available.

Most countries have rules about the number of cameras allowed per individual, and many countries restrict the quantity of unexposed films. In todays world with digital cameras this no longer is an issue. Travel agents are the best source for reliable information.

It is always wise to find out in advance the regulations of the country to be visited because the Customs authorities of your country are only concerned with what may be brought in and not with what happens at the other side.

Photo by Larissa M
Photo by Larissa M


A holiday trip, especially one abroad, is a source of considerable joy and every chance of recording it for re-enjoyment afterwards should be taken without hesitation. Places are being seen which will probably never be visited again. Any picture is better than none.

It is as well to remember however that in all countries, including Great Britain, there are certain subjects that may not be photographed without permission, e.g: inside many museums, public and private buildings, and churches. Some authorities forbid photography; others allow it by special permission only; still others permit it on payment of a fee, usually small, which goes towards upkeep.

The places for photography are limitless: landscapes, seascapes, street scenes, zoo pictures, beach scenes, all these and countless others by day and by night will offer themselves to the travelling camera enthusiast.

Foreign holidays especially offer vast scope for human-interest photographs. Strange people in exotic settings are irresistible to all photographers, from the casual snapshotter to the ardent exhibition worker.

There are many ways of taking characteristic photographs of people abroad. If a good candid picture cannot be obtained unobtrusively the subject will often agree to pose; this assumes that the photographer has enough knowledge of the language to explain what he is about and to arrange an appropriate pose which gives the subject something to do and prevents self-consciousness and embarrassment. Unposed shots are very much easier to take with the co-operation of a friend or two, to act as a shield. (In taking quick shots of this type the background should be watched carefully because such pictures are often ruined by unsightly objects beyond the subject but in the field of view of the lens.)

People are waiting to be photographed everywhere: in streets and cafes, on river banks and quay sides, at markets and shopping-centres, in parks and gardens, at bus stops and railway stations. But many of them are photographically uninteresting. It is a waste of time to search for the interesting types; the best plan is to be alert and ready to shoot quickly when the right characters appear, as they generally do when they are least expected. The very young and the very old make especially good imposed studies.

Pictures en Route

Rewarding photographs can be taken en route to and from the destination, as well as on excursions made during the holiday.

It is possible to get good pictures from almost every form of transport. Normally airlines do not object and air-to-ground shots are fairly straightforward providing the camera is held just away from the window surface and a fast shutter speed (say 1/250 second) is given. If the traveller has the choice he should select a seat ahead of the wings, where the heat trail from the engine exhausts would not interfere with the negative sharpness. In aircraft having engines mounted at the rear, any seat is satisfactory.

Pictures from fast-moving trains are best taken through an open window whilst standing in the corridor away from the wheels, i.e: midway between the bogies. A shutter speed of 1/250 or 1/500 second is sufficient to ensure a sharp negative when shooting diagonally at an approaching or receding scene. Only the feet should be in contact with the train; the body should be held away from the window-frame and allowed to sway with the motion, arms in to the side and camera at eye-level.

Pictures taken from moving trams cannot be composed. They are not seen until a split second before exposure, and a split second later they are gone for ever. The only satisfactory method is to look ahead for likely villages, churches, tree groupings, waterfalls, which will form a centre of interest and to have the camera ready to shoot in an instant. The photographer must simply hope that telegraph poles, embankments, walls, trees, signal boxes, and other obstructions will not spring up to spoil the view just as the shutter is being released.

Shooting from a stationary train is simple and scenes taken in foreign stations can be extremely interesting and sometimes even picturesque. Railway stations abroad are usually bright and airy places, often decorated with flowers; and teeming with character studies ready to be taken easily from the unseen vantage point of the train window.

Taking pictures on board ship, even during a none too smooth crossing, is again a question of using a fairly fast shutter speed and letting the body go with the ship's movement. Shipboard scenes, during embarkation and disembarkation particularly, are a satisfying, and essential, part of any overseas holiday record.

Coaches and motor buses have the drawbacks of more pronounced vibration and less room to manoeuvre, but open windows and sliding roofs help; and at stopping places the raised viewpoint is of much use in picturing village scenes, wayside inns and bystanders.

Perfect shots are easy to take during rides on the funicular railways, and also cable-cars, which take tourists up mountains. From this type of transport, cameras without fast shutters are just as capable of producing good results, as the cars operate in a very steady and slow manner.

Stowing the Camera

If the photographer is a passenger, e.g: by boat, train or motor car, and there are likely to be pictures about on the journey, he can carry his camera at the ready in the normal way. But the driver of a car or motor-cycle and the cyclist will have to stow the instrument somewhere on the vehicle.

In a car, the ideal place for the camera is in a hold-all case on the back seat. The worst place is in the cubby hole at the side of the dashboard where it gets all the vibration and heat from the engine, and is always in danger of being pulled out on to the floor when someone is hunting for a map or a packet of cigarettes. Some cars have a net for small packages stretched across under the roof. This is an excellent place for a small camera, but it should not be left there while the car is parked under a direct hot sun for any length of time.

Cyclists and motor-cyclists are best advised to carry their cameras slung over one shoulder under the jacket or overcoat. There is no place on the machine where it will be as well protected from rain and vibration. The cyclist can always strap a light tripod along the crossbar of the machine but the motor-cyclist will have to sling it across his back or invest in one of the small pocket-size folding types.

When the camera is packed in a suitcase, the best place is in the centre or near the handle. It should be packed last, and on top of soft clothing. Finally it should be covered with a book or map to protect it from damage through the case.


Costly equipment can be safeguarded by insurance for a comparatively small sum, and the surprising thing is that more photographers do not take out a policy. At holiday-time the camera is in use or being carried about for many hours every day, and the risk of loss or damage is obviously greater. The risk can be minimized by a number of commonsense precautions. If cameras have to be packed away they should be placed in a well-protected position in the suitcase or rucksack, where they are still reasonably accessible. On the other hand, if the camera will be carried constantly it will be safer if the strap is kept fairly short so that the camera cannot swing far away from the body.

A foolproof way of carrying the camera is to sling it over one shoulder before putting on the jacket. Once the jacket is on, it is physically impossible for the strap to slip off the shoulder, or for the camera to swing about. At the same time the arrangement offers no hindrance to quick and efficient operation as the case is easily pulled up and forward to the taking position. This idea also makes it impossible for the camera to be left behind anywhere or for it to be left unattended.

When all is said and done most of the information about travel photography boils down to applying common sense, standard routine with slight adaptation, and good manners.

There are certain countries abroad where a stranger carrying a camera is regarded with suspicion, and others where a foreigner is not allowed to take photographs without a special permit. In such places it is foolhardy to attempt to take pictures by stealth... the photographer who is caught at it runs the risk of losing his equipment permanently and his freedom at least for a time. To a camera journalist after a scoop, the risk might be justified; for the ordinary tourist it can never be worth while.

The same thing applies to attempts to photograph people (or personalities) who are known to be hostile to photographers. Here the photographer runs the two-fold risk of damage to his equipment and his person.


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    • Destrier profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Rural Australia

      Next trip, Mazio, be sure to publish a hub about it and show us your photos!

    • MazioCreate profile image


      7 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      Thanks for the travel photography tips. Pity I'm not planning a trip this year and it would have been helpful if I was a Hubber before trip to France last year. Look forward to reading other articles.

    • emmajayne89 profile image


      8 years ago

      thanks for this :) i've always loved travel photography and these tips are great.


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