I do not consider myself a pro when it comes to travel photography, but when a friend of mine recently asked me if I had any tips for her (btw. she went to South America for three weeks and no, I'm sooo not jealous^^), the ones below came to mind pretty much instantly. They are pretty basic, but let's face it how many of us really go on vacation with the intention of taking breathtaking photographs? As long as the pictures are interesting and capture a moment that you want to take home with you, you're all set.
- Rule of thirds The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. Most cameras these days have an extra setting that you can activate so you can actually see the lines on your display. If you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines your photo becomes more balanced. Also if you look at magazine photos for example you'll notice that your eyes are usually automatically drawn to one of the intersection points.
- Bring a small tripod or gorilla pod If you want to take pictures at night or in darker areas a tripod is an absolute necessity. I've seen people on a nighttime boat trip through Chicago who were trying to capture the skyline and the buildings along the river all lit up and failed miserably because the exposure time was so long, due to the lack of light, that the pictures turned out all blurred and shaky. They spent the entire 90 minute boat ride fiddeling around with their camera and not only didn't get the shot they wanted, but also didn't really see the skyline themselves. So a gorilla pod basiacally fits in every handbag and really often times saves the day in low light situations.
- Don't capture ghost towns When I started taking pictures on city trips I would make sure that whatever I wanted to photograph was devoid of people, and I tended to get cranky whenever there was a situation in which I couldn't wait them out or crop them out of the frame alltogether, like say a busy market in Italy. What I ended up with at home were therefore heaps of pictures showing pretty much ghost towns. Oftentimes especially the people and the way they dress in addition to the backdrop acutally make for an authentic picuture though.
- Change you vantage point Most of the time we take photographs standing, right on eye level, which is nice but probably won't make you look at the picture more than a second or two. It's oftentimes a good idea to shoot certain motives from a lower or higher angle, to make the picture stand out. Either drop down on your knees, look for a bench to stand on, whatever... just change up your vantage point every now and then.
- The best camera is the one you have with you I have to roll my eyes a little whenever I hear this one, but that doesn't make it any less true. These days you can capture beautiful images basiacally with your phone and in all honesty that's what I do most of the time when I'm out and about, simply because toting around a heavy DSLR 15hrs a day for four days straight is not my back's idea of fun. So if you don't intend blow up the pictures from you next trip into a photo wallpaper or anything else along those sizes, you should be fine with a nice point and shoot, or as I said, with your smartphone.