Let’s be honest. The most important part of traveling is taking quality photographs for Instagram.

For the past eight years, I have been working as a freelance travel photographer and teaching photography at universities and other schools. The secret to good photography involves patience, practice and strong composition.

Here are my top five tips for polishing your photo skills on your next adventure:

1.     Composition: The easiest way to make your images standout is to focus on strong composition. Focus on cropping out distractions and filling the frame with only essential elements. Use your camera angle to create depth, perspective, scale and balance. Use leading lines to guide the eye around the frame. Use negative space to your advantage by framing a subject or creating a mood. In the photo above, I used the curve of the stairs to grab the viewer’s attention and lead their eye through the image from bottom to top.

2.     Clean Backgrounds: I have a stalker. He wears a neon green poncho and purposely photo bombs my images everywhere I go. I’m sure you’ve seen him around. He’s the slowest walker EVER. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to make him disappear. It’s really simple – changing my angle. For example, shooting from a low angle can remove distracting elements from the image by covering them with something in the foreground. Keep an eye out for other distractions like power lines and tree limbs.

3.     Chase the Light: Here’s a pro tip: Hold your hand into the light to determine the direction and type of shadows. This allows you to choose the best angle and position your subject appropriately. Never shoot directly into the sun unless your goal is a silhouette.

Pay close attention to the quality and direction of both natural and artificial light. Avoid portraits in harsh mid-day light because it produces dark, unflattering under eye shadows. The best time of day for photography is known as the “Magic Hour” – thirty minutes after sunrise and before sunset when light is golden, softer and more dynamic. In the image above, the light was overcast and the clouds really completed the scene.

4.     Get Closer: Renowned photojournalist Robert Capa once said, “If your images aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Unless you have the iPhone 7 Plus, avoid using the zoom on your phone. It significantly decreases the quality of your image. Climb on a wall, lay on the grass or do whatever it takes to get the perfect shot without using the zoom. Besides, you’ll have a better story behind your photo!

5.     Compose & Wait: You know that feeling. You’ve found the perfect setting for a photo but something’s not quite right. Maybe the light’s a bit too harsh, the space is too empty or the guy in the green poncho won’t leave. Be patient. Observe your surroundings and anticipate movement. If the light is not improving, consider coming back at a different time of day. In the photo above, I found a street I loved in Havana, Cuba then waited for a car to complete the image.

Anna Mazurek is one of The Travel Women Ambassadors and a travel photographer and writer based in Austin, Texas. Follow her adventures and travel advice Instagram and at TravellikeAnna.com.

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