Travel Photography 101: Ten Ways to Shoot Like a Pro (And Not Like a Tourist)

Travel Photography 101: Ten Ways to Shoot Like a Pro (And Not Like a Tourist)

The Statue of Liberty. The Eiffel Tower. The Grand Canyon. As much as we’d like to avoid the endless crowds swarming throughout tourist traps, these popular destinations exist for a reason: they make up the world’s most breathtaking sights and most iconic photography. Here’s how to make the most of it and take better travel photos than a tourist.

Why Shoot In Tourist Traps?

There’s an attitude among well-traveled types that tourist traps should be avoided. “Go off the beaten path,” they’ll tell you. “Search for authentic travel experiences,” they’ll say.

While it’s true that you should explore well beyond the boundaries of tourist areas, there’s much to be said for venturing into the crowd and capturing some of those classic scenes yourself.

It’s a Challenge

Photographing iconic sights will challenge you as a photographer. Because so many photographers have shot the same location before you, you’re forced to try harder and think differently if you want your work to stand out from a sea of similar photos. It’s a great way to get your creative gears turning.

It’s a Learning Opportunity

The most popular destinations will have hundreds or thousands of photos published online and in travel books and magazines. Do your homework before you travel. Browse through as many as you can, and take note of what stands out. This is your chance to learn from the best while experimenting with your own techniques in the exact same location.

How To Shoot Better Than A Tourist: A Case Study in Tuscany

Let’s say you’re in Italy visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the classic 800-year-old bell tower in Tuscany that looks like it’s falling over.

We’ve all seen the tourist snapshots that come from here. They’re goofy and silly and oh-so-cliché.

A Google image search turns up hundreds (thousands?!) of these types of photos. They’re all basically the same.


You may be tempted to snap your own version—and you should! A big part of travel photography is about having fun and living in the moment.

But don’t stop there. To be a pro, you need to work harder. Remember, the challenge is to shoot an iconic place differently than your average tourist. This could mean shooting from a different perspective, a different angle, or in a different light.

Read on for ten ways to shoot more like a pro and less like a tourist. We scoured the Getty Images collection to bring you brilliant examples of each tip using our Leaning Tower case study.

1. Shoot in Dramatic Light

Don’t expect to snap your best photos in the harsh mid-day sun. While it takes more planning to shoot when the light is just right—like during the golden hour—it’s always worth the extra effort.

2. Capture the Details

Get in close and crop tight to capture some of the more intricate details.

3. Contrast your Surroundings

Bring more of the surrounding environment into your shot to compare and contrast your subject.

4. Frame Your Subject

Consider the foreground, and search for a unique way to frame your subject.

5. Isolate Your Subject

Isolate your subject from all distracting elements for drama and impact.

6. Shoot At Night

For a completely different feel, shoot long exposures when the sun is down.

7. Experiment With Color

From white balance adjustments to post processing tweaks, subtle variations in color can create a striking effect.

8. Shoot A Unique Perspective

Get on a rooftop, or get low to the ground–anything different from the norm.

9. Balance Light & Shadow

Look for interesting patterns of light and shadow to add dimension and interest to your subject.

10. Search for the Unexpected

Look for unique and unusual ways to capture your subject.

If it weren’t for the pros, we might never know the Tower of Pisa was quite so beautiful.

We want to hear from you! What iconic destinations have you photographed? Did you take a different spin on the typical shot? Comment below to join the discussion.

Photo credits
Featured photo © ariwasabi / 123RF
Leaning Tower images © various photographers / authorized by Getty Images

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Written by Hillary Fox

Founder of OnGoingPro, Hillary Fox is a travel and lifestyle photographer working throughout Europe and Africa. Visit her site at

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