Travel Photography Tips – Being ‘Lucky’

It is often surprising how lucky I have been as a photographer, on so many occasions a special view, scene or incident has unexpectedly jumped out in front of my lens. These strokes of good fortune have provided me with a few decent images over the years.

The aim of this article is to provide a few tips which will hopefully help those not so fortunate to become a ‘lucky’ photographer. It is a photo essay with benefits.

Early morning light on Lake Lucerne  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Capturing the light

Know and understand the camera

This is possibly the most important aspect of photography, and one emphasised on this site many times. Regardless of the type or quality of the camera, being familiar with its operation will help produce better images. More advanced cameras will however allow greater creativity in capturing the image.

Understanding the camera will enable the photographer to deal with changeable conditions and react quickly to any situation.

A Moroccan railway station  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Experiment in different situations such as moving vehicles

The beauty of digital unlike film photography is that it is cheap to take and develop images. Experimenting therefore does not cost anything so take plenty of images before departing on any trip. It is preferable to make mistakes when it is not important than when shooting really matters.

Start by using the camera in full automatic mode and concentrate on observation, composition and learning how to use the available light to your best advantage. When travelling it is not always possible to take images of the ‘sights’ at the best time of day, therefore it is necessary to understand how to adapt to other conditions.

Band in the French Pyrenees  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Focal length will affect the depth of field

More detailed tips are in an earlier post; Travel Photography for Travellers.

Make use of the various ‘modes’ available on the camera and check the results that each produce. Once the basics are mastered gradually reduce the amount of automation relied upon. This is where true photography begins as it enables the user to become more creative.

Progress to the ‘programme’ mode when a greater understanding of how/when to use flash, the white balance, and ISO settings is achieved. These will prove useful in changing light conditions, such as natural, incandescent or low light.

The iconic water tower in Lucerne  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Using a tripod to achieve the best results in low light conditions

The true creative power of the camera is unleashed when the aperture or shutter priority, and full manual modes are employed. They will allow for creative use of depth of field, freezing action and much more.

Wines and liquers in La Rochelle market  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Be creative with depth of field


There is not any substitute for good observation, any photographer failing to pay close attention to their surroundings will probably miss many opportunities for a great capture.

Regardless of whether exploring the labyrinth of backstreets in a North Africa medina or struggling through the dense undergrowth of a Belizean jungle it is imperative to stay alert. Not knowing what might be encountered, but being aware, and ready can mean the difference between success and failure.

The chances are there will be plenty of opportunities for capturing some good images from amazing panoramic scenery to interesting portraits of indigenous people.

Chilling with the camel near Sharm el Sheik  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Catching the unexpected

Curiousity is a useful attribute for any aspiring photographer. Those that take a peek around the extra corner, wander over another dune or check out where a path or cave leads to are likely to return with the most interesting pictures.

The more images taken the greater the likelihood that several will turn out a bit special.

Ballooning over the Catalan volcanoes  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Waiting for the right moment

Keep the camera ready

If the camera is switched off, and hidden in a bag it is unlikely that a sudden scene that is over in moments will be captured. Have the camera ready, not only out of the bag but switched on and with the lens cap off.

In this situation the priority has to be getting the capture, do not worry whether the camera is correctly set up. It is preferable to have an image which is not technically correct than completely miss it altogether. Additionally have it set for multi-exposures as this will increase the chances of one being correct.

Deutsche bahn train on Cologne railway bridge, Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

A different angle, provides a different perspective

After the first series of images are taken have a quick check of the settings, and set the camera up to enable an improved capture. This is where knowing the ‘tool’ will really pay off as the changes will be made efficiently before the chance is lost. Try capturing the scene from a few different angles and viewpoints if possible, one may turn out to be the ‘keeper’ of the series.

An oncoming shark in La Rochelle Aquarium  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Most importantly get the image

Enjoy the experience

The most successful people in any field are those that enjoy it, and photography is not any exception. Enjoyment often becomes passion, and this is also usually an essential ingredient of success, those that can convert their passion most effectively will be the most successful.

Do not forget to enjoy your photography and make it your passion.

*Detailed explanations of the techniques, and technical terms are explained in the other posts in this series

Downhill biking in the French Aveyron  on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

A fast shutter speed will freeze the action


Comments 16

  1. Natalie

    Love the photos and the subject matter. I consider myself to be a lucky photographer as well. Most of the time, I am in the right place at the right time. I will also take the same picture maybe five times on different settings and then only delete once I have downloaded to my computer. I don’t think I will ever be able to fully grasp the concept of photography as there is just so much to learn however I am quite prepared to just carry on trying to learn and hoping for those lucky photos! Photography is so much fun and when you realise that you have captured the perfect photo, the ego boost is addictive

  2. Laurence

    Great shots and a handy selection of hints to go with them 🙂 As you say,luck is only a small part of the battle – knowing what you are doing is key! After all, the photographer takes the shot, not the camera. Putting yourself in front of good subjects helps too!

  3. Johann

    What a wonderful priviledge to be a traveller and keen photographer.
    Whether its scenic landscape beauty, townscape shots or the people with their many stories, each will add a new dimension to travel.
    Mallory, your photography themes say more than a thousand words.
    If any one interested, visit our site for further enjoyment!

  4. Leigh

    Learning about all the camera settings and knowing instantly where they are is a huge help. And I now take the camera with me everywhere – even if it’s in the car to go grocery shopping because you just never know when you’re going to get lucky.

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  5. Sam

    I think ‘observing’ is one of the biggest aspects. When I look back at photos I took early on I often wonder “what was I thinking?” when I see people half chopped off or unnecessary clutter in the frame. Composing your image properly is so simple yet so easily overlooked. When taking a photograph make sure you look at everything which is in your frame. Should it be there, or is there something else that should be included.

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      Great advice too Sam thanks, think I can see another post in the pipeline regarding composition, although did one of those for Landlopers so it’ll need a slightly different slant to it. The most common mistakes people make in composition is placing their subject centrally and cramming too much into the frame.

  6. Darcy

    Some very good advice. I agree entirely. As you say, it’s so important to learn how your camera works before you go so you can take full advantage of it when travelling. The most important point for me: Always take the photo. If you see something that looks neat, but you’re tired from touring all day, don’t think ‘I’ll come back and take a picture of that later.’ At least, take a few shots because the odds are high that you may never return or it could rain later or the light could change and make the scene look blah, etc., etc.
    Always take the shot.
    You’ll be happy you did weeks later when you go back through your pictures and remember the moment.
    I wrote a similar post about it in my blog

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      Some more great advice Darcy totally agree there is not much point noting a spot for a great pic planning to come back later but not making it and therefore missing the opportunity. Get the image first, if you get back at a later time and get some better images all well and good. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Amanda

    There is a mind numbing amount of considerations whenever packing for your photography trip. Such because that lenses you’ll need, how you’ll shop the images and how you may be going to carry it all about. Then there’s the pleasure of getting it all past the ever tightening luggage restrictions of airlines. A little forethought plus planning could make sure you don’t receive stuck without imperative equipment plus aren’t burdened by what you don’t need.

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      Thanks Amanda great advice taking a little while to prepare for the trip properly is likely to will definitely pay dividends once you arrive at the destination and have all the correct equipment for the images you need.

  8. Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad

    You are right about keeping your camera ready, you never know when the opportunity strikes, and when it does, you better know your camera, so you don’t fumble with the settings! 🙂 Sometimes you will have time to look for the best perspective, you can play around with the settings of your camera. But sometimes, you’ll only have a second to take the shot; especially true with people and animals.

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      I agree totally with your advice Jarmo, ve ready for the image and know how to make changes quickly to enable you to get the quick capture if necessary. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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