4 ways to make your travel photos stand out

Travelers and tourists alike love documenting their trips abroad through photography. Beyond sharing them on Instagram and Facebook, photos of our travels make for great keepsakes and souvenirs for friends and family that go beyond words.

To avoid your photos getting lost in the crowd and to amaze all your friends back home, master the art of a good travel photo with these essential tips.

Travel Photography

1. Know your subject

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new place and you will be expecting to capture it all. Studying and traveling abroad is an exciting endeavor but not everything you come across is picture worthy. The best memories of your time abroad will be the pictures you don’t take, so for the pictures that you do take them knowing your subject will make for a very likable photo.

Your subject is the focal point of the shoot.

Portrait – If you are talking a picture of a friend, group, or stranger (ask permission first) the number one component to keep in mind is, “what do you want to highlight about this person?” Is it their smile, their outfit, or the abstract building in the art district that brings the portrait to life?

Travel Portrait

Landscape – The Alps, The Cliffs of Moher, The Taj Mahal, and Machu Picchu; what do they all have in common? They are incredibly amazing views not to be missed. How do you capture of picture of this scene? The pro tip is to add a scale by including something of known size, such as a person, a car, or a tree. This helps viewers understand what they’re looking at. Also the sky and weather.

Nightscape – Nightscape photos are excellent opportunities to take unique shots and truly capture the moment. Imagine the Eiffel Tower at night, and you’ve got a nightscape photo on your hands. If you’re at another destination here is how you can make your nightscape sparkle: immediately check the settings of your camera. Is it on auto-flash? To create better photos at night, it is best to have a steady hand, lower the camera exposure, and shoot in more lit areas.

2. Gridlines

This tip comes from many photography, lifestyle, and travel blogs. This tip is also called the rule of third, which essentialy means being aware of the focal point of what you are taking a picture of. Most phones come with gridlines in their camera settings. Following the rule of thirds allows for more depth in your photography making the image seem more interesting. When gridlines are viewable on screen it is important to position the camera well, holding it off-center in between the intersections of the grid to create a balanced and harmonious composition. Once you get in the habit of this step you will never go back to taking a basic photo again. See the examples below:

People – Taking a candid captures the essence of every moments and a great candid is worth a thousand words. Make these shots irreplaceable.


Food – As much as your friends and family want to know what you are doing on your adventures, what they really want to know what you are eating. Make them wish they were there having a meal with you.

Bibimbap korean food

Monuments – For these shots, you don’t want to take these dead center. Giving it contrast, depth and scale (from adding a person or background) will add to a more attractive shot.

London and Big Ben

3. Theme

Whether your photos are for your blog, Instagram, or to hang up in your dorm, having a color theme adds symmetry to photography.  Adding bits of color bring warmth to photos. Taking photos in black and white bring a certain aesthetic to the shots taken. Consider planning out a theme for your photography before you go abroad so there is a story to tell. A pop of color, all white, pastels, or wearing a significant article in clothing in every photo is a fun and creative way to draw in people to viewing your photos.


4. Editing

After you have taken that million dollar shot, the next step is all about the editing. Great photography is all about its presentation. Most of the editing can be done right from your phone. The right skills to editing can help bring it all together. Things to keep in mind when you are editing:

No filters – As much as adding a filter to your photos on Snap and Instagram are fun, it doesn’t do the same justice on highlighting the photography. Stay away from filters! No Valencia, no Ludwig, and no dog filter. Let the bare photo tell its story.

Cropping – Did you take a wide angle shot? Are there pedestrians or obstructions ruining the shot? You can crop those out. Cropping also works if you are looking for a specific shape for your photo. Make the photo square, 7:5, etc.  Having a structured photo makes all the difference.

High resolution – Ensuring that your photo is taken at high resolution sets the stage for a clearer picture that is less grainy or blurry. With high resolution the photos look sharp, the colors are brighter, and they’re better quality if you printing the images for family or yourself.


White balance – Including white balance to your photos aids in cases where you have taken a photo indoors or outdoors that is not well lit, or if the color casting off the lenses manipulates the photo.

Sharpen – Adding this editing change will make your pictures pick up even the littlest details in the background. Sharpening a picture adds more texture to the picture, along with highlighting the shadows, lines, and structures in the image captured.

Traveling abroad is an opportunity of a lifetime. Get out there and explore. A short term program and even a semester abroad go by so quickly, so when you are in a new city take photos to showcase the moments and create memories you’ll remember for years to come.

Authored By: Dalila Sanabria – STA Travel Student Ambassador

Dalila Sanabria is an STA Travel Student Ambassador and recent grad looking for new travel opportunities. You will see her raving about what she enjoys most about travel, as she is an avid supporter of traveling abroad. Some of the things that inspire her the most about travel include: taking part in new adventures, trying new food and drinks and learning about new cultures.