It Can Be Done: How to Take Travel Instagram Photos Like a Pro

There’s nothing we love more than a mini-escape to a remote tropical island or a far-flung destination with culture galore, but when we can’t get the real thing, we depend on our daily Instagram feed. This little dose of sunshine, inspiration, and fantasy really gets us through the workweek.

But unlike most of our iPhone-rookie work, snapping awe-inspiring travel images for Instagram is a real art, a learned skill. So before you hop on a plane or hit the road for your next holiday, take some camera cues from travel blogger and image extraordinaire Jaharn Giles of Mister Weekender, and get clicking. Ahead, she shares her top tips for capturing the magic on your next vacation so you’ll relive the memories even when you’re back at home.

How to Take Instagram Photos

Get Up Early

Magic hour is my favorite time of the day. It’s also the best time to shoot, so get outdoors one hour before sunrise and one hour before sunset. The lighting is incredible, as is the lack of tourists.

Use Your Camera

No, not your phone camera. Use your SLR camera. If you take an amazing photo on your SLR while traveling, upload it to Instagram. 

Instagram Photos

Always Ask

Don’t be shy about taking photos of people on your travels, but always ask. It’s impolite if you don’t. Plucking up the courage is daunting, but the worst they can say is no.

Practice and Watch

Photography is a lot of fun, but it’s also challenging. Before you go on a holiday, research techniques, attend workshops, watch how-to videos on YouTube, and practice. Improving your craft will make snapping on your travels rewarding.

Best Camera for Instagram

Use Editing Apps

Don’t destroy a travel photo on Instagram with multiple filters, but do use photo-editing apps to enhance the brightness, sharpness, and contrast. My favorites are Snapseed and Afterlight. Find your editing style, and keep this consistent. 

Shoot Straight

Ever taken a photo of a beautiful landscape only to find later on that you weren’t holding your phone straight? Don’t worry—you’re not alone. Luckily, Snapseed, Afterlight, and Instagram have a straightening function. Saved!

Instagram Photo Editor

Choose Your Background

When you travel, you’re often spoiled with choices when it comes to taking photos. So when picking your background, look for lots of texture and color. 

Get Into Nature

Get outside and into nature on your travels. Hike trails, climb mountains, explore forests, and swim in waterfalls. These are all perfect locations for awesome Instagram snaps.

Instagram Photo

Take Natural Shots

Sometimes posed photos on your travels can lack a certain authenticity. Shoot your subject doing something from his or her normal daily life; crossing the street, exploring a marketplace, and lunching with friends are great places to start.

Take Photos in a Square Frame

Remember, Instagram images can appear in a square, so shoot your travel moments in a square frame. This will ensure you perfectly package everything into the photo and have it all ready for Instagram upload. 

Pictures for Instagram

Use the Rule of Three

When taking photos on your travels, divide the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, otherwise known as the rule of three. It’s well known in photography circles that if you place the subject along these lines or at their intersections, it creates more interest in your images.

Photograph a Variety of People

Photograph people dressed in national costume as well as locals handpicking fruit in a market—mix it up between men and women, children and adults to get a variety of photos.

Instagram Pictures

Get Higher

This is my favorite tip because shooting Instagram photos from higher ground equals an amazing view. Try it!

Lighting is King

The difference between good lighting and bad lighting is simple—natural light. Always shoot in natural light, and avoid using flash on your phone. If you still can’t quite get the image bright or light enough, simply use the brightness tool in a photo-editing app before you upload the picture to Instagram.

Instagram Travel

Use a Great Caption

Even though Instagram is a photo app, sometimes (if not all the time) the caption is just as important. Use puns, humor, and emotive descriptions to connect with people.

Get an Olloclip

If you don’t have an SLR or you only want to take photos using your phone on your travels, buy an Olloclip. This clip-on lens can change the view on your phone and make your photos even more incredible for Instagram. Get a wide lens; it changed my life!

Best Instagram Accounts

Get Off the Beaten Path

Some of the best photos I’ve taken have been when I explored beyond the beaten path. Road trips are perfect for taking photos where there is no one other than you and the landscape in front of you.

Give Perspective

To give a subject perspective, whether it’s a waterfall, a mountain, or a bustling city, get a person to stand in your photo wearing a bright top or jacket (red works best in nature) to give the photo perspective.

Travel Photography

Book Hotels with Great Views

If you find yourself looking for a hotel, do some extra research to see what views it has on offer. There’s nothing better than being able to shoot from the comforts of your hotel room.

Don't Stop Traveling

It’s simple. To take the best travel photos, don’t stop traveling and exploring. Whether it’s your own city, a road trip out of town, or an adventure abroad, never stop moving and taking photos to share on Instagram. Practice makes perfect.

Travel Photography Tips

Get snapping on your next trip with our favorite photography accessories below.

Waterproof iPhone 6/6s Case
Lifeproof Waterproof iPhone 6/6s Case $44 $29

Don't leave home without a case that will withstand the weather and any hazardous selfie situations. 

Lo & Sons Claremont Leather Camera Bag $298 $179

Camera bags can be clunky but this one is chic and looks just like a beautiful leather purse. Win, win.

Core Lens Set for iPhone
Olloclip Core Lens Set for iPhone $100

Be sure your photos look Insta-worthy with this easy-to-use lens—it clips onto your phone's lens and amplifies the quality to SLR status.

Nikon D5200 Digital SLR Camera $529

If you really want to step it up, then shoot your photos on a quality SLR then upload them to your Instagram account later. It's time-consuming but the quality is worth it.

Next up: 9 Instagram-Worthy Food-Styling Tips from a Pro.

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