14 Tips to Improve Your Travel Blog With Photos

A travel blog without photos is like a Sunday lunch without roast potatoes – just not right. However good a wordsmith you are nothing beats an actual photo of that ravishing beach to really invite the readers in and show them what it was like, rather than just telling them.

Great photos on your travel blog are also important when it comes to sharing and social media. It’s your photos that are Pinnable, Instagrammable and Stumbleuponable (yeah, they’re words now) and that will get the right people on your site to read your words.

Photography is not about cameras,

You don’t necessarily need expensive equipment to create blog enhancing photos. A lot of travel bloggers now, including me, just use their iPhones. I was in the Huffington Post with 15 of the Best Travel Photos Taken With an iPhone alongside some great travel bloggers who also use their iPhone for their photography, or fauxtography. For the past year all my photos have either come from my iPhone or my Windows Nokia 1020.

So whether you’re armed with your iPhone, your top of the range DSLR or something in between, there are a few things to keep an eye out for to get the best photos you can. Here are my tips from what I’ve learned over the years, and a few exclusives from my favourite travel bloggers, theplanetd.com, backpackerbanter.com and timetravelturtle.com.

This is part 7 of 15 of the Travel Blogger High Series: The Online School for Wannabe Travel Bloggers

1. Think about lighting, and get out for the Golden Hour

When you’re a travel blogger you obviously don’t have the luxury of being able to control the lighting and brightness as much as say, a fashion blogger in a studio. You need to learn to work with what you have. When it comes to taking a photo work out where the light is coming from – you’ll want it in front, not coming in from the back or your subject will appear too dark.

How to improve your blog with photos

Could have been a good photo in Wayakama, Japan, if you could see my face (or maybe not?!)

Make sure you’re out and about for the Golden Hour too – just before sunset – this is when you’ll get the richest colours and the most interesting and complimentary light for your photos.

2. Use some editing software

For a long time – until a few months ago – I never bothered with any editing. To be honest, I felt like I didn’t have time and that the photos were fine as they were. Then I started looking around and saw that the bloggers I loved were obviously taking way better photos than me. It wasn’t till I thought about it that I realised they weren’t taking better photos, they were just editing them.

Hakodate Harbour looks much better with a bit of light.

Hakodate Harbour looks much better with a bit of light.

There are a few apps that can help you out with editing on the go.

  • Snapseed
  • Lightroom
  • Photoshop

3. But don’t edit too much

There are some bloggers, never to name any names, who edit so much they’ve taken all the natural colour out of the photos and they’re just left with some over processed pic that looks nothing like reality. It’s a fine line, and I can definitely see how editing gets addictive. The more you do it and become skilled at it the more you’ll get to know how much is too much.

Photography is the only language thatcan (1)

4. Tell a story

“Make sure the photos tell a story. Think about different shots that portray the destination the way you want people to see it. We all see beauty and interest in different things, so let the reader see your point of view. I always look for the different perspective when taking photos. I also make sure that the photos fit the story we are trying to tell. Just because you have a beautiful beach shot, there is no sense putting it into the article if you are talking about conservation or adventure. Make sure the photos enhance the story, not distract or detract.”

– Deb from theplanetd.com

Armed with Deb’s advice I came back with the series below from a bike ride in Taiwan. I was going for new perspectives, some action shots and of course, illustrative photos too. What do you think?

Photos on a travel blog

Does this collection of photos tell a story?

5. Think about the framing

Have a look at what’s in front of you before you bring your camera up to shoot it. It’s common to see people snapping away as soon as they see something of interest but it’s a better idea to really look first, see how everyone else is taking the photo and then think of a different way to capture the shot. Consider the frame and come up with the best composition based on what you see. Turn your grid lines on to make the most of the Rule of Thirds too.

Maybe not a great shot in itself, but good to back up a future article about the fish market!

6. Take more shots, different shots

If you’re taking one shot you might as well take a few. The challenge though is in making those ‘few’ different. I’ve got so many photos on my laptop of the same thing over again but if I had them from other angles or in different lighting it would be a lot more useful when it comes to using them on the blog. You could stand above, below, to a different side or angle on a slant. Play around with your photography until you find a way you like, and then keep on testing and improving.

You can see how I’ve tried to do this in my recent photo posts.

7. Take detail shots

If you like making collages taking detail shots is a great way to get the material you need to improve the story behind the photo collage. You can use the big space for the overall shot and then back up what your audience is seeing with a few details to add to the story.

This is part 7 of 15 of the Travel Blogger High Series: The Online School for Wannabe Travel Bloggers

8. Be ready and waiting

You need to learn to think fast and capture the moment. Staged photos and selfies can get kind of boring – the best blogger photographers know how they can capture emotion and action in a photo at a second’s notice. The more you use your camera and the more familiar you get with the settings the easier it will be to find the right one when you need it.

How to improve your travel blog with photos

Love the action and emotion in this photo, but the quality could be better

9. Use lots of photos

“Shove loads in there! People love looking at pics so whether you’re talking social media or blog posts the more pics the better – get a good variety of shots in there too. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so turn your 800-word blog post into a thesis with pics. If you’re not great with a camera I’d suggest checking out some online tutorials and start getting creative, without images your posts will rarely gain popularity.”

– Chris from backpackerbanter.com

10. Keep shooting

If you’re photographing people don’t just tell them you’re taking a photo and do one. Try and get a little shoot going on with them – it’s when they relax that you’ll get the best shots on the warm up and chill out. Take them from a few different angles – everyone has a best side! You need to anticipate what they’re going to do so you can bring the photos to life by capturing their personality in the shots you want.

11. Try to create your own look

I’ll admit I find this really hard but it’s definitely something I want to be better at in the future. If you can create your own ‘style’ for your images it really shows you have a brand, a unique perspective and your images will be instantly identifiable to you.

Frankie from asthebirdfliesblog.com does this brilliantly. To me her photos are wistful, kind of dreamy yet still illustrate her words and define a moment in time that she decided to capture. All the photos on her blog have the same qualities. She doesn’t busy them with writing or by trying to fit too much in a shot. Just look at this one…

How to use photos to improve your travel blog

Incredible photo from Amsterdam © asthebirdfliesblog.com

If you compare that to the bright and sometimes brash ones I use (see the header photo) you can see she’s definitely got style.

12. Get out of auto

If you are using a camera please don’t buy a big expensive beaut and then just shoot on auto. Get to know your camera settings and how to use them and your photos will be a lot better.

ISO

The ISO setting is related to the amount of light. If you have plenty of light you can reduce your ISO setting, especially if you’re taking landscapes or photos of things that are still. If it’s dark, you don’t have a tripod or whatever you want to take a photo of is moving, you’ll need to use a higher ISO setting.

Aperture

This is how much light you allow into your photo. If your aperture setting is on low, so the opening of the lens is larger, then you let more light in and the background gets blurrier. If you make the aperture setting high then less light gets in and so the background will be sharper.

Shutter speed

Set this low if you want to give the illusion of something moving – like if you were to capture a flow of water for example. If you want to go the other way you’ll need a fast shutter speed and this will freeze the movement so a moving object will appear still.

13. Use yourself

Include people as much as possible. Even yourself, if you’re brave enough. I’m getting better at including photos of me as it’s definitely something I look for on other travel blogs. I’ve seen photos of Machu Piccu a million times, but I’ve never seen a photo of you in front of it with a big grin of achievement, or similar. It’s all about making your photos interesting, and unique.

Improve your travel blog with photos

Which photo would be more interesting in a series?

14. Illustrate the story you want to tell

When I asked Deb from PlanetD (answer above) and Michael from timetravelturtle their number one tip for using photography to enhance a travel blog they had similar replies. I wanted to include them both as the story of the photos is not something I really think about and if they both said it, then it must be important and I need to get all Enid Blyton on this camera phone of mine.

So, to reiterate the story telling point…

“The most important thing is to think about the story you’re trying to tell with your photos. It’s likely your photos will go alongside your text on your blog and it will be better for the reader if they suit each other. When you are in a destination taking photos, try to think about the things you’re likely to mention in your story and make sure you take photos of them. But also think about the mood and the narrative. If the story is going to be about a hard climb up a mountain, take photos of the path, the stairs and the equipment you use. If the story is about how cold a city is in winter, take photos of the snow, the ice and of people wrapped up in warm clothes. In general, you should be writing the story in your head as you take the photos and making sure you’ll be able to illustrate the key points.”

– Michael from timetravelturtle.com

How much do you think about the photo before you take it?

VickyFlipFlopTravels

A Day in the Life of a Travel Blogger: Taipei Edition
Photos from The Sapporo Snow Festival

23 Comments

  1. by Olga on February 16, 2015  2:33 pm Reply

    Great tips!
    I should definitely start learning how to edit my photos.. Not that I think that they are great already, but for some reason when I edit them, they all look too artificial to me, and I don't like it... Should practice more, I guess!

    www.therussianabroad.com

    • by Vicky on February 17, 2015  4:26 pm Reply

      Yeah, that's what I meant my the over editing and that they just look fake. I think injecting a little bit of colour into them is a good idea, but you've just got to be careful not to go too far and take away from the realism.

  2. by Deb on February 16, 2015  3:11 pm Reply

    Thanks for including us in your round up! Your photos look great. Congrats on the top photos taken with an iPhone. I went and had a look and saw I was on there too. The things you learn :) It's amazing what you can do with an iPhone now. I love my new iPhone 6+ even more. It takes such crisp photos. I just may give Dave a run for his money now with photography. Haha.

    • by Vicky on February 17, 2015  4:25 pm Reply

      Ha! That's why I find it difficult to reason why I should lumber my DSLR around. I know it's better, but is it that much better? I need to learn how to use it properly before I add the extra weight. Thanks so much for your tip – you've given quite a few people, including me, something to think about.

  3. by Sally on February 16, 2015  3:33 pm Reply

    Great tips thank you. Sadly my iPhone has just died so it may be just my GoPro for a bit.

    • by Vicky on February 17, 2015  4:24 pm Reply

      Just getting into my GoPro. Feel like we bonded today at Taroko Gorge – I'll share the pics next week!

  4. by Roma on February 16, 2015  8:34 pm Reply

    good tips Vic. I bust my ass to take the best pictures i can. I just don't feel it's worth it. ... any advice?

    • by Vicky on February 17, 2015  4:23 pm Reply

      It's definitely worth it! Surely the personal satisfaction is enough, no? I love taking a good photo and showing it off on my blog. I just want it to happen more!

  5. by Hayley on February 17, 2015  4:02 am Reply

    Great tips, thanks Vic! I always end up with so many images and editing does take forever but it's worth it. Keep up the good work! Loving this series! X

    • by Vicky on February 17, 2015  4:21 pm Reply

      Thanks Puff. I'm glad it's helping you. I'm always having to clear out my cameras after clogging up the memory cards. I think the aim is quality, not quantity.

  6. by Elizabeth @ Awesome Wave on February 17, 2015  4:47 am Reply

    I totally agree with the storytelling tip. I've always been a big fan of photography but I've definitely noticed more interaction with my blog posts and instagram when there is more of a narrative to the photos.

    • by Vicky on February 17, 2015  4:20 pm Reply

      Yeah, now that Deb and Micheal have pointed it out it's definitely something I've noticed more. It's a good thing to have at the back of your mind when it comes to snapping away.

  7. by Shivya Nath on February 17, 2015  5:48 am Reply

    Interesting and snappy tips! I for one, am guilty of not spending too much thinking about or taking photographs (or even getting out of auto much), but I hereby pledge to try harder. Thanks for the inspiration :)

    • by Vicky on February 17, 2015  4:18 pm Reply

      No worries! I've definitely been working harder on my photography since I got Deb, Micheal and Chris' tips in. I need to think of it more of an art than something I just have to do. It's working! I got some beautiful photos of Taroko Gorge in Taiwan today. Excited to share them...

  8. by Penny on February 18, 2015  3:29 pm Reply

    Great tips though both me and my boyfriend are photo-phobes so not sure how many people shots I'll manage!

    Have been looking at getting a GoPro as I'd love to do some time-lapse shots. Which one did you get? I'm hoping to 'get away with' the cheapie basic one if I can. Or did I miss a post on that already?

  9. by Red Nomad OZ on February 21, 2015  6:53 am Reply

    I'm SO not an editor - although the tilt corrector is my best friend :D It's a fine line between being a photographer who travels and a traveller who photographs - just like the diff between a storyteller who blogs and a blogger who tells stories. Whichever you are will colour your photos (and blog!) and while I'm not suggesting taking crap photos as a strategy, even a not-so-good pic that illustrates the story and makes it's point can be valuable!

    Thanx for the tips!

    • by Vicky on February 23, 2015  4:18 pm Reply

      Yeah, you're definitely right there. There are so many strings to a travel bloggers bow you just can't possibly be an expert in all of them. And you shouldn't let any doubt you have in your photographing abilities stop you from blogging. It doesn't have to be perfect!

  10. by Jessica (Barcelona Blonde) on March 2, 2015  11:43 am Reply

    Great tips! It also took me a while to realize that people were taking good pictures and then turning them into great ones with some good editing. It really does make your pictures so much better!

    And I like your last tip of including more people in the pictures. It's something I'm trying to do more of, though I'm afraid I'm much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

  11. by Thrifty Shopper on May 9, 2015  7:40 pm Reply

    This is a brilliant blog, very informative for an novice photographer like me. Thanks for sharing x

    • by Vicky on May 18, 2015  8:17 am Reply

      Thank you :)

  12. by Joe on January 10, 2016  9:44 am Reply

    Hey Vicky, what software do you use to make your collages? Looks rather snazzy, and I imagine helpful if you don't want to make the post sluggish to load with too many photos.

    • by Vicky on January 10, 2016  11:31 am Reply

      Hey Joe, I use Canva – love it! So easy to use and you can do some pretty cool stuff. Still getting the hang of my pics looking classy but I'm enjoying making them look cool!

  13. by dalibro on October 21, 2018  10:03 am Reply

    Good photography tips! You really don't need a superexpensive camera to take good photos. It is more important to think about timing, light and composition, telling a story, rather than just having the best equipment! :) I only disagree with the point about taking images of yourself. I mean it is fantastic for a private album. But nowadays, all travel bloggers seem to do it. But think about it as a reader - I usually want to learn something from a blog, to find inspiration and not only look at someone's face over and over :D

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