Instantly Improve Your Travel Photography with These Six Tips

Whether you’re travelling with the sole intention of photography or simply wish to document a family trip, you’ll want the best results possible. Follow these insightful tips and create memorable images on your next adventure

Travel photography is at once one of the most challenging and inspiring genres. As we explore new lands and cultures, we find ourselves exposed to countless sights previously unseen – with a wealth of photo-worthy subjects in every bustling city centre or hidden road less travelled. But questions of how to photograph our travels, both practically and creatively, remain.

For beginner travel photographers looking for direction and intermediate creators hoping to sharpen their game, these tips for improving your travel photography are certain to set you down the right path.

Refine your portraits

Human subjects are a crucial part of travel photography. The people we find in any given destination are as impactful as the locations themselves. Plus, if you’re travelling with family or friends, you’ll undoubtedly want to include them in a few scenes. Some simple considerations will help bring your travel portraits to life.

Lighting plays a key role in any portrait image, and when it comes to natural light, you’ll do well to avoid harsh sun. If you can, place your loved one in a spot of shade, or consider getting out and about closer to sunrise or sunset for golden hour. If neither is possible, keep direct light off their face by backlighting them.

Compositional ideas like the rule of thirds always apply – but more pressingly in travel portraiture, you may wish to consider the scale of your subject within the frame, as well as depth-of-field. The reason is context. Close-up portraits of your family and friends can be made anywhere, so in this case, show where they are and what you’re experiencing together. That means stopping down your aperture a little to reduce background softness, then taking a wide enough view to contain the environment.

When it’s you stepping into frame, you’ll need to release the shutter remotely to avoid the unflattering visual of an outstretched arm. Either enter the SHOOTING SETTING menu and select SELF-TIMER, or bring up the FUJIFILM XApp and choose Remote Control. In the app’s Live View Shooting mode, you can even adjust essential settings in real time without being behind the camera.

Incredible results can also come from getting outside your comfort zone and photographing a local. Aperture Priority, the Exposure Compensation dial and Face Detection AF are huge time savers. Likewise, consider a clear idea of how you’ll frame the image before you approach a subject so you aren’t inconveniencing them. Locals will be charmed if you can ask permission in their language, but if you can’t, gesturing to your camera with a smile may be enough.

Photo 2023 © Angelo Mendoza | FUJIFILM X-S20 and FUJINON XF10-24mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/180 sec at F5, ISO 160

Create better landscapes

With people pictures checked off the list, it’s time to document the lay of the land. If you aren’t travelling to a natural haven, these tips also apply to cityscapes, so we’d still encourage you to give them a try.

Dedicated landscape photographers will spend hours, even days, planning a single image. That’s not a luxury afforded to travel photographers, who more often have to make the best of whatever is readily available. With that in mind, clever composition is a must. Don’t be afraid to explore aspect ratios in order to exclude any unwanted details within the frame. Rather than making your images with the default X Series 3:2 ratio then cropping later, you can enter the IMAGE QUALITY SETTING menu and choose an IMAGE SIZE for in-camera perfection. Explore all available angles – including the often-overlooked ground-level perspective – wherever you happen to be. And remember, portrait orientation isn’t off limits. If you still have one unsightly element within frame, covering it with a defocused foreground detail can save an image. Abstract colour and shape will always be preferable to an eyesore.

Other ways to get things right in-camera and minimise editing include accurate framing and boosted dynamic range. To achieve the former, on-screen guidelines go a long way. Go to the SCREEN SET-UP menu then select a FRAMING GUIDELINE option, and you’ll see your preferred grid as you create, helping you keep photos level and accurately composed. To increase dynamic range, simply bring up the IMAGE QUALITY SETTING menu once again, then choose between 200% and 400% for a respective one- or two-stop boost. Often, retaining contrast and exposing for either highlights or shadows preferentially is a good thing, but there’s certainly a time and place to document every detail of a scene visibly.

Photo 2023 © Ahmad Tito | FUJIFILM X-S20 and FUJINON XF8mmF3.5 R WR, 1/200 sec at F3.5, ISO 200

Make your digital photos look like film

Film photography has made a huge resurgence in recent years, but compared to digital, it’s not without significant restrictions. There’s a way to enjoy the best of both worlds, though: FUJIFILM Film Simulations. Based on almost a century of colour science, they emulate iconic film stocks beautifully.

But how does this improve travel photography? In the same way post-production colour grading and editing improve any imagery – by accentuating what’s there. If you want to create monochrome imagery on a dreary day in a big city, or work with a warm, pastel palette in a quaint coastal town, you can with ease.

There are many Film Simulations to choose from, so you’ll have to do a little work to consider how you want to showcase a travel destination – and why. To help, give Film Simulation Bracketing a try. Select three unique options and have them simultaneously apply to every image you make.

Go to the SHOOTING SETTINGS menu, select DRIVE SETTINGS, choose BKT1 or BKT2 SETTING, then navigate down the list to FILM SIMULATION BKT. Within this menu option, you can set your three preferred Film Simulations. As you head out to create, ensure your camera is in the relevant BKT mode using the Drive Dial or Drive Button. After you’ve reviewed the photos and have a clear idea of what you’d like to use in different situations, the most efficient way to switch is via the FILM SIMULATION icon within the Q Menu.

Photo 2023 © Alan Winslow | CLASSIC Neg.

Find the best camera for travel photography

All image making starts with the right system. For wildlife pursuits, it may be rapid burst speeds and pin-sharp autofocus; while in the commercial world, the maximal resolution possible is invaluable. In travel photography, the top priority is a functional carry.

Thanks to mirrorless engineering, all X Series cameras balance lightweight design with powerful functionality – but a few are especially suited to the casual traveller. Take the new FUJIFILM X-S20. It is, first and foremost, a travel camera.

At 491g, it’s comfortable to carry on your person all day, and is bursting with specs. Your preferred exposure mode can be selected rapidly using the PASM dial. For total ease of use, creatives can switch into AUTO mode, which assesses a scene using an advanced algorithm, then selects the most appropriate settings in an instant.

There’s also lens choice to consider. As with the camera, size is a determining factor when deciding on a lens for travel photography, and you should ask yourself what you’re interested in photographing. Certain X Series zoom lenses like FUJINON XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR deliver huge versatility for documenting subjects near and far. You’ll be able to photograph sprawling cityscapes and architectural details.

No zoom can contend with the form factor of a prime lens, though. The ultra-slim pancake, FUJINON XF27mmF2.8 R WR, may just be the ideal travel lens. Its equivalent focal length falls directly within the standard range and its fast aperture is crucial when light dips or for soft bokeh fall-off. It’s also incredibly petite, for fans of the FUJIFILM X100V Premium Compact system. Did you know, a prime may even help create better travel imagery? You have to physically move for preferred compositions, thus staying extra mindful of your frames.

When it comes to transferring images for finishing touches and sharing, gone are the days of the laptop. With FUJIFILM XApp, you can send photos and videos directly to your smartphone using the Wireless Image Transfer function, allowing you to travel super light.

Conserve camera battery

One of the greatest challenges of travel photography is having the practical means to create all day – and perhaps night – away from a comfortable base camp. Naturally, your chosen system does much of the work. With a larger battery, X-S20 doubles its predecessor for number of frames possible, at 750 in Normal mode, but there’s a lot to be said for the way we use our cameras.

Modern X Series systems offer an ECONOMY mode, which trades a slight reduction in autofocus and display performance for extra battery life. You may also wish to lower reliance on LCD usage. Try to save the photo reviewing process for a later time. You’ll burn through significant battery by looking at every image made in the field. If you need assurance that you’ve documented a must-have scene perfectly, do so – but for the majority of moments, learn to trust the camera and your own ability.

To go one step further, use VIEW MODE SETTING to cycle through options and select VIEWFINDER ONLY + Eye Sensor. In this mode, you avoid the LCD entirely, and the EVF will only be activated when raising the camera to your eye, ready to photograph.

Print your travel photos

Our final tip also focuses on intentionality. While the in-camera process is undeniably important, your vision as a creative is what sets you apart – and, ultimately, what makes for the best images. Travel photography is the perfect genre for printing, not least for the simple virtue of remembering your trips.

Creating physical images can become a distinct process in its own right, but the simplest way to get professional results is photo printing online with Fujifilm. Choose from a range of physical media, finishes and even mediums. A small photo book, for example, is a beautiful keepsake.

So, here’s a challenge: curate a small book’s worth of images. You don’t have to print them, but we’re certain you’ll find the process invaluable. By selecting what does and doesn’t make the cut, and considering how your selection fits together visually and narratively, you’ll learn a lot about yourself as a photographer. What travel subjects are you naturally drawn to? What might be worth further exploration? And what are your common aesthetic themes?

If you have a cohesive collection in mind as you’re out creating images on your travels, you’ll surely be extra aware of scenes and subjects you may otherwise have missed – and crafting each individual image will get the attention it deserves.

Photo 2023 © Darcie Judson

Now, it’s time to put your travel photography tips into action. Stay safe and creative, and enjoy the adventure.