How To Create Instagram-Worthy Travel Photos

Shelley DennisMay 29, 2018

How To Create Instagram-Worthy Travel Photos

Flipping through various Instagram accounts can turn you green with envy.  Does everyone but you have lives that are really that beautiful and carefree?  Are their vacations always filled with glistening beaches at sunset, gluttonous meals set on white linen table cloths, and couples waking to spectacular mountain views from their tents?

In a word, NO.  But they are showcasing only the best aspects of their daily lives.  No dirty laundry, no kids’ messes, no stress.  They have made a conscious effort to share an idealistic view of life.  It might not be your reality, but it gives you something to dream about!

Photo Tripping America - Instagram Worthy - Outdoorsy
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Whether you choose to snap photos of your kids playing in the mud or the campfire from your latest camping trip, you can capture better Instagram worthy images if you follow a few easy steps before hitting the shutter release button on your iPhone or Android phone.

Consider Instagram format

Remember that Instagram requires a square format for your images on your profile.  Pictures taken with a cell phone will be rendered as vertical or horizontal.

  • Will the composition of your picture fit in a square? Be especially concerned with this step if you are shooting close up images, because they will have to be cropped.  Why not move back or move the lens out a little and take the photo?  That will give you more options like zooming in to crop when loading it to Instagram.

Remember composition

The appeal of any image is usually dependent upon how well you capture the subject matter in your lens.  You can change that appeal drastically by changing the angle in which you shoot.

  • Tilting the camera up or down just a degree or two to highlight the background setting may give your viewers a better idea of the entire location.
  • Don’t snap people pictures from below the subjects, if possible. That angle tends to enhance distortions, like bigger noses and more double chins.  Everyone wants to look their best for posterity’s sake! ?
  • Capture small details along with the big picture.  Zoom in to snap a part of the larger image.  Look for patterns of interest, symmetry or one detail out of character with the rest of the picture.  Many times these small details convey a sense of place, especially when you fill the screen with a close up of the item.
  • Photo Tripping America - Instagram Worthy - Outdoorsy
    Photo Credit: Shelley Dennis

People pics

If you are photographing people for your Instagram feed:

  • Try to place them with their backs to the light source, so they aren’t squinting. Of course, you’ll need to shoot at an angle, so the light doesn’t flare in your camera lens.  You can use the flash feature to fill their faces with a little light, so they don’t end up in shadow.
  • It is also more appealing, for the most part, if the people in your images are doing something, not just posing. Hiking a forest trail, laughing like they don’t know they are on camera, participating in whatever your background is.  This enables the shots to look more professional and less staged.
  • When traveling take pictures of local people, especially as they interact with their environment.  It will add more authenticity and interest to your feed.
  • Photo Tripping America - Instagram Worthy - Outdoorsy
    Photo Credit: Pixabay

Action pics

If you want to capture movement in your images, the “burst” mode on your phone will deliver.  When used your camera can take about 10 frames per second, giving you 10 opportunities to select the perfect image of motion.

  • Try shooting a bicyclist from a low vantage point as they cycle by.  When you swipe back through the images, you get that sense of motion, but you can also select one of the 10 images for your Instagram feed.
  • City scenes with movement like traffic or crowded sidewalks can provide interesting imagery.
  • Try capturing images of people moving that cause objects to move, as well.  For instance, a baseball player sliding into home plate will send dirt into the air.  In this instance, be sure your composition is of the player, but make room in the shot for the dirt to fly.  The same thing happens when a swimmer jumps into a pool of water, or a child stomps his feet in a big puddle.  Action creates interest.
  • Another great use of the “burst” mode is getting someone else to take a picture of you on your phone.  Tell them to hold down the shutter button and 10 images will be shot in quick succession.  As the model, you can move and change your expression, then have 10 images to scroll through to select the one you most like!

Landscape pics

If your goal is to highlight the places you have been, then by all means, put them in their best light.

  • Don’t shoot into the sun.
  • If you have the option, capture your landscape before 10am or after 4pm. Any time in between will produce harsh overhead sunlight, casting shadows on your subject matter.
  • Decide what the focus is and compose your picture around it. Decide what feeling you wish to convey with your landscape and find a spot that will give your followers the same sentiment when they look at the image.  In other words, take some time to think about what you are photographing and what message you want to send.
  • Many times a landscape may not look as enticing on your phone as it did in real life.  You may need to add a bit of “pop” to the setting.  That is usually done by adding action, and action normally comes with people (unless a bear surprises you as he wanders through your image!).  So add your travel buddy, or ask a stranger to participate in the image.  Perhaps the silhouette of a couple walking hand-in-hand against that beautiful beach sunset is all that is needed for your image to take off.Photo Tripping America - Instagram Worthy - Outdoorsy
  • Photo Credit: Shelley Dennis

Tell a story

Maybe your goal is to tell a story without saying a word.

  • Most images that do this well involve people or action of some type. Remember the soldier impulsively kissing a passing girl on V-J Day in Times Square?  The background told a good deal of the story with a crowd of people, all moving toward the photographer.  Motion was conveyed with others walking by, and the clothing still speaks today of the time-frame in which the image was shot. Most compelling are the smiles on those around the couple, telling of the celebration and hope for a new era of peace.  Even the fact that the girl was wearing all white figured into the popularity of the photo, as noted by the photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt.  He had been snapping images of this same sailor as he kissed every woman in sight, but the white clad nurse narrowed the focus of this image and made it stand out. Eisenstaedt said if she had been wearing darker clothing, he never would have snapped this photo.
  • Think about the focal point of your images. If it is strong, it will speak to your followers.  Then give that point a sense of place and time.  You can tell a story with a simple cup of steaming coffee if you capture the beverage from the drinker’s point of view, with his or her hand around the mug and a view of the Sunday crossword puzzle on the table beyond.  Or the view from your vacation hotel balcony beyond.  Or the view of a cold winter’s night beyond.  Remember, the coffee cup is the focus, but its surroundings tell the story.
  • Tell a story with a series of images, presenting one morsel of the story with each picture you upload.  Think of each photo as an episode in the central character’s life.
  • Use your phone to share the story of your journey, capturing images throughout your travel, from beginning to end.  You don’t have to share every one of them on Instagram, but by snapping pictures along the way you will create a lot of subject material for your feed, and it will allow you to put the images together as a progressive tale of your travels.  Take shots of your mode of travel, be it by plane, train or automobile.  Get images of the people who help you along the way:  that waitress as she sets your dinner meal on the table, or the ticket clerk handing you a boarding pass.  And tell your followers about the activities you participated in or the ones you missed with unique shots from your point of view.  And remember, any good story has conflict and a resolution, so share what went wrong (or right) and how it was resolved in the end.
  • Photo Tripping America - Instagram Worthy - Outdoorsy
    Photo Credit: Shelley Dennis

Utilize Camera Apps and Filters

Although Instagram has some filters to enhance your photos, they are limited in scope.  Using an app like Snapseed or Camera Zoom FX gives you much more latitude to make your pictures more dramatic or altered.  And your phone may be equipped with several options to add interest to your images.

  • Turn a dull color image into a high contrast black and white
  • Add HDR filters to give your shots a more surreal three-dimensional look
  • Use “photo sphere” to shoot a panoramic image
  • Use lens blur
  • Straighten your image after it’s been taken
  • Add artistic flare by posterizing your photo
  • Change the shutter speed or ISO on your phone’s camera

    Photo Tripping America - Instagram Worthy - Outdoorsy
    Photo Credit: Shelley Dennis

Use a big camera, too

Even though Instagram images can only be added to your roll from the phone app, you can use a DSLR camera to capture difficult pictures that your phone might not be capable of capturing.

  • For instance, taking a long exposure image of the night sky is best done with a camera on a tripod and a remote or cable release. You can use those images on Instagram as well, by downloading the finished photo to your phone, then importing it into the app.  Dropbox is a good option, but there are any number of ways to transfer the image.  You’ll need to study the specifics for your own phone.

    Photo Tripping America - Instagram Worthy - Outdoorsy
    Photo Credit: Shelley Dennis

Make Infographics

You don’t have to have Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to create images with a literal message.  Easily add inspirational quotes, scripture, or short sayings to your snapshots with the following products:

Instagram Stories

Now you can also post images or videos that disappear after 24 hours on Instagram Stories.  This may be helpful in marketing your work, building an audience that will continue to tune in for your “stories” in real time, and creating anticipation for your followers, who await your next installment!  Just press the + by your profile picture in Instagram and use any of the suggestions here to tell your “story.”

Success with Instagram-worthy photos

You might use Instagram to document your RV travels, hoping family and friends can feel like they are on the journey with you.  And if you have started an RV rental business, producing captivating images of your rig will certainly entice new customers.  Show them the lifestyle they can be enjoying when they take your motorhome or trailer out for a vacation trip.  If you take the time to think about your photos before you take them using the suggestions listed here, your Instagram feed will get noticed more, and your acquaintances AND customers will wish you had invited them along!

Get snapping and don’t forget to use the hashtag #neveridle when you share your great photos of your Outdoorsy rental on Instagram.

I'm a mountain gal who gave it all up to hit the road full-time with my Golden Retriever, Sully. Together we explore the back roads of America, documenting the beauty of our country and the people that make her great!

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