During our first five years of traveling together, which included living abroad and backpacking Europe, we took a lot of photos. But looking back, the two of us together weren’t in many of those photos.
We took a lot of great photos of the places we visited and the scenery we got to enjoy. Occasionally we took photos of each other but most of our travel photos gave us the same emotions as flipping through a travel book or magazine.
We appreciated the beauty and they were great reminders of our trip. However, despite knowing we took the photos and were there to experience it, we rarely go back and enjoy reviewing them. Mostly, we were left wishing we were in them.
Our travel photos then transitioned to selfies with the help of an an awesome invention called the selfie stick (ha!). While these were a little better because our smiling faces were in them, we then noticed that all our pictures were the same. Same smiles, same pose, different location. Selfies are fun, but not necessarily photos you enjoy framing and aren’t great at really portraying the memories you made while traveling.
Here’s an example:
We set out on our RV travels determined to capture better photos. We wanted to document our adventures the best way we could and come away with photos we’d be proud to share with others and will look back on for the rest of our lives.
We’re happy to report that we’ve accomplished this photography mission and are here to share our tips with you!
Think About the Main Objective of the Photo
Every photographer will tell you to always choose an object that is the focus of what you capture. Don’t just simply point and shoot. The same goes for couples travel photos. Typically, you’ll be taking a photo with a landmark of some sort – a beautiful view, a famous building or statue, a rock formation, etc.
The goal is to fit yourselves into the photo naturally in a way that makes sense for what the focus of the photo is. Try to pose in a way that captures the moment and the experience. Sometimes just standing together and smiling is perfectly fine. Other times, the photo can be greatly improved if you’re interacting with your surroundings. More on posing later in this post.
Just remember that you don’t want to compete with the object that is the focus of the photo. Some photos the two of you will be the focus but usually when traveling, you want to showcase the destination and find a way to fit into it for the photo.
That’s why selfies aren’t great because they are typically too close to your faces to really get the full picture of where you’re at. Zooming out a little will give you more perspective and allow you to capture the experience better. The challenge then becomes getting both of you in the photo. Which leads to our next tip…
How to Get Both of You in the Photo
You really only have two options when it comes to getting the two of you in the photo together. You can find someone to take it for you or you can use a tripod.
When we just want a quick photo of us smiling, we will typically just ask another tourist nearby. The easiest way to do this is to offer to take theirs in return. We call it “tit for tat” and majority of the time, people are happy to do such an exchange.
The problem is, you’re relying on other people to take a good photo. Unfortunately, the average person you run into on your travels does not have much experience or skills when it comes to photography. They will likely just point and shoot and the only expectation you can have is that you’re in the photo. So you can’t always rely on other tourists.
We typically prefer to use our tripod and not risk whether or not we can find someone to take our photo. It can be more awkward and uncomfortable to not be happy with the photo someone else takes and trying to get a re-do, that it’s just easy to pull out the tripod.
Technology on cameras makes it easier than ever to take your own photo using a tripod. Not only do cameras have self-timers that allow you 10 seconds or so to get in position, but many newer models even connect to your smart phone or Apple watch!
We use this feature all the time. Using an app, we can connect our phone or watch to the camera and see what we’re capturing! No more running back and forth to check the shot, set the timer, and get one photo at a time. With the capability of operating the camera from our phone, we can snap photos quickly as we change poses and then pick our favorite. So…much…easier!
Go the Extra Mile
Some shots or locations may require a little extra effort and won’t be as easy as setting up the tripod a few feet back. For example, you may want to get an elevated view and hike up a little ways to position the camera to capture different angels. Or, you may have to set up the camera quite a ways back to capture a tall or long landmark.
Whatever the situation may be, don’t let your laziness get in the way of capturing it. Take your time, if you’re willing, to get the best shot you can in the moment. Taking short cuts or being inpatient never pays off. But, you’ll be much happier with a photo that you went the extra mile for to fully capture.
Shoot During Golden Hour or During Sunset/Sunrise
Golden hour makes everything look better. It’s the period of daytime shortly after sunrise or before sunset. The lighting is much softer than parts of the day where the sun is higher in the sky. Shooting in the middle of the day can present challenges because you’ll typically have shadows that can distract and interfere with your photo.
Besides, the way the sun makes everything glow during golden hour is truly special and can really transform the look of a photo. You’ll also experience less crowds and therefore less waiting for a clear moment to capture your photo. Most tourists are out and about during the middle of the day, when the weather is the best for exploring. Capturing a sunrise or sunset can really make a photo extra magical as well!
Edit Your Photos
Even just a little editing can really go a long way to improving your photos. There are tons of different apps and programs you can use. While Adobe Lightroom is the most well known program that professionals use, you can find editing programs that are free and much less intimidating to use, if you prefer.
Shopify has a good list of the best free and low-cost photo editing software, services and apps. Regardless of what you use, just simply tweaking the exposure, highlights, shadows, and saturation of a photo can do wonders!
You can also take your editing to a new level to improving your photos. You can fix something about it that you’re not happy with, add in colors to make it more appealing, increase the clarity, etc. Even the most amateur photographers can look more professional just with editing alone.
There’s been a few times we’ve even used Photoshop to remove something from the background of our photo, like a street sign, or a child running around, or anything distracting. Sometimes you don’t even notice those things when you’re shooting. Heck, you can even fix a blemish on your face (guilty!).
Here’s a great example of a photo we transformed through editing because we were a little late with the daylight and it turned out too dark.
Photography and capturing memories should be fun. They definitely shouldn’t ruin a moment or a once in a lifetime experience because you’re obsessed with trying to capture the perfect shot.
Typically there is one person in the relationship that is less interested in photography or less comfortable being in photos. So if you’re the photographer out of the two of you, getting your partner to be willing to take a few photos can be challenging enough and you don’t want to make it any harder on them. If you’re the non-photographer in your relationship, try your best to be willing to participate in some capacity.
It’s a good idea to set some boundaries so you don’t spend your entire trip or experience trying to take photos. Our suggestion is to just focus on getting 1-2 that you’re happy with and then putting the camera away so you can enjoy yourselves and the moment. Also, set a time limit because you can spend an hour trying to get that one photo if you allow it. Boundaries will make the less involved person more willing to participate and be engaged.
It can be easy to get carried away when you’re witnessing a beautiful sunset or something rare, like wildlife. But more than anything, you want to fully experience it with your own eyes, not through a lens. No amount of photos will capture how it made you feel, so focus on enjoying that.
Choose the Right Clothing
This won’t always be necessary, but can make a big difference in a photo. If you’re visiting somewhere that has always been on your bucket list, those are going to be the photos you care most about. The photos you share with others and look back on for years to come.
If you’re wanting certain photos to look extra good, just like you did for engagement/wedding photos or any other photo shoots you’ve done, choose your clothing wisely. You want your clothing to compliment, not contrast, with the scenery you’re in.
Its up to you to choose the style you’re going for. For example, if you’re visiting the Eiffel Tower, you may want to dress up and look a bit more fancy. If you’re hiking a 14er, it may feel more fitting to wear active clothing.
However, there are lots of couples travel photos where the couple is wearing formal clothing in more of an outdoor setting and it looks incredible. So it’s really up to you and the look you’re going for.
Here’s a great example of a popular Instagram travel couple who choose great clothing and colors that really stand out in their photos. Again, this requires quite the wardrobe and isn’t realistic for many people. But, a great example nonetheless.
The point here is really that your clothing can make a different in a photo as well. Wear something you feel comfortable and confident it because it will show! Wear weather appropriate clothing as well and coordinate colors and pattern with your spouse/partner.
Take Photos in Landscape and Portrait
It’s always helpful to have two different orientations of your photos, when possible. Everyone typically shoots in landscape, but portrait can be better in some circumstances. Different orientations can capture different angles and features in the photo.
Also, if you’re a content creator/blogger or are trying to grow your social media, photos with a portrait orientation tend to perform better. They take up more space on a phone, which is what most people use to browse social media. So, the photo is more likely to catch the viewers attention and they are much more likely to engage with it.
On the flip side though, landscape photos look better on blog posts, so you’ll want both. Even if you’re photography is solely for yourself, you want some flexibility when it comes to framing your photos as well.
Don’t be Too Proud to Use Your Phone
Smart phones these days have pretty impressive cameras in them! In fact, there are sometimes situations in which we choose to use our iPhone over our camera. In certain lighting and scenery, a cell phone photo can sometimes do a better job capturing the shot. We even have a tripod with an attachment that can hold our cell phone!
Try not to feel insecure.
We still struggle with this one. It can feel a little uncomfortable and egotistical to set up a tripod and play around with different poses with other people around watching. You can wait for crowds to thin out so you have less of an audience, find a more secluded area, or just embrace and ignore it! Just remember that having a collection of photos of the two of you together on your travels will outweigh the awkwardness and totally be worth it!
Tips on Posing
Posing can be the most challenging part of getting unique couples photos. As we mentioned before, your photos will start to look the same if you’re always doing selfies or just standing and smiling together. You definitely want to mix up your poses, but it can feel really awkward at times.
Here are a few tips to help you feel creative and confident so you can take photos that are natural looking and that you both actually like the way you look.
Before you head out to take photos or go on an adventure, brainstorm some pose ideas based on what type of scenery or landmarks you’ll be capturing. We will sometimes do a Google or Pinterest search beforehand to get ideas. You don’t have to create new poses, just copy other cute couples photos!
For example, do a quick search for “couples hiking photos” and look at the different ideas you instantly have available to you. You can do the same with whatever activity you’re planning to do, such as “couple on a cruise” or “couple sitting by a campfire”, etc.
You also don’t have to be a model to pose well, you just have to know the basics of posing. Good posture is most important. Always stand up tall and remember that angles are everything. Don’t stand straight on to the camera, turn slightly to the side and just square up your head and/or shoulders, to make your body look more flattering.
Be careful of the double chin look, too. Hold your chin forward slightly and elongate your neck. Put your hands on your hip or in your pocket to give some separation make your arms look slimmer, while also making your posture look more natural and relaxed. You can find tons of articles and videos on posing tips to make you look your best!
When it comes to posing as a couple in a way that can compliment the scenery, the key is to involve movement and action. Try to move around as your posing and interact with your environment in the most natural way possible. If there’s water, splash around or dip your feet in. If there’s a scenic overlook, capture the two of you looking off at the view. A trail or pathway? Walk as you shoot.
A trick to help you capture more natural poses and movement is to hit record on your camera and take a video. Once you start recording, move around in the frame and interact with each other and what’s around you. You only need about a minute of footage. Then, you can select a specific frame from the video to pull out a photo from.
This strategy is going to work better on a camera with particularly good video capabilities however, since you don’t want blurry photos from moving too fast for the camera to shoot quick enough. We love this technique though because then we also have the video to use for other projects!
Traveling and the experiences it brings is one of the greatest things couples can do together. But once you leave a place, all you have left are the memories and the photos. We hope these tips help you capture beautiful photos of you two together that you can be happy with and reminisce over for many years to come!