I take travel photos. I've never put on make-up for a photo. Usually, I'm hiking, sweating, probably unshowered and may or may not have shaved my armpits in the last three days. I have a decent camera, but about 50% of my Instagram photos are shot with my iPhone 5s because I'm too lazy to carry all my camera equipment up a mountain.

My travel snapshots include being in a beautiful place, taking some photos, and hoping one turns out decent enough to make it to my Instagram page.

So are photos on Instagram fake? Depends on who you ask. But not mine.

The world of photo-sharing is an interesting one. There are those who share solely for the 'likes', there are those who tell stories, those who share memories, those who share pets, landscapes, selfies, and inspiration cartoon quotes.

In the world of Instagram, it is arguable that pictures are fake. "Travel" Instagrams are nothing more than a posed, glamorized, over-edited photo that completely diminishes that reality of a destination.

True? Eh, for some people.

However, sharing travel photos that aren't posed, glamorized, or over-edited but that are still breathtakingly beautiful is still completely do-able. Take photos, as you are, with who you're with, without wearing designer clothes or doing your makeup.

So how do you take simple travel photos and turn them into travel photography?

1) Rule of Thirds

Having the subject constantly in the middle of the photo is boring. In photography, the "Rule of Thirds" can be best described as a grid that overlays a photo and pinpoints where in the frame the subject is.




In the above photo, you can see the subject is in the bottom-right corner. What is in the middle? Absolutely nothing, but that's what makes the photo more appealing to the viewer's eye.


2) Don't over-pose



Looking stiff and overly posed is usually a photo-killer. Truth is, there are way too many people in the Instagram world that like to try and become Instagram-models. We are not Instagram-models. I eat way too much ice cream for that shit.


3) Be natural 



This goes hand-in-hand with posing. If you are on the beach watching a sunset, have a friend or self-timer catch you standing in the waves. This is something you would naturally do, which gives the photo a sense of "realism".

When you are getting your photo taken, you usually know your photo is being taken. This can make it hard to "be natural". How do you overcome it? Laugh. Let your friends call you out on your pose. Be the picture taker that takes the picture when your friend laughs at themselves. A real picture is always better than a yoga-pose.


4) Take it easy on the filters



Instagram filters are great for selfies, but lack appeal with natural photos. Unless a skilled editor in Lightroom or Photoshop, playing around with filters can lessen your photos appeal and the realness of the moment.


5) Avoid other people

Photos are more dramatic and appealing when there aren't dozens of other tourists in the photo. Get creative with angles or wait for a break in the crowd. While visiting Annecy, France I was attempting to get a beautiful person-free photo. After waiting a few minutes and realizing the streets weren't clearing of crowds like this:


I turned my attention to a small riverwalk about five steps away and shot this:



6) Be a little crazy

Sometimes you've got to risk it to get the biscuit. The photo below is the perfect example.




What you see: me balancing on the edge of a cliff (not always recommended). What you don't see: Josh hanging off the cliff to get the photo.

I'm not saying you should risk your life for an Instagram shot, although I'm sure news outlets would love another story of social media killing a millennial. What I am saying is pay attention to shots and angles that will create a sense of "awe".


7) Communicate with your photographer



Both Josh and I love travel photos, but we are unique in how we like to edit/shoot. We communicate with each other the angle and direction of the photo we want. Don't hand your camera to someone assuming they'll see the same photo you see. Hold the phone in the exact spot and position you want it before handing it off to assure it's exactly what you've envisioned.


8) Learn to edit

Capturing the photo is step number one. Editing the photo is the second (but still equally as important) step. However, you don't need to purchase fancy-editing software. Editing a photo simply in Instagram is enough.

Here is an unedited photo:


Here is the same photo after editing on Instagram:




  1. Dave Mull on December 6, 2016 at 3:43 AM

    Great tips. A good refresher for an old dog who takes a lot of pictures.

  2. Bruce Gezon on December 9, 2016 at 1:34 PM

    Get tips! Thank you!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.