Travel Photography is an incredible and rewarding experience, but sometimes finding inspiration can be a challenge.
Below, I’ve put together 19 different projects you could use when you find yourself needing ideas on what to photograph while you’re out traveling.
1. Neighborhood Project
It’s difficult to capture the character of an area in a short amount of time. All too often, when we try to photograph every corner of a place in one visit, we end up with mediocre images.
For a more meaningful experience, focus on a single neighborhood instead. Take the time to understand the place you’re visiting. Explore one location by staying at the heart of a location, eating at local restaurants, and walking around the neighborhood.
As you wander the streets and alleys, you’re bound to discover secluded places that get missed by more casual travelers.
Another advantage of this project is repetition. It often takes several visits to a location, and several photos, before you get the right one. This is one of the biggest challenges photographers face in travel photography.
One way to circumvent this problem is by focusing on a small neighborhood. With less ground to cover, you’ll be able to have more time to come back to a location multiple times.
By doing so, you’ll get to study your subject more carefully.
For example, you’ll have more time to explore your subject from different angles. Some angles make better compositions than others, and coming back gives you a chance to see it with fresh eyes.
You’ll also have more time to examine how and where the light colors your subjects. You’ll learn which type of light at what time of day works best in bringing out the essence of your subject.
Finally, with this project, you may discover new friends as you become more familiar with the locals. They may even provide you with suggestions about things you could photograph while you’re there.
2. Make it Personal
This project involves taking images of something personal to you. This could be a place, person, or thing.
For example, if you’re traveling with friends, you can make them the main subject of your photography trip. Document how they’re experiencing the journey. Which part of your travel makes them laugh and which ones they find unexciting.
Or you can schedule a trip to visit your parent’s birthplace. Find connections between the location and what you know of your parents and capture it in your frame.
When you care about a subject, you’ll explore it not only with your eyes but also with your heart. You’ll dig out its stories and give it the attention it deserves. These stories are what make images captivating and memorable.
3. Local Markets
Markets provide fantastic opportunities thanks to the multitude of subjects available. Whether you’re taking pictures of exotic food, colorful textiles, or portraits of people, you’ll have plenty to choose from.
Produce, in particular, can be the subject of striking images thanks to the shapes and colors they provide. When possible, tend to the exotic.
You can often find fruits like lychees, rambutan, kumquats, lantern, and star fruit at these markets. Their colors, shapes, and exotic nature make for great images.
Another thing that serves as an excellent subject is herbs and spices. They tend to be laid out in beautiful patterns, making them wonderful subjects for photographs.
Telephoto lenses are my weapons of choice when taking photos of displays like this. You’ll be able to zoom in on your subject for the greatest visual impact and maximize detail.
Also, make sure that you get permission before you start photographing. This permission will ensure you don’t have any conflicts or objections while your shooting.
Finally, before you decide to look at a local market, find out what type of market, and how many, you want to explore.
Most cities contain multiple forms of specialized markets, whether they be textile markets, food markets, or some other kind. Whether you opt to focus on one in particular or visit several, you’ll find great opportunities there.
4. Self Portrait
Many photographers shy away from self-portraits. There’s something about the shift of perspectives, from behind to in front of the camera, that makes most photographers feel uneasy.
If you’re one to cringe upon the idea of self-portraits, doing this project is an excellent opportunity to conquer your fears.
You can include yourself in your travel photographs in a variety of ways.
It can be as simple as standing in front of an iconic subject and setting the timer on your camera. Or it can be as complicated as photographing yourself through reflections for an amusing visual effect.
Either way, this project is not only a great way to create interesting travel images, but also An excellent opportunity to examine and connect with our inner selves.
5. Black And White
Another project you can immerse yourself in when doing travel photography is creating a series of images in black and white.
Black and white photography is an excellent way to provide a new perspective to your images.
You’ll find that many subjects that work well in color don’t necessarily work in black and white. Similarly, many subjects that you may dismiss when photographing in color are wonderful when photographed in black and white.
An example is photographing in mid-day. The harsh light present during this time often doesn’t work well in color photography.
But, if you shoot in black and white, you may be able to pull it off. All you need is a dark ND filter a tripod, and slow shutter speed.
Equipped with these tools, you can photograph any moving objects such as flowing water, clouds, or pedestrians. You can also include static objects, such as buildings and mountains, to contrast with the motion blur effect.
Of course, you can also do this in color, but converting these types of images in black and white is sure to make for captivating pictures.
Many people find visiting a graveyard to take photos to be morbid or scary. It is a natural human tendency to avoid anything that has to do with death. But photographing cemeteries can be a fascinating project, especially when you’re traveling.
The most enchanting elements of a graveyard are those that have experienced the passage of time. Weathered statues, gravestones, fences, and mausoleums all make for compelling subjects to your photos.
They also serve as chronicles of the history of a town or city. Even a casual stroll can lead you to experience the values, customs, and traditions of the locals.
The inscriptions can tell you how they commemorate the dead and give you some idea of the person who’s buried there. Everything from their vocation to what they held most dear can be found on an inscription.
Another great thing about photographing cemeteries is that most lighting works well on them.
The brooding darkness of a stormy sky and the bright mid-day sun are equally good choices for graveyards. No matter what the season is, or what the weather is like, cemeteries are photogenic.
There’s also that magical peace that’s often present in a cemetery. This sense of peace, coupled with beautiful light, can produce hauntingly beautiful scenes.
Cemeteries are often found bordering wooded areas, especially in rural areas. This provides a unique opportunity to capture wildlife that is taking shelter there.
Just remember to be respectful when you visit graveyards. The ornate landmarks and elaborate sculptures are wonderful to take images, but they also mark the resting place of someone’s loved one.
7. 30 Strangers Project
The purpose of this project would be to take a portrait of 30 strangers.
This is a great project for gregarious photographers, or those trying to overcome shyness. The experiences you have while shooting strangers in your travels can be rewarding. It will not only expand your creativity but also improve your people skills.
When doing this project, shoot from a distance. Using your telephoto lens may be convenient, but it will translate to beautiful images.
These pictures suffer from a lack of connection between the person viewing the image and the subject of the image. Plus it can be disrespectful to other people’s privacy.
A better way is to ask a stranger to let you take their photo. This may require breaking out of your comfort zone, but it maximizes your chances of producing better images.
If you’re traveling internationally, start by learning a few phrases in the local language. “Can I take your photograph, please?” should be one of the first ones you learn. This simple gesture can turn a reluctant subject into an enthusiastic one.
Another essential element of this project is time. You should always take the time to get to know your subjects and allow them to get comfortable in front of you and your equipment. This investment of time will result in better pictures.
Photographing doors is an excellent theme to use in your travel photography project.
We pass through doors every day without thinking much about them, but they serve as a fascinating element in photography. This is especially true when traveling to distant lands, as culture and tradition typically influence their design.
Doors, like windows, represent a boundary that separates two places or things. Through our cameras, we can use doors to tell interesting stories and evoke powerful emotions.
Every door is its own unique element, and in your images, you can use them to tell tales of transition and moving on.
When doing this project, reflect upon the idea of motion and change. Reflect upon the emotions that come with these experiences and find ways to convey them in your images.
9. Photograph Your Lodging
Too many photographers forget about the little things in their travels. They’re so focused on the things and places they’re going to see that they forget about the place they come back to time and time again. Their hotel.
Depending on where you’re traveling, the hotels you stay can be remarkable subjects for photography. They can be historic buildings or feature interesting architecture.
This isn’t saying you should stay at your hotel and shoot pictures all day. Instead, pay special attention to them when you begin and end your day. The changing light can reveal subtle details that will help bring out the hotels spirit.
Doing this is particularly interesting in places like Venice and Budapest where there are hotels nearly as old as the city itself.
If you’re up for more challenge, stay in multiple hotels while on your trip. While moving around from hotel to hotel may sound dreadful, it can prove to be rewarding for this photography challenge.
10. Transportation Project
Travel photography requires you to be constantly moving, so why not make use of the time you spend commuting the core of your project?
You’ll be surprised what a ride around town can provide you in terms of photo ops. Architecture, portraits of commuters, and pedestrians are all great subjects for this project.
When you’re at a bus and train station, find a way to capture the essence of the place, especially its human element.
Ask yourself: Who are these commuters? Where are they going? What are they doing while they travel to work? How are they feeling?
One helpful way to capture this is to talk to your subjects and find ways to connect with them. Ask them how their day is going. Have a map to show them where you’re traveling from. Tell them who you are and what you’re doing.
Remember, when doing this kind of photography, make sure you get permission when applicable. You might draw unwanted attention if you’re photographing in a subway or airport without permission.
11. Color Focused Projects
Hone your awareness of color by working on a color-focused photography project on your trip.
In this type of project, you’ll be exploring the qualities of particular colors and the impact they have on images.
You’ll have color as your key subject, rather than a supporting visual element in your composition. This means that you’ll need to let other visual elements, such as form and texture, become the second priority in your images.
This project can be challenging, but once you’ve developed an eye for it, you’ll see the potential for color everywhere they appear.
Consider the following color based projects:
One At A Time
This project involves focusing on a single color for your compositions. It can be whatever color strikes your interest.
Once you’ve selected a color, find different ways to represent it in your images. Keep your compositions minimal and eliminate elements that don’t add to your purpose
At first, it may take some time to find ideal compositions for your chosen color. But, with practice, you’ll start seeing potential in almost every scene. It will pop out to you and you’ll begin finding it in surprising places you wouldn’t have noticed before.
Cities are a great choice for this type of project. With the abundance of colors present in urban landscapes, you’ll have a variety of compositional angles to choose from. From street art, bright neon lights, or people’s clothing you’ll see your color popping out at you.
If you’re looking to add interest and complexity to your photos, you can work with color juxtaposition. Color juxtaposition uses two colors that complement each other, such as green and red or orange and blue, and position them near each other in your photo. When next to each other, these colors help create an eye-catching color profile.
There are multiple types of color harmonies that you can use, including analogous, complementary, and triadic harmonies. Finding these can take a lot of time, but as you become more aware of color it will happen faster.
In this project, you’ll focus on neutral colors as key-subjects in your compositions. Neutral colors refer to those that have no hue, such as white, gray, and black.
Each of these colors has a distinct value:
Black: low value
Gray: intermediate value
White: high value
Find as many compositions as possible for each neutral color. Other colors can be included in the image, but one of these three should dominate the picture.
12. Use an Older Camera
The high opportunity cost that comes with film cameras is often considered a disadvantage in the world of photography. But, if you’re up for a challenge, buy an old camera and use this scarcity to fuel your creativity and imagination.
There’s an exhilarating experience that comes with knowing that you only have 2 or 3 dozen images you can take before you finish a roll of film.
Added to that is the awareness that every image you take needs to be developed, making each one precious.
If you’re interested in trying out film photography, here are a couple of cameras I’d recommend:
Stereo cameras were popular in the early days of photographic technology. They were unique because they functioned like binoculars, with a viewfinder for each eye.
The cameras use two lenses to produce two adjacent photos on a single plate. It was an attempt to approximate human sight using a camera.
These two lenses are nearly on top of each other, resulting in a very slight horizontal deviation. Stereo cameras are often used for the enhanced depth they add to their images.
To understand how this works cover up one eye and rotate your head back and forth. Your brain only registers the movement of objects in relation to one another. The more you move your head, the greater your recognition of this will be. Stereo photography works a lot like this.
Polaroids are some of my favorite type of film cameras. You can buy these cameras anywhere from under $30 to $250.
Depending on the price and quality the features of a polaroid camera will vary drastically. Some cameras act as a point and shoot camera while others will allow you to adjust the exposure using a shutter speed setting.
When using polaroid cameras, remember to choose an environment with bright lighting. Polaroids work best when there’s a lot of light and bright colors involved in the shot.
Make sure you take your photos of people in places with good lighting to avoid motion blur.
Low Budget: Fujifilm Instax SQUARE SQ6 / Fujifilm Instax mini 9
Mid Budget: Polaroid Originals OneStep+ / Fujifilm Instax mini 90 NEO CLASSIC
High Budget: Leica Sofort
13. Prime Lens Project
In this project, you’re required to create a series of images using a single focal length.
You may do this by only taking your prime lens with you for your entire trip. Or you may spend a day solely photographing with your prime lens while leaving your other lenses in your hotel.
Doing this project is an excellent opportunity for you to push your creativity and expand your imagination.
By only allowing yourself to work with a single focal length, you’ll significantly reduce the number of compositional choices available to you. This will force you to find new ways to express your ideas and creativity.
You may have to physically move the elements in your scene to get the shots you’re looking for. Or you may have to walk closer or farther away from your subject, to get your desired results.
This may seem like an odd way to advance your photography, but it’s an incredible exercise to teach you how to think outside the box and be more innovative in your compositions.
14. Recreate Famous Photographs
Studying and recreating other photographers work is a great way for you to find your artistic style.
For this project, find a photographer that you admire, or one whose approach is vastly different from yours.
Begin by studying their work and learning everything you can about their approach. Find out what draws you to their work and how its meaning touches you.
Books, galleries, museums, and the internet can all be great resources for finding images by the artist.
The next step is finding a place during your travels where you can take this information and apply it to create a similar image.
When doing this project, remember that the goal is not to emulate their work, but to implement your voice into it.
Also, remember to be creative and be open to spontaneity. Since you’re traveling, you won’t always be able to plan. So, keep an open mind and recognize opportunities when they come.
15. Collaborate With Another Artist
In this project, you are required to meet and work with another artist in your travels. This could be a photographer, furniture maker, dancer, hairstylist, musician, and alike.
Spend a day, or just an afternoon, working with them and see what you can learn from each other.
Different artists have different ways of viewing the world. Working with them will provide you valuable insights to help you grow in your creative platform.
To do this, it’s best to reach out and find an artist to collaborate with before you travel. You can connect through social media platforms, meet-ups, or through common friends.
The ephemeral quality of reflections lets you unhinge from the real world and play in the realm of fantasy and dreams. If you’re looking for an otherworldly effect, this project is a great way to do it.
For this photography project, you’re required to create a series of images using reflections as the primary subject of your compositions. You could do this in many ways, depending on where you’re traveling.
If you’re staying on the coast, the ebbing tide at the beach is an ideal subject for this project. This is especially so at dawn and dusk. The ambient light during this time provides soft contrasts, perfect for creating enchanting reflections.
The glass and steel landscapes of cities can also be an incredible source of unique and interesting reflections. Everything from the towering buildings to the puddles that form in the streets can provide ideal compositions.
Black and white is also a great idea when doing this project. Without color, the composition will be more focused on the shapes and texture of the reflection.
When taking your images, remember not to focus on the surface the reflection is on, instead focus on the reflection itself. Otherwise, you’ll lose the clarity and impact of the reflection you’re trying to capture.
Also, to get the best results, take the time to experiment with multiple angles. An image taken from a high vantage point will be significantly different from one taken from a low vantage point.
Finally, if you’re planning to photograph water reflections, try to go out when the wind is calm. Even the slightest breeze can ruin a perfect reflection.
17. Create a Photo Book
Bring your travel photos to life by creating a photo book once you arrive back home.
There are many photo book services that you can find on the internet to put your work together.
These services usually provide a variety of template options that enables you to create your book with fun and ease.
The options available to you will vary depending on the service you use.
Some services will allow you to create a hard-backed book that is of professional quality, but they are typically pricey. That said, they make for great gifts for family and friends.
Make sure you take the time to research the one you end up using so you can get the best result.
These are some of the most popular photo book sites:
Embarking on photography projects is always a great idea when you find yourself in need of a challenge or inspiration. When you’re traveling, these projects will help you look at your environment in new and creative ways. The next time you’re planning a trip with your camera, go over this list to see what inspires you!