Fairly Easy Travel Photography

I travel frequently and enjoy photographing the experience. Keep in mind that my style is adapted to vacations where the priority is enjoying the location with my travel companions. Workshop expeditions with SLRs, tripods, and big camera bags produce amazing photos, but that’s not what this is about. I’m going to share tips on getting good travel photos on a vacation with a family or spouse.


On a typical trip I’m with my girlfriend 95% of the time. While I’m with her I take shots quickly. A small camera helps with that.

I use the other 5% of the time to explore on my own. That let’s me geek out with photography without boring my girlfriend. That isn’t as much of an issue now that she enjoys photography too (see below), but it’s healthy for travel companions to have some time apart anyway.

octopus appetizer and girl taking photo


To keep the photography from taking over the trip, I travel light. Currently I use a Canon S100 because it is the best camera I’ve found that fits in my pocket. If you know of a better pocket camera then please let me know!

I also use an iPhone because it has apps that handle special situations better than the S100, like Pro HDR, AutoStitch, and ReelMoments. It makes sharing quick and easy, and isn’t sharing what photography is all about?

Below is a shot of my camera equipment for a trip to Tahiti. The suction cup came in handy for long exposures of lightning and light painting. The Canon D10 is mentioned in my underwater photography article.

photography gear for traveling light

Right now my mandatory items are an extra battery, extra SD card, lens cleaning kit, and power adapter for the local electrical outlet. Everything else is optional or specific to certain locations.

An iPad is a pretty good way to review photos on a larger screen and do some deleting and sharing. I prefer it to a laptop when I have to pack light.

Don’t worry about the destination!

Of course exotic locations help, but you can find fun and beauty anywhere. Here are some ideas that work for any destination.

I always visit local markets. Fresh food can be surprisingly interesting. Macro is good for many of these. I like to get people in the background when doing macro shots. They won’t be in focus, but they provide context.

close up of fish on ice in a market

Little bits of nature up close are beautiful and you can find them anywhere. A bug on a flower is pretty whether it is in Tahiti or Tulsa. Become familiar with your macro mode.

close up of a big snail on a wet rock

Look up! No matter how boring the location, I can always find beauty in the sky.

surfers walking home with big clouds above

For sunsets, try turning down the exposure a bit. It often makes colors more saturated and creates a dramatic mood.

orange sunset with sun behind clouds on the island of Moorea

big cloud at sunset

I always get a window seat on the plane, clean the window with a napkin, and stare in amazement for most of the flight. If you get a good window then you can sometimes get some great shots. I know, shooting through a window is lame, but it’s worth it in this case.

view of beautiful clouds from an airplane with the words "my favorite tv show"

many cargo ships at night seen from a plane

city in Turkey seen from a plane high above

To really get a feel for my obsession with airplane window photography, read my time lapse movie article.

In my next article I’ll give ideas for beautiful destinations in case you do have the time and resources to go far.

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About the Author:

Jeff Butterworth is the founder of Alien Skin Software. He used to create the products, but now he does marketing and gets coffee for the programmers.


  1. Steven Reid July 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Beautiful photographs!, but I was wondering, where was the Octopus and avocado dish served. Looks like my kind of meal.

    • Jeff July 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      That was in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I will probably do a food photography article soon. I love cooking, eating, and photographing food. I’m not a pro, but I bet my photos will make you hungry!

  2. gunawan tuna July 27, 2012 at 1:17 am

    great article Jeff, anyway just to let you know that lumix lx7 just announced. I think this is the best compact camera on the market now. thanks.

    • Jeff July 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks for the tip. I’ll check out the Lumix LX7 as reviews come out.

  3. Anonymous July 27, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Really nice stuff. I want to travel more.

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  6. Lisa Mininni July 31, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Good tips!

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