Ever since I was a young girl I had wanderlust deep within my soul. The desire to explore new and unfamiliar places echoed loudly in my heart as it still does today. I was raised in both Europe and Southern Africa and the contrasting cultures of both places played a huge role in shaping my youth and cultivating within me a love of travel.

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Now that I am a mother and a photographer, my goal is to capture images for my kids that will preserve their childhood memories and provide them with easy access and an instant mode of transport back to the wonder years of their youth.

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Whether you are taking a family vacation or embarking on a trip of a lifetime, here are five ways to take better travel photos:

1. Travel light

While on the move I prefer to keep my photography gear to a minimum. There is nothing worse during a long day of sightseeing than to be bogged down with heavy equipment. I typically opt for my lighter lenses and one of my favorite go-to lenses while traveling is my inexpensive yet versatile 35mm f/2.0. I love the wider angle this lens offers and the small compact size is perfect while on the go. Always remember to bring extra batteries and flash cards.

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2. Venture off the beaten path

The French word “dérive” means to drift. I always keep this word in mind when I’m visiting somewhere new. Maybe it’s the loner in me, but I love to drift, to get lost on purpose and wander down quiet streets away from crowds and tourist traps in search of more authentic scenes. Become the observer as you blend into your surroundings to get a real feel for the place you are visiting. Allow you intuition to lead you and let composition, shadow and light aid you in telling the story of what is in front of you. Don’t hesitate to spend 20 minutes in one place just observing the goings on or ask a local for some suggestions for off the beaten path locations.

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3. Include details and textures

Capture smaller details in order to weave another layer of depth into the story. Don’t just aim to capture the picture postcard images of the Eiffel tower, for example, but look around and use your five senses to be the storyteller of your experience. It’s normal to want to fit as much into the frame as possible but take a step closer and break things down into smaller parts. The whole is the sum of its individual parts so don’t overlook the seemingly arbitrary details. Years from now when you look back at your images you wanted your senses to be reawakened as though you were there so think of ways to achieve this goal.

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4. Be mindful of the light

Good light makes for a great image so pick a time of day where the light in a place will be your friend. Early morning just after sunrise is my favorite time to venture out. In popular tourist destinations it’s often difficult to get away from the crowds but during this quiet time of day you are less likely to have this problem and you will have amazing light readily available. For me, observing locals as they start their day is a great way to feel connected to the place you are visiting. It’s a glimpse into real life in action verses the tourist version.

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5. Other ways to add interest

  • Use the rule of thirds in your composition.
  • Use lines to draw the eye into a scene or towards a focal point.
  • Look for a different perspectives and think outside the box.
  • Add people in your images to add interest and to highlight scale.
  • Embrace the shadows to create mood in you images and experiment with different lighting condition.

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Whether you are taking a family vacation or embarking on a trip of a lifetime, here are five tips to take better travel photos.