Travel Photography

Do you know what a huge eyeopener was to me? Anyone can take great photos. Read that again: anyone can take great photos. You do not have to be a professional photographer to take better photos! You don’t even need the most expensive camera and camera gear. Simple changes as a different position and a good composition already make a big difference!
If you want to take better photos, pay attention to your composition.
If you want to make great photos, set your camera on manual mode and start shooting in RAW file format. When you shoot in RAW this will give you the best opportunities to edit later on.
If you want to take excellent photos, invest time, energy and keep photographing and learning.

If you have never taken photos in manual mode before, it can be quite overwhelming at the start. However, if you follow the step-by-step instructions I will provide in the next two months, all will be clear.

I started in 2019 taking photos in manual mode and trying to understand aperture, ISO value, and shutter speed. It took me ages to set up my camera and I was very insecure. Especially when you are photographing kids, you want to be fast since kids, in general, do not want to pose for longer than a few seconds to minutes. So I just let the kids play while I was setting up my camera and when I was finished I asked them to stand in my frame. After a few months, I started to understand my settings and I was able to switch quickly with my settings depending on the scene I wanted to capture. I also took several courses (Zoom Academy, Kijk en Zie Fotoschool, and courses by Tim Shields) to improve my photography skills.

In this section I will go through several camera settings (Aperture, ISO, Shutter speed), I will discuss composition and I will also provide several examples on how to capture your best travel moments in a great way. I will discuss landscape photos, sunset photos, photos at the beach, and much more!

Camera Settings


Photography means writing with light and you need to understand and know how to write best with light and make great photos.
The three determinants that determine the exposure in your photos are:

  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO

In this article I will discuss each of these determinants extensively.


What is Aperture?
Aperture is defined as the opening in a lens through which light passes to enter the camera. Aperture has several effects on your photography.

How aperture affects exposure
With a large aperture, the opening in your lens is bigger and allows more light to reach your camera sensor. This results in a brighter image. A large aperture corresponds with a lower f-number or f-stop (e.g., f/2, f/4).
With a smaller aperture (e.g., f/12, f/16), the opening in your lens is smaller and allows less light to reach your camera sensor.

Here are some photos taken with a different aperture to show the effect on light and exposure.

It is obvious your photos will turn out brighter with a larger aperture and darker with a smaller aperture.

How aperture affects depth of field
Besides the amount of light that is able to reach the sensor, aperture also controls depth of field and can add a huge creative feature to your photos in this way.
Depth of field is the part in your photo that is sharp from the foreground to the background.
You will achieve that wonderful blurred foreground and blurred background around your in-focus subject with a large aperture. This is what most people aim to achieve when shooting a portrait or when they want to isolate a subject.
With a large aperture, you will see more blur to your foreground, background and thus less depth of field. This is often called bokeh.
With a smaller aperture (e.g., f/8 – f/14) , more of the photo will be sharp and in focus. A smaller aperture means more depth of field. You will capture sharp photos from the foreground to the far horizon. Keep in mind that any object with the same distance to the lens will be equally sharp.

Have a look at the photos below to understand how aperture affects the depth of field.

How aperture affects sharpness

Have a look at the photos below to understand how aperture regulates sharpness. The photo on the left only has the flowers in focus and sharp, with a blurred foreground and background. The photos in the middle and in the right have much more details in focus and sharp, from front to back.

You cannot increase aperture to the maximum and expect the sharpest photos. At a certain point, there will be too little light allowed to pass through the lens which results in a less sharp photo. This phenomenon is called diffraction. Whenever this happens depends on a variety of factors, like the size of your sensor. Usually it is not advised to set your aperture higher than f/16. You can try it out with smaller apertures on your own lenses to investigate at which aperture diffraction happens.

It will also probably happen that your lenses are blurrier at some apertures, or in the corners of your photos. This is called lens aberrations, meaning problems caused by your lens. Some lenses are of higher quality than others, still this is a problem almost inevitable. Most lenses produce the sharpest captures around f/4 – f/8.

In short:

  • Aperture regulates the exposure (brightness) of your photos. A large aperture will result in a brighter image.
  • Aperture controls depth of field. A large aperture results in less depth of field.
  • Aperture affects sharpness. A large aperture means less sharpness in your photo. 

How to pick the right aperture?
When you shoot landscapes, you will want as much as possible to be in focus. I would recommend an aperture of f/8 to f/13. A small aperture results in more depth of field. When shooting at sunrise or sunset, a lot of light will enter the lens so you can choose a higher aperture (f/11 , f/12). In the landscape photo below, I used a small aperture to make sure my foreground and background were as sharp as possible.

If you want to achieve a starburst effect with the sun, you need to decrease your aperture (f/12-f/16). The shape of the starburst depends on your aperture blades and is different from lens to lens.

When you want to photograph architecture or a group of people, you can choose an aperture of f/8-f/11 in order to have everything or everyone sharp. Stand at a distance to your subject.

When you shoot a portrait, you probably want to isolate your subject and set your aperture to f/2.4 – f/5.6. Use a tripod at larger apertures (lower than f/4), focus on your subject and ensure a big distance between your subject and the background for a blurred effect.

The best way to fully understand aperture, is to start practising. Choose aperture mode on your camera, focus on your subject and start shooting with variable apertures. Good luck!

Type of Photography








Different scenario's

Flying birds around

When you want to capture birds flying around a person, you should decide where you want to capture the scene.

  1. Take a low position and shoot hand-held or set up a tripod if it is difficult to stay low and focused.
  2. If you want a bit of a blurred background, you can set your aperture to 4.0. I wouldn’t recommend a lower aperture, since it might become difficult to capture fast-moving birds sharply. If you prefer to have more sharpness in your photo, you can set the aperture at 5.0-7.1. Just remember, with a higher aperture there will be less light that reaches your camera sensor.
  3. You need a fast shutter speed, 1/1600 to 1/2000 to freeze the movement of the birds and reduce motion blur. It also depends on which birds you capture, they are not all equally fast. A fast shutter speed means a very short time span to collect light.
  4. When you have a high shutter speed and a high aperture, you are very likely to get a dark photo. To compensate for this, you can either shoot in broad daylight and/ or increase your ISO value. The ISO value determines sensitivity to light. Typically an ISO value of 100 is recommended, however under these circumstances, you will probably need a much higher ISO value, maybe even 1000 or more. Do not increase more than necessary since a higher ISO value decreases the quality of your photo. Another option is to keep the ISO value at automatic mode so the camera adjusts ISO according to light conditions.
  5. If you want to capture a flying bird, I would advise to set the metering mode for determining the exposure to: spot metering or centre-weighted metering. However, if you plan to capture a subject with birds it is better to choose multi metering mode.
  6. Make sure to use continuous focusing mode. The camera will detect the movements and refocus accordingly to keep the subject sharp. 
  7.  Turn on VR/Image stabilization on your lens when this is an option to reduce camera shaking when hand holding.
  8. Focus on your subject. If you want to capture flying birds in the sky, you should follow the birds with the camera, but that is a different scenario.
  9. Capture the action in continuous shooting mode.

I photographed my youngest son at Piazza del Duomo in Milano. He attracted the pigeons by throwing two hands full with pieces of bread in the air at once. They flew all around him, he was not scared and it was such an exciting scene to watch! I didn’t have issues with the brightness of the photos since this was shot in broad daylight. I chose to shoot in Manual mode , but shutter mode is also possible. 

  • Camera and lens :Sony alfa 7R/ Zoomlens         
  • Camera Settings: 24-105 mm/ f/4 / ISO200 / 1/2000

Do you want to know how we travel? Get your free checklist now!

Join the Travel Family Community