Woman in window. Lisbon, 2018
Woman in window. Lisbon, 2018

If you want to make better photos while traveling, here are some practical tips:

1. Take more than one photograph of an interesting scene

Contact sheet 1, Boy with mother, marseille, 2017
Contact sheet 1, Boy with mother, marseille, 2017

If you see something interesting, don’t just take 1 photo and move on. “Work the scene” and shoot many photos of the same scene.

Boy and mother. Marseille, 2017
Boy and mother. Marseille, 2017

Avoid the regret when you’re back home and looking through your photographs and wishing that you shot more than one photograph of an interesting scene.

Lesson: Vary your compositions

Doorbell ringer shot from a low angle. Marseille. 2017
Doorbell ringer shot from a low angle. Marseille. 2017

If you see an interesting scene, shoot at least 10 photos of the scene. Take a step closer, crouch down, frame the scene differently. Shoot horizontal (landscape orientation) and vertical photos (portrait orientation).

Man and shadow. Marseille. 2017
Man and shadow. Marseille. 2017. Shot at -1 exposure compensation

Also shoot with different exposure compensations (like +1 exposure compensation, or -1 or -2 exposure compensation). Also if you’re making a closeup photograph of something, use a flash.

2. Travel with a light and compact camera

RICOH GR II selfie in mirror, double eye surreal. Prague, 2017
RICOH GR II selfie in mirror, double eye surreal. Prague, 2017

I’ve been traveling and making photos the last 10+ years and the best advice is this:

Don’t travel with a heavy camera, such as a DSLR or big and heavy zoom/telephoto lenses.

Just travel with one small camera, and one lens. I recommend RICOH GR II or the Fujifilm X100F. The smaller and lighter your camera, the more likely you are to carry it with you everywhere you go, and the more photos you will shoot. Also less pain in your neck and shoulders. For a camera neck strap, I recommend the ERIC KIM NECK STRAP for small compact cameras, or the Henri Neck Strap for medium sized mirrorless, Fuji, Sony, or Leica cameras.

ERIC KIM SELFIE: White strip. Prague, 2017
ERIC KIM SELFIE: White strip. Prague, 2017

Also there is nothing wrong with just shooting with your smartphone camera. If you have an old smartphone camera and want to travel and buy a new camera for your trip, just buy the newest iPhone instead of an expensive DSLR.

3. Photograph your loved ones

Marseille, 2015. Family portrait for dinner at the home of my friend Yves.
Marseille, 2015. Family portrait for dinner at the home of my friend Yves.

Photos of your loved ones are more important than photos of landmarks. Don’t get distracted too much by the novel and exotic sights you see. If you’re traveling with friends, your partner, or family, make sure to make lots of photos of them: these will be the most meaningful photographs when you’re at home and reviewing your photos.

Marseille, 2015. My mom sleeping at night.
Marseille, 2015. My mom sleeping at night.

If you’re traveling solo, just make selfies and photos of yourself (shoot yourself in the mirror, your shadow, etc).

Marseille, 2015. My mom waving hello with the spiral staircase.
Marseille, 2015. My mom waving hello with the spiral staircase.

4. Shoot your hotel room/airbnb

Cindy with kiss on eye. Saigon, 2017
Cindy with kiss on eye. Shot inside hotel room. Saigon, 2017

I find some of the most fascinating photos (when looking at the travel photos of my friends) are of their hotel rooms/airbnb rooms.

Photograph your room, your bed, your bathroom, your view, and just your random stuff hanging around.

5. Photograph locals

Walking woman. Kyoto, 2018
Walking woman. Kyoto, 2018

I find street photographs of people in the places you visit more interesting than architecture and landscapes. Try to add people into your photos whenever possible.

Also you can ask people for permission to make their portrait (street portraits).

6. Photograph your food

Egg tarts. Lisbon, 2018
Egg tarts. Lisbon, 2018

Photograph your meals, coffee, snacks. These are fun memories to document and a good opportunity to relive your experiences.

Cindy's mom and my mom, enjoying Portuguese Egg Tarts in Lisbon, a photo that puts a smile on my face :)
Cindy’s mom and my mom, enjoying Portuguese Egg Tarts in Lisbon, a photo that puts a smile on my face :)

After all as humans, we most vividly remember meals together.

So it’s not even about photographing the food, but the memory associated with the meal.

7. Don’t photograph “weird” stuff

Refrigerator fan in fish market. Lisbon, 2018
Refrigerator fan in fish market. Lisbon, 2018

Don’t take that many photos of “weird”/”exotic”/ culturally different stuff. These photos are generally boring:

You look at a photograph of some foreign “weird” thing, and it might give you a mild giggle, and you move on (you will probably never look at this photo ever again or even care).

Door handle to church. Lisbon, 2018
Door handle to church. Lisbon, 2018

In the past when I traveled abroad, I wanted to document all the “weird” and different stuff I saw when I was abroad. I took photographs as “proof” to verify my claims. But honestly at the end of the day, nobody will care much for these photos (including yourself).

Role model advertisement. Lisbon, 2018
Role model advertisement. Lisbon, 2018

8. Photograph foreign places like they were your home

Woman with orange hair. Lisbon, 2018
Woman with orange hair. Lisbon, 2018

This will allow you to make less “snapshotty” photos, and more artistic photos.

When you’re traveling abroad ask yourself,

“How would a tourist shoot this scene, and how would a local shoot this scene?”

To make better photos, try to shoot from the perspective of a local.

Walking man with pink wall. Dutch angle (tilted) composition. Lisbon, 2018
Walking man with pink wall. Dutch angle (tilted) composition. Lisbon, 2018

9. Have realistic expectations

Cindy with hand over face. Lisbon, 2018
Cindy with hand over face. Lisbon, 2018

When you travel to a foreign place, don’t expect all your photographs to be National Geographic quality. Also don’t expect to take the best photos of your life, or else you’re going to be massively disappointed at the end of your trip.

Cindy and shadow. Lisbon, 2018
Cindy and shadow. Lisbon, 2018

For example, before I went to Paris for the first time, I expected all my photos to be phenomenal like Henri Cartier-Bresson. I romanticized the black and white streets of Paris (like I’ve seen in old photos).

Woman with orange hair. Lisbon, 2018
Woman with orange hair. Lisbon, 2018

But romanticism is dangerous for a photographer, because the postcards you’ve already seen are a lot better than the places “in real life”.

Man in suit and trees. Lisbon, 2018
Man in suit and trees. Lisbon, 2018

So before you travel, set realistic expectations for yourself. If you can make 3 good photos from a week long trip, you have done well.

Cindy walking and green/red wall. Lisbon, 2018
Cindy walking and green/red wall. Lisbon, 2018

10. Self-development through travel, not making the best photos.

My mom and Cindy's mom. Lisbon, 2018
My mom and Cindy’s mom. Lisbon, 2018

Remember the point of traveling isn’t to make the best photos. I see the point of traveling as the opportunity for you to reflect more, and develop more as an individual.

Selfie. Lisbon, 2018
Selfie. Lisbon, 2018

Being away from home can get you away from all the drama back home, and finally give you some peace and quiet to reflect on your life and to try to figure out what you want to do with your life and what is important to you in life.

Selfie and curved script. Lisbon, 2018
Selfie and curved script. Lisbon, 2018

Traveling won’t give you all the answers to life, but will give you the opportunity to reflect on your own life.

Conclusion

Pink woman faced downwards. Lisbon, 2018
Pink woman faced downwards. Lisbon, 2018

Realize you don’t need to travel far, you don’t need to travel internationally. Even go on a small road trip for the weekend, or even visit a part of town you haven’t been to yet.

And don’t be afraid to travel. New cultures, experiences, and adventures await!

BE BOLD,
ERIC


TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017
Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017

Travel Photography Articles

Travel photography tips video