A man takes a picture of an Indian woman.

We were so inspired by the 2013 Essence of Travel photography contest winners that we wanted to help you learn how to take your own award-worthy shots. Here are our top tips for better travel photography.

Carry the camera that's right for you

Don't worry about what other people are using. Carry a camera you know well and can use. You don't want to miss the perfect shot because you're setting up unfamiliar equipment or don't know how to turn the flash on (or off).

Use the light

There's a reason photographers call the time immediately after sunrise and before sunset the "golden" or "magic" hours—the sunlight adds warmth to your images. If you are only at a site in the middle of the day, try to use the shadows to create a range of brightness levels.

Burst setting

Burst setting allows the camera takes several (up to 10 or 20) photos in rapid succession. Particularly when you’re shooting action, it's amazing how much the photos can differ from each other. As the price of memory cards drop, this becomes easier to do. However, burst mode is both a blessing and a curse, as you end up with many photos of essentially the same thing.


Top travel photographers may take thousands of photos of the same place looking for that one perfect shot. They may also have the luxury of spending weeks or even months to get that shot—difficult when you only have a day or two to capture that perfect sunset. Still, even if you have a smaller collection of travel photos, it’s worth it to edit them down into a smaller, but highly select group of photos. If you watch photography editors at work—they quickly rock back and forth between similar photos and evaluate lighting, focus, the subjects’ position and the general photo composition. Ultimately, they select a "winner" and then start the process again until they have selected the best shot from each batch. Do the same and you’ll have a top-notch, well-curated photo collection to share with your friends and family (and maybe even photo contest judges.).

Protect your equipment

Finally, don't forget—protect your memories and your equipment from loss with travel insurance. Check the plan limits for cameras and video camera and add specific cover for your items if necessary.