July 15, 2024


Air coast

Travel and photography go hand-in-hand.  If you travel, I’m willing to bet that you also take at least a few travel photos.  And if you are like most travelers, you often wish that your travel photos were just a bit more impressive.  But how do you improve your travel photos?  Read on ……………..

In a previous article on Travel Photography Tips I discussed the value of taking the  Classic Picture Post Card photo. That type of shot serves as a great introduction for your audience and helps them  anticipate the rest of your outstanding travel photos.

Post card photos are great for your travel album.  But if you want to take your travel photos to the next level you will need more than just great post card images. With that in mind, here’s another photo tip for your travel photography.


Travel Photography – Get Closer

My friend Dave, a fellow photographer, shared a quote with me attributed to Robert Capa who was a very well know war photographer and photo journalist in the 1940’s.  The quote: “If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.” 

Getting close allows you to add detail, emotion, and depth to your travel photography – not to mention variety. Start with your post card, “setting shot” and then move in to give the viewer that “up close and personal” view. Explore various aspects of the original shot with close ups – isolating elements and details.  A wide shot photo is nice, a close shot is good, and an even closer shot is often  better.   They all work together – complimenting each other and adding different dimensions of interest to your travel photography.

Below is an example of a wide photo of a park with old military equipment located in the center of Havana, Cuba.   It’s interesting.  You don’t see many old surface to air missiles lying about anymore.

Military park

But as I looked at the area and explored the space I found some other details which, when shown in close up, added a personal dimension to the park.


Lady Police

The female guard in the park can actually be seen in the original wide shot.  She’s just really tiny and lost in that image.  However, when captured in close up she stands out, giving a very nice counter-point to the weapons in a series of images on the military park.


2 Ways To Get Close Ups

There are, of course, two ways to “get closer” with your images.  One is to use  “optical” close up gear. The other?  Use your “pedestrian” close up gear. Yes, use your feet!


Optical Close-Ups

tripod title shot

Here’s a nice little telephoto lens that will bring your subject a bit closer!


“Optical gear” of course refers to lenses.  If you want to get close all you have to do is reach in the bag and get out the 70mm to 200mm zoom telephoto (below) or some other “long” lens like the really big one seen above.


(A 70mm-200mm, f2.8 telephoto is great for bringing subjects close – a bit on the large and heavy side, travel with it if you have room and don’t mind the weight.)

By varying your lens selection you can get close without moving from your shooting position.   There are certainly times when this is a great advantage.  Sometimes this is your only option.  If you are on a boat ride and want a closeup of something on the shore – it’s telephoto time. Telephoto lenses also help with close ups of people.  Shooting from a distance allows you to get an unposed closeup without disturbing or interrupting the social context – think people shopping, praying, playing, laughing, etc.

Nikon AFS-NIKKOR-28-300mm_f3.5-5.6GEDVR_front

(My favorite walk-about travel lens – the 28mm-300mm, f2.8-3.5 – sacrifices a bit from prime lenses or the 70mm-200mm but so much smaller and lighter. Very versatile and brings distant subjects up close.)

Even for posed portraits, a mid length telephoto lens (85m – 100m) allows you to get “tight” on your subject without creating tension by bringing the camera into the subject’s personal space.




What about your “pedestrian close up gear?”  It’s amazing, but sometimes photographers forget to use their legs.  If you want to get closer to your subject – well, you could just move in closer.  If the situation allows for it, there are advantages to walking up closer to your subject. If you are shooting with a nice prime lens ( fixed focal length ) – say a 50mm f1.4 – and you want to have a close up, yes you could change to a longer focal length lens or a zoom lens but with the optics of those lenses you will probably sacrifice something in image quality or lens speed.  Additionally, you will have to stop and swap out lenses which not only takes time but also requires that you open your camera, exposing it to possible dust on the sensor.  Instead, consider walking up closer to your subject. Hey – it’s good exercise! You’ll be able to take advantage of the great optical qualities of your prime lens.  And equally import – you will actually be physically closer to your subject.  Being close will give you the opportunity to really experience your subject in a more personal way.  You may quite possibly see and discover aspects that were not apparent from “way back there.”



Khajuraho 9

Above is a nice image of one of the spectacular temples in Khajuraho, India.  It’s a striking temple compound with some truly remarkable temples.  After getting this overall, “setting” shot, I walked a bit closer to get more detail.


Khajuraho 10

While I was climbing the stairs to the temple, a woman crossed my path with several of the temple features in the background.   After capturing the image I walked around the temple looking for even more detail.

Khajuraho 4

You never know what you will find when you get “up close.”  The temples at Khajuraho are know for their erotic decorations.

So follow the advice of Robert Papa – get closer and improve your travel photography.

Improve Your Travel Photography …… And Enjoy The Adventure!


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