Travel Pictures

San Juan Islands, WA July 2014

~ Carmen

If you’re like me, after a trip you download all of your pictures and comb through them to decide which ones are keepers, which one need to be deleted (mainly pictures of myself I don’t like), and which are worthy of going on the Facebook page.  Then there are those select few that you linger on and instantly you are transported to all the sounds, smells, sights, and feelings of that particular day.  Why are some photographs successful at evoking vivid memories and some are pretty, but don’t pull at your emotions the same way?

Well Carmen, what’s the answer?

I’m at best a decent amateur photographer, but I do think I have a good eye for design.  The more trips I take, the more I want to focus on quality over quantity pictures.  As part of my push to become more intentional in my photography, I went back over the past couple of years and examined which pictures really drew me in and why.


How to Take Memorable Travel Photographs

1.  Take pictures that entice your 5 senses.

Take pictures that capture your 5 senses

Coco Bay, Antigua Honeymoon March 2011

This photograph has a similar composition to the title picture (boat cutting into the horizon line, off to the side).  However, the Antigua picture was taken mid-morning while we were at the beach sipping some cucumber water and reading mindless novels.  There was a couple on the boat that were swimming and sunbathing, looking as carefree as I felt at that moment.  I sat my book down snapped the picture, then laid back down to take a little snooze.  This picture wouldn’t be as memorable if it weren’t for people-watching associated with that little sail boat.  The water couldn’t have been any bluer if I used photoshop.  The clouds remind me of the gentle breeze that filled the air with the scent of saltwater.  I remember the cool cucumber water, the sound of the quiet waves of the bay, and my new husband falling asleep beside me.

2.  Take pictures that remind you of big moments in your life.

How to take memorable travel pictures

Smoky Mountains National Park June 2012

When Joe and I married, we each brought children into the marriage, his three daughters and son and my two daughters.  Our first year as a blended family was full of adjustments and “bumps”.  This picture represents our first vacation together.  Four of our children went with us, and I was a bit nervous of them all getting along.  When we stopped at this creek, and I saw them helping each other on the rocks, a calming peace started to settle in my soul.


3.  Don’t be afraid to look silly in travel photographs.

Take silly travel photographs

Hurricane Ridge
Olympic National Park
July 2014

When we traveled through the Olympic National Park (a future post), the beauty of Hurricane Ridge took my breath away.  Dozens of photographs were taken, the view by itself, selfies, posing with our arms around each other (like the Seattle picture below).  Those pictures are lovely, but don’t capture how I felt when I smelled the fresh, crisp air and took in the beauty of the mountains.  As I belted out “The hills are alive, with the sound of tourist!” Joe snapped this picture.  Every time I see this shot, it makes me want to put my hands up and belt out an off-key tune.

4. Photograph sites that surprise you.

Before traveling to Pisa, I had seen hundreds of pictures of the Leaning Tower.  I thought I knew what to expect.  I was in for a very pleasant surprise.  The tower is just one of the building in the Pisa Cathedral Complex.  How come I didn’t know about all the other buildings?  Boy, was I in for a big shock!  The Cathedral Complex is surrounded by a wall, so you can’t see the buildings until you enter the gate.  Then rounding the corner, BAM!, you are hit with the majesty of these marble covered beauties.  The sight before me looked like the Pisa scrapbook stickers that I had previously bought.  Each building seemed to pop out and were so crisp against the blue sky and green, green grass.  The Baptistry ended up being my favorite building, mainly because inside we were treated to a singing demonstration that filled the entire space.

Photograph places and things that surprise you

The Pisa Cathedral Complex- It doesn’t look real in person either.

5.  Crop your travel photographs strategically.

How to take memorable travel photographs

The expression of the annoyed Italian makes this picture memorable.

I obviously didn’t take this photograph.  It was sent to me by a fellow traveler.  Admittedly, it is not the best picture of me.  I’m wearing an obnoxiously bright green, tour T-shirt.  We had been touring in the hot Rome summer sun all day.  And I forgot to suck in my belly.  I almost cropped off my bottom half to have a close up of my teacher travel buddy, Julia and myself.  Luckily, I couldn’t help put notice the man sitting next to us.  Every time I look at this picture I can just imagine him thinking, “Stupid American tourist!”  He would be right.  I’m traveling on a learning curve, trying to be a suave worldly traveler, but I’m too much of a country bumpkin to ever get close to it.  Sometimes, it is what you leave in the picture that make it memorable.

6.  Highlight unusual landforms and shapes.

Highlight Unusual Landforms

La Push: 1st Beach Olympic National Park

This could have been the typical beach/sunset picture.  However what most interested me when I took this picture was the black silhouette of the islands and roots of the huge driftwood.  The shapes created by the setting sun look mysterious to me.  When I look back at this picture I remember wondering who or what was on the islands.  I remember the huge driftwood, so big that we could stand inside the trunk. If I had taken a selfie or taken a picture with my family in the foreground, the emphasis on the natural shapes would have been lost.

7. Take pictures from different angles.

Everyone wants to get the “wow” shot.  Now with insta-everything, it is easier than ever to take good travel photographs.  To make your pictures stand out, change your angle.  Get higher or lower.  See what the famous landmark looks like from the side, below, or tilted.  What feature really draws your eye.  Teaching world history, I’d seen hundreds of pictures of the Colosseum.  When I saw the Colosseum for the first time what I noticed was the colors of the concrete.  With the picture below, I focused on the sandy color by standing close enough to the structure that the different tints could be seen.  My pictures taken from a distance (to include the whole Colosseum) aren’t near as memorable as this up close angled one.

memorable travel pictures

Change your picture’s angle


Please share any tips you have for creating memorable travel pictures by commenting below.  See more of our photographs by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat!  Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a post!

~ Carmen


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