Kelsie DiPerna | 03.13.2019

The number of travelers is on the rise, due to a combination of cheap air travel, expanding web-based travel resources, social media, and accessibility to the farthest reaches of the globe. It’s marvelous to be able to visit new places and encounter experiences out of your wildest dreams, and of course most travelers desire to be able to capture these memories well. Travel photography requires a whole different set of considerations when it comes to gear, safety, permits, ethics, and shooting.

Here are tips and trade secrets culminated from years of experience to help you master travel photography anywhere in the world!


Seeking a unique perspective of the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi, India, from across the Tungabhadra River. Shot with a 70-200mm telephoto lens. Kelsie DiPerna.


As far as gear goes while traveling, lightweight will be your friend! If you have yet to build your arsenal of camera equipment, I highly suggest going with lightweight camera bodies and lenses.

Most camera manufacturers offer crop sensor and mirrorless full-frame models that cut down on weight and bulkiness. Lenses can also play a big part in adding to pack weight and should be chosen carefully depending on your needs. In general, I travel with a wide-angle lens suitable for landscape and astrophotography, a 35mm or 50mm prime lens for portraits and street shots, and a telephoto lens for wildlife. Of course, depending on what you like to shoot, your budget, and how much gear you are willing to carry, you can make your own decision.

A lightweight carbon fiber or aluminum travel tripod is another awesome piece of gear you should take if you’d like to shoot video, take self or group shots, or want to be able to work with low or creative lighting.

Shooting Popular Places

The biggest secret to shooting a popular location is to be there as early in the morning as possible, before people trickle in to block the way of a good composition. The first light of the day tends to be soft and full of warm tones, illuminating subjects in a way that avoids harsh contrast, shadows, and may even present an opportunity to shoot a sun flare.

If you have patience, a break in a stream of people in a popular place can yield a few seconds to snag a clear shot. Alternatively, a long exposure blurs the motion of people in front of the lens (you will need a neutral density filter if it’s daytime), and multiple exposures can be stitched together in post-processing.


Aerial view of the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California. Shot on DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone during sunset golden hour. Kelsie DiPerna.

Creating Something Unique

With the advent of the internet, travel photography has revolutionized the way we can share our most precious travel memories while also finding ideas and inspiration for our next trip.

With that being said, popular places are well covered by photographers taking and sharing the same frame, identical model posing and positioning, and color schemes to match.

Want to exit the trap and create something unique? Scope out a place before you start shooting to look for different angles, foreground and background elements, and invoke your creative side! With professional-level camera gear now available at consumer prices, more people now have total artistic freedom in their hands.

Set yourself apart by mastering your camera capabilities and give a bit more forethought into your shots. Think about the time of day best for the angle of light (“golden hours” of sunrise and sunset tend to be best), what and how you want to capture the scene, and if there are any unique elements you can add. Grab a tripod and head to popular places in twilight hours or at night for some really unique lighting opportunities if you have the technical know-how.

Ethics of Geotagging and Shooting Unknown Places

It’s widely debated in the outdoor industry and photography spheres whether it is morally sound to share or withhold the location of lesser-known places with the world.

“Geotagging” links geographic data to a photograph or video, serving as coordinates on a map to anyone who has access. Many choose to forgo location sharing due to ethical reasons or a desire to keep the location secret to themselves or their circle, which some will argue is selfish and unethical for public places. It’s a hot topic these days, with people getting fired up on either side of the debate.

It is undeniable the effect that those with social media influence have on the popularity of a place. Geotagging can lead to a mass of new visitors to these previously unknown locales, which while incredibly enjoyable for them can have a devastating result on natural environments. Quite quickly, an influx of traffic can cause trail erosion, habitat damage, pollution, and disruption to local people and wildlife.

Mitigate this by always staying on trails, respecting permit systems put in place to limit environmental impact, and being respectful and knowledgeable about the place before visiting.

In Hawai’i, a delicate island ecosystem, trails have turned into landslides from overuse, and tourists come completely unprepared to hike dangerous ridgelines, sometimes resulting in emergency evacuations and even death.

If you are going to tag a place, please be considerate of the impact you might have on it by doing so. Sharing details on safety, local policy, and site details can help inform visitors to act respectfully and might even save a life.


Schönau am Königsee in southeastern Germany. Shot as a four-second exposure with a three-stop neutral density filter. Kelsie DiPerna.

Safety on the Road

Be wary when you carry expensive gear with you on the road. Accidents and theft can happen! As it is with jewelry, watches, and expensive items when you travel, keep your camera gear out of sight, especially when on public transport or in large crowds.

I purposefully dress down and use an older backpack so that the contents of my bag aren’t evident to an opportunistic thief. When on public transport, I will always opt to keep my bag within arm's reach to avoid the chance that someone might be able to poke through it or snatch it off me.

With that being said, there is a calculated risk you will have to make on what gear to bring and what you are willing to part with in the case that something does happen. Basic travel insurance plans can cover a nominal amount in case of theft or accidents to your gear, but for the professional photographer, finding a plan can be arduous and expensive, especially if traveling to the third world. Be smart and be safe!


Laws and cultural considerations concerning photography and videography can vary by country. For example, it is illegal for a foreigner to fly a drone in India without a special permit. There tend also to be many formal and informal rules on shooting the interior and exterior of temples, castles, historical sites, and commercial buildings, and should be researched thoroughly beforehand.

A quick internet search can save you a ton of money in fines or possible gear confiscation! Also, it is a polite gesture all over the world to ask before taking a picture of someone, as the cultural implications and ramifications can vary widely.


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