As a travel journalist I take hundreds of pictures a day. The brightest are not just beautiful people in beautiful places. These are the ones that fascinate travelers who admire their travels, who tell how people of destination live, and who convey the soul of the place. My goal is to document my fleeting experiences in a way that brings them to life for those who are not with me. And, I confess, I also don’t mind getting a bunch of likes on Instagram.

Sometimes you are lucky and take a great picture without much thought and preparation. However, most five-star photos require a basic understanding of the basics of photography and little work. You don’t need to buy some fancy equipment; the camera on your phone will do the trick, although a DSLR or mirrorless camera will give you more flexibility and capabilities. If you follow these tips, you will return home with photos that will impress, whether you put them on the fridge or post them online.

– Let your phone help you look like a professional. Familiarize yourself with your phone’s self-timer feature so you don’t need help to take a picture of yourself. The next level option is the Camera Remote app from Apple Watch, which is paired with your iPhone so you can see through the camera viewfinder on the clock screen and set a timer there. Turn on your phone’s camera network, which divides the screen into nine equal parts using two equally spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines. This serves as a visual reminder of the third rule, when key compositional elements are placed along lines or at their intersections to create visually pleasing photos.

– Check the equipment. Before you go out, make sure your battery is fully charged. If you have a camera, bring an extra battery; if you use a phone, think about investing in a portable charger. If your camera has an interchangeable lens, bring multiple lenses with different focal lengths: macro, wide angle and telephoto. Always pack a microfiber cloth to clean the lenses.

– Work with light. Ideally, when you take a picture, you want the sun to lie behind you or just to the side so that it illuminates your subject. Do not shoot the subject in front of the sun or other bright light source; this will cause a backlight that will create a dark mess of shadows.

The best light of the day is in his golden watch: about an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. This gentle, ample light will give your photos the most saturated and vibrant colors. Utilizing its potential can mean getting up early or postponing plans for dinner, but your photos will pop up.

While mid-day may seem like a great time to shoot because there’s so much light, it’s not necessarily so. Sharp light, which is not always pleasant for objects, and creates strong shadows. That doesn’t mean you can’t get great photos at noon. “When the sun casts shadows, it creates beautiful patterns on things that can be very bright,” says professional traveler photographer Lola Akinmade Akerstrom. “It can also create a natural spotlight. Wait until someone enters this light, and then shoot. “

– Remember the basics. Photography has the potential for beautiful colors, light, composition and what photographers call a “decisive moment” that translates action from the simple to the meaningful. “You don’t have to have all four, but you do have to have at least two,” says Nevada Vir, a professional travel photographer. “So if there’s a beautiful sunset, there still has to be something else to make it unique. And if there’s something with a beautiful color, you still have to compose the image flawlessly ”.

– Get out of the middle. “There’s an almost ubiquitous tendency to center an object in the center of the frame,” says professional traveler photographer and journalist Christopher Baker, who suggests thinking outside the box. “If you’re going to photograph a group of people in front of a landmark, don’t put them in a straight line. Instead, rock them. Place one object to the left or right of the frame ”.

– Watch your background. Amateur photographers often focus on the person being photographed, while completely forgetting about what is happening behind the scenes. Unfortunately, a dirty background creates a dirty photo. “Throw away everything that doesn’t matter in the picture, and pay attention to what matters,” says Vir, emphasizing that this could mean moving an object, moving yourself, or moving something distracting that is in the frame.

– Get different points of view. Do not remove a person, place or object from one corner; photograph them from different angles. An easy way to capture an interesting array is to start with wide-angle shots that set, and then work closer and closer to the object until you focus on the smallest details. Along the way, think about taking pictures from low and high points of view, as well as getting both action shots and still lifes.

– Come up with a topic. Sometimes you will encounter a festival or market full of seemingly endless photo possibilities. It can be so difficult that you won’t know where to point the camera. “It’s fun to start thinking about a theme for your photos,” Vir says. “Look for pink or look for hats. When you ask yourself a topic, you start noticing things. ”

– Get out of your comfort zone. Maybe you like to photograph every meal, or maybe your attention is focused on the scenery. However, when you travel, you need to document all the elements of your destination, “because it all tells the story of the place,” says Ackerstrom, who also invites travelers to view destination photos on Google and Instagram before they go so they can push yourself to get different images.

– Make accessories for famous landmarks. “Some of the most attractive photos of sights are when they are in the background and you capture how life moves around it,” says Ackerstrom. For example, if you want to get a bright image of the Eiffel Tower, go to a cafe where you can see it in the background. Focus your photo on what’s going on in the coffee shop, for example, a server serving someone a cocktail or a diner drinking an espresso while keeping the Eiffel Tower behind as an auxiliary participant in this miniature drama.

– Don’t forget people. Photos of people come to life in photos. Be respectful by politely contacting them and asking permission to shoot. Getting close to strangers can be scary, and sometimes difficult to overcome language barriers, but building such a relationship will pay off. If you have permission, do not stand up and do not hide with a telephoto lens. “The closer the better,” Baker says. “Stand forward and in person. Engage. Sometimes I’ll keep the camera 18 inches away from someone else’s face. ”

“Slow down.” “In order to take a great picture, you have to wait, watch and be patient,” says Ackerstrom. That means take your time. Don’t think you can rush into a trip by taking perfect photos. Consider your object and options for photographing it, and then wait for the right moments to do it.

– Stop taking pictures! Sometimes put the camera aside for a while. “I’ve been on assignments so often and so dedicated to getting photos to please the editor that at the end of the trip I realize I didn’t have time to enjoy the people, the place or the experience because I was constantly thinking about moving further to get the next shot, ”Baker complains. Don’t make that mistake. Don’t forget to enjoy the trips and live instantly while you’re in them.

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