Photo by Ali Ghorbani
Photo by Ali Ghorbani

As the world opens up and many of us jump on a plane to fulfill our passion for travel and exploration, it’s important to capture those memories and moments so we can look back on them from time to time. Having worked as a professional photographer for over 12 years, there are some experiences and lessons which I learned the hard way. In this article, I’d like to share them with you so that you can walk away with some amazing images from your trips!

Photo by Ali Ghorbani
Photo by Ali Ghorbani

Here are 5 pro photographer’s tips to share with you so you take better travel photos:

  1. Research
  2. Visit Local Markets
  3. Respect the local culture
  4. Travel Lite & Stay hydrated
  5. Make backups
Photo by Ali Ghorbani
Photo by Ali Ghorbani

1. Research

Before heading to any destination, especially for the first time, make sure to do some research. This will allow you to plan your journey better so that you can get those ‘non-touristy’ photos.

For example, if you want that epic image of balloons at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey, you need to know what time the sun rises, how to get to the best location and what equipment to carry with you! I spent the afternoon before this photo asking locals about potential locations and then scouting two of them before settling for the one I could reach more easily. I then googled the sunrise time and planned my shoot for the next morning, arriving at least 30-45 mins before sunrise.

Photo by Ali Ghorbani
Photo by Ali Ghorbani

2. Visit Local Markets

Local markets provide some amazing photography opportunities and it’s my first stop on all my trips. These markets are vibrant, full of life and filled with great photography subjects. In addition, you can get a great sense of the local culture and cuisine by visiting markets. During one of my trips to Bali, I came across a very talented artist in one of these local markets. He creates beautiful works of art by painting them on egg shells!

Photo by Ali Ghorbani
Photo by Ali Ghorbani

3. Respect the local culture

Remember, you are a guest in that country. If they are welcoming you with a smile, make sure to reciprocate. If you see all the shoes on the steps outside a temple, don’t be the guy to walk inside with your shoes on. If you want to photograph someone you don’t know, do not try and hide your camera and then ‘steal’ a shot. Not only do I make sure my camera is visible, I sometimes point to it as I approach the person. If I see their expression change or they use body language to say ‘No’, I respectfully smile, put the camera down and walk away. Not all countries are as welcoming to visitors as a country such as India for example.

Photo by Ali Ghorbani
Photo by Ali Ghorbani

4. Travel Lite and Stay Hydrated

It’s very easy to want to pack as much gear as you can in your bag. However, carrying that around on your back for hours at a time can take its toll on your body. I usually pack one camera body and a zoom lens, such as the Nikon D850 and my most trusted lens Nikon 24-70mm f2.8.

This gives me flexibility for some wide shots as well as closeup portraits if the opportunity presents itself. I usually pack this gear with a small towel and a bottle of water in a small camera bag that is not going to weigh me down, here is the one I use.

Photo by Ali Ghorbani
Photo by Ali Ghorbani

5. Make Backups

There’s nothing more frustrating than going out for a full day of shooting, getting some spectacular shots, and then your laptop or drive crashes during the trip! Not only is it super expensive to restore lost data, but the amount of time it can take is also tremendous. Please learn it from me and my colleagues who do this for a living: Make Backups.

I always carry 2-3 external USB hard drives with me on trips. After I have made full copies of my photos on each drive, I leave one in the hotel room safe, one inside my locked suitcase and I take one with me when I leave the room. In case of fire, theft or any other event that may happen, at least one copy is always safe. My go to brands for USB drives are Lacie and Seagate, usually in 2-4TB capacities.

In conclusion, I really hope these tips will help you improve your travel photography and travel experiences. Happy clicking!

Hong King-based Ali Ghorbani from Ali G Studios is a professional photographer who has travelled to over 32 countries and photographed A-list celebrities such as Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Shirley MacLaine. Having been mentored by the portrait photographer of The Queen of England and National Geographic photographers, Ali also gives international workshops in travel and portrait photography. You can check out his work at  aligstudios.com and IG: @aligphoto