How to take the best photos on your next trip

3595 Views 22 Comments
Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

I made a huge mistake.

As a photography hobbyist, I love snapping dozens of photos when exploring new places. Whenever travelling for work or fun, my DSLR camera is always packed next to my passport and boarding pass. Unfortunately, on my first major trip with my wife (then girlfriend), I royally messed up our vacation photos.

“I’ve learned so much from my mistakes I’m thinking of making a few more.”

Backpacking across Costa Rica, we tried to keep our gear as light as possible. For me, that meant being very selective about what photography gear to pack – a great feat, considering my excitement at photographing every step of our journey.

Beginning in San José, we made our way around the country by bus, boat and shuttle. We climbed a volcano and zip lined in La Fortuna, hiked to a secluded waterfall in Montezuma, ate lunch with monkeys in Manuel Antonio National Park and lounged in a spectacular infinity pool in Alajuela. All in all, it was a trip of a lifetime, but if you look at my photos, you’d never know we were there.

Flower - Costa Rica

I have hundreds of photos of fluorescent frogs, close-ups of stunning plants and flowers, crashing waves and weird and exotic animals in their natural habitat, but barely a dozen photos of my wife and me!

Pool - Costa Rica

While I was pleased with many of the photos, the surroundings only captured a fraction of the memories. Looking at photo albums, it’s the photos of our friends, families and other loved ones that always bring back the strongest memories.

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
-Karl Lagerfeld

From that initial camera misfire, I’ve learned to put people first. Now, whenever stopping to snap a photo of stunning scenery or unique architecture, I capture the memories first and photos second.

Do you have any photography regrets? What are your top travel photography tips?


  • janikaberridge April 4, 2016, 9:20 am Reply

    It’s great being the one taking photos, but it comes with a downfall – not having too many photos of yourself. I can’t think of too many regrets, but I wish that I would spend more time in places, really thinking about the image – instead of just taking a snapshot and moving along. When traveling with others who many not also take 20 pictures of the same object, you don’t want to lag too much behind.

    One tip: Adding a person (or taking advantage of a person in the frame) to a landscape gives the image a sense of scale. This discovery was a game changer for me! Here is an image from Arthur’s Seat in Scotland:

    • Jon April 4, 2016, 9:38 am

      Excellent tip! I may need to quote you in a future post 🙂

      • janikaberridge April 4, 2016, 11:30 am

        Surely! And feel free to reach out, anytime.

  • Paula Delgado March 11, 2016, 4:15 pm Reply

    Great Photos! I’ve learned after some trips with my husband to take less photos. I was a photo addict and I realized that I was missing the important moments with my family and was not really enjoying the amazing landscapes. But as you mentioned, I also learned that I preferred more photos with my people in it, than landscapes. However, there are some breathtaking places that you really need to photograph!

    • Jon March 11, 2016, 4:52 pm

      Thanks for sharing Paula!

  • zerocreativity0 March 3, 2016, 5:17 am Reply


  • erinmacindoesproule February 8, 2016, 5:56 pm Reply

    This is great Jon! I found the often on trips I have gotten caught snapping photos of everything – without much intention. Now I bring a film camera with me. Somehow knowing that every photo is being printed on something tangible as opposed to taking up space on my hard drive forces me to be much more selective, and I find the photos I do take are much more well thought out. Also, it means I save some experiences just for my memories, which might sometimes be richer than what a photo could have captured.

  • Alf February 8, 2016, 4:23 pm Reply

    Good job Jon….on both the photography and the blog presentation. You’ll do well in your course, I’m sure.

    • Jon February 8, 2016, 4:26 pm

      Thanks so much Alf!

  • Jennifer February 8, 2016, 1:05 pm Reply

    Good points Jon! What gear do you use and recommend for travel?

    • Jon February 8, 2016, 2:10 pm

      Thanks Jennifer – not to worry, I hope to share my personal gear recommendations on the blog soon. You might want to make this website your homepage, so you don’t miss any breaking news 🙂

  • Mary S February 8, 2016, 12:30 pm Reply

    Great read. I agree with you. I love people pictures. Capturing that memory is so special. When you have little ones, your camera roll will be full!! And then as they get older, they’ll take selfies on your phone. 😉 Gorgeous nature photos, nonetheless! I enjoyed them!

    • Jon February 8, 2016, 2:09 pm

      Thanks so much Mary – you’re giving me lots of great ideas for future posts!

  • Mario February 8, 2016, 12:26 pm Reply

    Jon, having personally viewed many of your travel pictures I can attest to the beauty and quality of your photographic skills! You have a unique perspective and a great eye for what makes a great picture! I agree with Irit and feel that a good balance is the best way to go. My philosophy when traveling or just taking pictures of the birds in our backyard is to take as many pictures of everything as I can and then sort them out when I get home. Our recent trip to Malta is a good example of that. I came home with about 5800 pictures and was able to create two photo books with one focusing on the Island and the other filled with “people” pictures. Great start to your blog and I look forward to the next submission. Happy picture taking!!

    • Jon February 8, 2016, 2:13 pm

      Thanks Mario – yes, as you know, I like to take a similar approach by shooting lots of photos, then picking the highlights to share. Thanks for checking out the blog!

  • bethnorman February 8, 2016, 10:38 am Reply

    Great blog. Your photography is beautiful. Good luck with your blog and your course.

    • Jon February 8, 2016, 2:07 pm

      Thanks so much Beth!

  • M February 8, 2016, 4:28 am Reply

    Of course the word selfish was an auto correct error. I typed selfie pro.

  • M February 8, 2016, 2:52 am Reply

    I passed your blog onto Dale since he is our resident photographer. We love reliving our travels through his photography and movies and in fact he does a great job of including me in the pictures but many are of awkward or unflattering angles so they aren’t included and there were few of us together initially. During our last vacation he became a selfish (with both of us in the frame) so we have evolved and we always get a giggle out of them! The memories are even more vivid because with each “selfie” there is a shared story!

    • Jon February 8, 2016, 3:00 am

      Thanks so much for sharing! Yes – Dale always does an awesome job with his photo albums and videos. They’re great ways to relive the trips!

  • Irit February 8, 2016, 2:00 am Reply

    Agreed! But I feel a good balance is best. I love making albums of the photos with “us” in them, and framing the scenery/cultural photos best.
    Congrats on the new blog Jon!!!

    • Jon February 8, 2016, 2:58 am

      Thanks Irit! Yes, I’m learning to strike a better balance. With all the travelling you’ve done, you must be a pro by now 🙂 Thanks for checking out the blog!

Leave a Reply