Tips for Taking Great Photos While Traveling

by Patty Hankins & Bill Lawrence

Taking great photos when you're in a new place for just a few days (or even a few hours) can be a challenge. But on the other hand, it can also be wonderful - discovering new places and things to photo. We've compiled a few tips that may help you get some great photos on your next trip.

Before you leave home - do some research.

1) Ask other photographers. Patty frequently will ask questions on the phototravel group at yahoo (, while Bill tends to ask his questions on the boards at the Luminious Landscape (http://www.luminous- In either of these sites, and on numerous others on the web, just post a query mentioning that you're going to be traveling to a specific area and frequently local photographers will suggest some great places to go for photography.

2) Check out a travel guide or two. Visit either a local bookstore or the local library and you'll find plenty of travel guides for most locations in the U.S. and around the world. Look for the ones with lots of photos - they're more likely to give you ideas on where and what to photo than guides that focus on restaurants and hotels (unless that's what you like to photograph). Also, look for the ones that focus on your interests. For example, we tend to go for books that focus on natural areas and wildlife. A couple of travel guide series' we like are the National Geographic Traveler series and the Insight Guides from the Discovery Channel. Several guides (such as Photosecrets) focus specifically on photographic travel - which is great if they cover where you are going, although the locations for which guides are available are reasonably limited.

3) Search the web. Google the location you're planning on visiting - and just follow the links. The photos on the sites may give you some great ideas on what there is to photo in the location you'll be visiting.

4) Look to see if there are any National Parks ( or National Wildlife Refuges ( in the area. There are usually some spectacular nature and landscape photo opportunities in these protected areas.

Now that you know what you might be shooting - plan what to pack. Of course you'll be bringing your camera - but what else do you need

5) If you're planning on doing landscapes, especially at sunrise or sunset, you'll probably want to bring your tripod along. We usually pack both tripods in one of the suitcases we're checking - and without fail - if any of our bags gets searched it's the one with the tripods. So if you're packing your tripod - don't put anything in that suitcase that you don't want TSA to see.

6) Don't forget things like filters, cable release, compass, flashlight, bubble level and all those other tools that make life easier for a photographer.

7) If you have a laptop computer, Palm Pilot or Pocket PC - be sure to have Ephemeris loaded onto your system. It's invaluable for figuring out when/where sunrise and sunset are going to occur.

8) If you're shooting film - be sure to pack enough or know where you can get your preferred film type where you are going to. And don't forget to take it with you when you're going out shooting. On our recent trip to Arizona, there were a couple of photographers up at the cliff dwellings in Tonto National Monument - trying to remember where the film was (in the car, ½ mile and 350 ft. vertical drop away) and figuring out what film they had with them.

9) Remember, if you bring unprocessed film with you on a plane, do not put it in the checked luggage. The X-ray machine for checked luggage will ruin the film.

10) If you're shooting digital - be sure to pack enough storage media - and hopefully something to download your photos on.

And a few final tips

11) Make sure your camera works - and that you know how it works. The same two guys who were having film issues at Tonto - were also reading the camera manual trying to figure out how the camera worked. They had hauled a fair amount of camera gear, tripods, lights, etc - up a steep trail on a hot day - and they didn't know how it worked. We did have a good chuckle about their predicament when we were hiking back down the trail.

12) Be considerate of other tourists and photographers. You may not be the only one trying for a particular shot. We've met some wonderful people and gotten some great ideas on where to do some photography just by being friendly and considerate of others when we're out shooting.

13) Take lots of pictures. And have fun. We certainly did on our recent trip to Arizona.

Patty Hankins & Bill Lawrence are the co-owners of Hankins-Lawrence Images, LLC, a digital photography company based in Maryland. HLI Photonotes, their monthly ezine, provides information and tips for photographers. To subscribe email hl_images@earthlink.netwith subscribe in the subject or visit

"Reprinted from Daily Press & Consumer Information"