6 Travel Photo Tips From the Polkadot Passport

We got the chance to pick Australian photographer and travel blogger Nicola Easterby's brain about how to take better pics while traveling.


If there's anything our 140-character-limit society can get behind, it's the phrase, "A picture is worth a thousand words." While writers, bloggers, and even mildly literate people might at times be hard pressed to agree, we also can't help but love a good Instagram.

And if you're constantly wanderlusting (like we are), chances are you're also always looking to capture that immeasurably perfect snapshot of your experience. I can't think of a better way of looking back on an inspiring trip, as well as recalling the mindset it put you in, than by combing through photos taken while on your travels.

Plus, you know you're already tacking on more beautiful and photogenic locations to that must-see bucket list.

The beauty of travel photography, then, is that while a snapshot can't possibly take you back to that particular moment in time, it can capture the experience forever in a timeless yet tangible way. Whether it's that image never to be deleted off your camera roll, or an actual piece of the ancient artifact known as film (gasp), it's tactile proof that you were there.

So while we're major proponents of enjoying every moment for what it is, while it is, we also have to ask: Why not take the best photos you can while you're there?

That's where Nicola Easterby, sojourning soul, expert adventurer, and owner of the popular Polkadot Passport travel blog, comes in. As an uber talented travel photographer and Aussie-born fashionista, Nicola gave us some seriously invaluable advice on how to take better photos while we're traveling.

Because if you're a chronic globe-trotter, you don't have time to wait around while you're wanderlusting. Often it's a quick click-it-and-go wherever you are, and then on to the next one.

1. Think outside the box.

We've all seen those touristy and by now fairly typical travel photos. When we asked Nicola for insight on how to get different angles or make "cliche" travel photos stand out from the rest, she replied, "Getting unique travel photos is all about thinking outside the box! There are a few ways to do this.

The first is to avoid the typical vantage points that everyone takes photos from and try to seek out a less populated spot. Often this involves something a little uncomfortable like climbing a fence or standing in a bush, but it's always worth getting out of your comfort zone to get the shot!

My second tip is finding something to put in the foreground of your shot. Whether it is a person, your feet or even an ice cream cone, you'll create a more engaging image by having a focus to your shots."

6 Travel Photo Tips From the Polkadot Passport
Polkadot Passport

2. Remember: You don't always have to shoot everything during the day.

When we asked Nicola what she thinks is the most common mistake travelers make when it comes to photography, she responded, "Shooting everything during the day! Everyone seems to take travel shots when the sun is at its brightest, creating high contrast photos with harsh shadows, which isn’t always the most aesthetically pleasing look. Instead head out at sunset or sunrise, and you’ll see the whole world in a new light – literally.

Commonly referred to as the golden hour, every place will become a million times more magical as the sun sits low in the sky and illuminates the world with its golden glow. Your photos will look a million times better – I promise!"


3. Prioritize photo opportunities to get your most memorable shots.

We've all had that moment of getting back after a trip and having a million and one photos to comb through. Nicola tells us that she gets her best shots by picking and choosing photo opportunities.

"I've really had to learn to not go snap-happy at every opportunity," she shares. "Now, once I get the shot, I walk away, rather than taking ten photos of the same scene. This cuts down the culling process and makes life so much easier in the long run!

The other thing I've learned to do is delete the shots I'm not going to use. If it's a double up, anyone is blinking, it's out of focus, blurry or terribly composed it goes straight to the bin. Otherwise you end up wasting far too much storage on useless photos."

4. Maximize iPhone photography by using the right apps.

It's still possible to get amazing photos even if you don't have a nice camera or aren't planning to bring one with you on your travels.

"Editing can make the biggest difference to your photos and can often disguise the fact they were taken on an iPhone!" Nicola reveals. "My favorite photo editing app is Snapseed; it’s a free app that will work wonders to make your images pop. Try the ambience tool to bring out the colors in your photos and the structure tool to bring out the clarity/ textures and make your photos look super sharp.

My other two most regularly used apps are Afterlight and VSCOcam. Both have a great range of really nice filters you can apply to your photos. I would always recommend tweaking a filter's settings and opacity when applying them to your photos: Not every filter works on every photo and sometime you just need to tone them down a little to make them work."

6 Travel Photo Tips From the Polkadot Passport
Polkadot Passport

5. Streamline your Instagram by tailoring your feed.

When posting travel shots and/or just in general, being selective with your feed will only lend to your overall aesthetic.

"Being selective with which shots you post is really essential," Nicola tells us. "Valuing quality over quantity well help you maintain an Instagram that is a portfolio of your best work. Posting a variety of shots is great; mixing things like landscapes, details, people and food will create a more engaging feed then repeatedly posting photos of the same thing. However, try maintain some consistency through editing, composition and the physical quality of each shot."


6. Make an effort to take a better selfie while traveling.

Trust us, you'll be glad you stopped using the front cam on your iPhone as the one and only mode of self-portraiture on your trip.

"Stop using your selfie cam!" Nicola advises. "Unless you are really aiming for travel shots consisting 90% your face and 10% of the amazing place you are in... The only way I justify taking a selfie whilst traveling is by using my GoPro on a selfie stick. The wide-angle lens of the GoPro means you actually get a fair amount of background in to the shot and is perfect for an action shot, whether you are riding an elephant or cliff jumping in Santorini."

6 Travel Photo Tips From the Polkadot Passport

Follow Nicola on Instagram and Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog for more of this world wanderer's adventures.