Good travel photography composition is key to capturing the beauty and essence of a place in a photograph. Here are eight tips to help improve your photos.
Travel Photography Composition: Rule of Thirds
This is one of the biggest rules for photo composition, and it’s a great go-to technique.
The idea is to break down the frame into nine equal rectangles – three in each direction – and place your subject at one of the four intersections.
This can help add interest and lead the eye across the frame.
Many digital cameras (and even some smartphones) now have a button that will bring up this grid for you to make setting up the composition easier!
Playing with symmetry is another great option. The trick to using symmetry without the photo feeling stagnant is to place the axis of symmetry (or the subject itself) centered in one direction, but not both.
For example, if you use a reflection to create your axis of symmetry, placing it off center gives the eye a bit of direction by shifting the visual weight. In the photo above, it’s a vertical axis of symmetry, but the pews at the bottom and the light fixture at the top keep your eye moving.
Leading lines can instantly create order in a composition by giving the eye direction. With this technique, you use different elements to create a line for your eye to follow straight to your subject.
Sometimes it can be a path in the road, a fence line, or a series of items that line up and create a visual line. If you want to try this technique, be sure to shift your position to find the ideal spot to create that leading line for your eyes.
Using elements like windows or arches as a frame is ideal for a spectacular view that needs context. Typically, you’ll want to shoot these straight on, but don’t be afraid to shoot at an angle if it captures the best view!
In the sample image above, framing was used to show a bird that happened to land in a small opening. The silhouette of the bird sitting on a ledge would be of no interest to most if it had not been framed.
Color can have a powerful impact on a composition. Bold colors carry visual weight of their own, so think of it as creating a painting! You can use color to lead the eyes in certain directions or to help balance out composition when it feels off.
The sample above uses both leading lines and color, but if this photo had been processed as a black and white, the impact would be greatly decreased. The bright yellow leads the eye up the frame, and the blue helps your eye land on the horizon.
Change Your Perspective
Sometimes, all it takes to take a photo from blah to beautiful is a shift in perspective. This can mean taking a few steps to the left, kneeling rather than standing, or shooting from the rooftop rather than at street level.
In the above example, it simply took a look down to the street from a higher window to see a town’s life in a different perspective!
Get Close or Step Back
Another way to change perspective is to think about how close or far you are from your subject. Play with how a photo changes when you fill a frame with someone’s face, versus when you leave in the surrounding context.
If you step back and leave context, be sure to also keep in mind your f-stop so that you get the desired bokeh effect for your photo.
Play With Scale
Sometimes, it’s difficult to show the scale of a place. This is especially true when traveling and seeing large monuments or architectural elements. A quick and simple way to bring scale into an image is to bring in a familiar element like people!
If you’re photographing a huge open space, having people walking through the scene can relay just how impressive and large the space is. Other examples of elements that you can insert for scale are cars, bicycles, your hands or feet, or chairs.
Next time you’re exploring the world, whether close to home or far away, be sure to practice a couple of the above techniques with your travel pictures.
With more practice, these composition techniques will come to mind instantly, and you’ll soon be capturing travel photos that show off your trips perfectly!