THE BLOG
10/31/2013 10:54 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2013

How to Take Better Travel Photos - Tips From a Professional

By Lisa Limer, professional photographer and travel guide

As a professional travel photographer whose work often appears in nationally-acclaimed magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler, The New York Times, and Sophisticated Traveler, I have had the privilege to travel and work in over 48 countries. The circumstances are often stressful, and time is always limited. To ensure a successful shoot, I always follow these five steps:

1. Educate yourself about the location before leaving home.

The more I know about the place I am traveling to, the more clarity I have as to what, when, and where I need to be during my visit. The same will be true even for those guided on a tour. Learn what you can about the country, its culture, and landscape.

Find out about any particular events or festivals taking place during your travels. Are there important monuments and architecture that might interest you.? Communities you want to visit?

Then do an Internet search of images based on your research. It's helpful to see the work of other photographers as a means of scouting the location beforehand.

You will quickly see what the stereotypical images are and what you may want to avoid, as well as some new ideas to consider.

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2. When you arrive at your destination, take a deep breath and give yourself time to experience it.

No need to pull your camera out of the bag the moment you arrive at the Taj Mahal!
Remember that photography reflects your experience and you need time to "see" your destination.

Think about what catches your attention and how best to capture it. Let the process evolve. The longer you are at a site, the more of a chance you will have to discover a personal response.

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3. Establish contact.

Particularly when photographing people, invest the time to communicate with the person you want to photograph. Sometimes it is just a gesture, but making someone comfortable with your presence makes a big difference with the success of your image.

If you are shooting digitally, you can play back the result. Or shoot a Polaroid. Making your subject comfortable and complicit not only makes your photograph better but also makes your trip more memorable.

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4. Be conscious of the quality of light.

Photography depends on light and the understanding that being in the right location at the right time of day enhances the quality of your photograph.

Not only the bewitching hours of early morning and late afternoon count... perhaps it is dusk, or in the fog, or the harsh sunlight that creates dramatic shadows. What is important is your awareness and sensitivity to light.

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5. Enjoy the unexpected and be prepared for the unexpected.

Traveling requires that you give up on a certain degree of control. Good travel photography requires all of the above plus tenacity and a great amount of flexibility. Bad weather, transportation delays, etc. are inevitable. Perhaps it is raining and it ruins your plans for the day. How can you turn this into an advantage. Perhaps find an interior location that interests you. Did you bring a tripod?

Take the day to scout locations for the next day when the weather clears, and you will know what time is best for the light. What is important is making the most of whatever circumstances come your way.

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As a contributing photographer for Conde Nast Traveler Magazine for over 15 years, Lisa Limer has a deep regard for the dual concerns of experiencing the highlights of a country and culture along with a passion for photography.

She will be running a photography tour to India this spring with sustainable travel company Elevate Destinations. Click here for more information!

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