Travel photography is an incredibly rewarding hobby or profession. Seeing your photos in magazines, newspapers or even websites can fill you with a sense of pride and achievement. But great photos don’t happen by accident – well most of the time anyway. Sure you might get lucky every now and again. But in the vast majority of cases the photographer has planned and worked incredibly hard to capture that image. So if you want to improve your travel photos, here are 5 common travel photography pitfalls to avoid.

Two women looking at view of Alhambra and Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada, Andalucia, Spain, Europe
  1. Turning Up Having Done No Research

The first step to any successful travel photography shoot is research and planning. I would start my research for a shoot the moment that I have confirmed the trip. Sometimes this might be a year in advance. Once you have an idea of the location you need to start by putting together a shot list to cover off. How big the shot list will be will depend on the location and more importantly the time you have.

People cycling by the river Rio Guadalquivir, with Triana district in the background, Seville, Andalusia, Spain, Europe

Start by reaching the location and the sights, experiences, local customs and traditions and even food. Make a list of things that are vital to capture to be able to showcase that destination. Then have a look online to see the sort of images that already exist. The idea is to try and think of new and innovative ways to showcase the things which have been photographed many times. The more you know about a destination, the more likely you are to capture great photos.

Sunset, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, Europe
  1. Not Photographing In The Best Light

Light is one of the most important components of any photo. The most beautiful scene will look dull and uninteresting if it’s under a blanket of white cloud. So always try to plan your shoots at a time in the year that will give you the best conditions.

Once you are on location, aim to photograph every scenario in the best light that is possible. Of course, sometimes you will have to compromise. But missing the perfect light in an afternoon because you are tired or sitting having dinner shouldn’t be an option. So, always aim to photograph anything in the best light that you can.

View of the city at night, Zagreb, Croatia, Europe
  1. Not Being Patient

It’ll be very rare that you will turn up somewhere and have everything in place for a perfect photo. If it does happen, count yourself lucky and capture the photo. In most cases, you will have to wait for the conditions and your composition to come together. Sometimes this might be a few minutes, whereas other times it might be hours or even weeks and months. You might have to go back to a location again and again before you can capture the photo that you want.

For example, you might need a point of interest in your shot to give it context. Or it could be that the light is too harsh and so you must wait for the afternoon. Or it could be that there are building works in front of you and so you have to come back at a different time in the year.

Cattle in Fort Worth Stockyards, Texas, United States of America, North America
  1. You’re Not Ready

This might seem like a contradiction to the above. Afterall, we’ve just learned why being patient is so important. But there are times that speed if of the essence. You may have a fleeting moment in front of you that will disappear if not captured there and then. In these scenarios you have to work quickly so you need to be ready. This means having your camera turned on, with the lens cap off and out of your bag. The last thing that you will want to be doing is trying grab your camera out of your bag in a rush.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour beside Moscow River in early evening, Moscow, Russia, Europe

It is also a good habit to get into to make sure that your settings in your camera are set to approximately what you are going to need. This means throughout the day tweaking them when your environment changes. For example, if you are heading into a dark covered market out of bright sunshine, you likely need to raise you ISO. By having your camera constantly updated you are more likely to be ready when you need to be.

People looking at the view of city from the top of Metropol Parasol, Seville, Andalucia, Spain, Europe
  1. You Are Too Far Away

The famous Hungarian war photographer, Robert Capa once said, “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. This is often the most common feedback that I give my students on photography tours and workshops. Often not getting closer is due to fear of getting caught taking a photo. But ask yourself what is creepier, someone hiding around the corner taking photos or standing in front of someone and taking a photo in plain sight?

Triana Market, Triana district, Seville, Andalusia, Spain, Europe

There is nothing wrong with photographing a subject from further if that is how you want the composition to look, i.e. it’s done on purpose. But if you are doing it out of fear, then you are letting down your photos. So, don’t be afraid to get closer. The worst that could happen is that the person you are photographing will ask you not to.

Damrak, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe


These are just some of the most common travel photography pitfalls that I have come across over my career. The great thing is that all of these are pretty easy to rectify so as long as you practice and continue learning you should avoid these in the future. But for now, if you can avoid these travel photography mistakes, then you should see an improvement in your photos.


Kav Dadfar is a professional travel photographer based in the UK. His images have been used by clients around the world such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, American Express, and many others. Kav also leads photo tours around the world teaching people how to improve their photography. Join him on his latest 11 day epic photo tour of Scotland in May 2019. Find out more at

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