Photography Tips For Backpackers

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams

Imagine losing all your photos on your last day of your backpacking trip. You can take simple precautions to avoid this. Make regular backups of your photos in case something happens to your camera or if the memory card gets full. You can burn CDs or DVDs (make sure you have a good sturdy jewel case which protects the media) or you can store your pictures on your MP3/media player or an external memory stick. If you can find a fast connection, you can upload the photos somewhere on the Internet, such as Flickr.


“Shooter” captured by Jhong Dizon (Click Image to See More From Jhong Dizon)

If you make two copies of your photos (in case one is lost) make sure you store them in separate places (e.g. one in your daypack and one in your backpack) so you do not lose both of them if one of your bags get lost.

If you want to ask someone to take your picture try to find someone with an advanced camera—they are usually skilled at taking photos. Give them instructions how you want the photo to look (e.g. crop the picture above our knees, include all of the church towers).

Do not forget to recharge your batteries before heading out into places where recharging may be difficult (such as longer treks). Bringing spare batteries is a must if photography is your main interest.

If you are on a formal cruise or another place where you get your photo taken and the photos are displayed on a wall for purchase (most of the time at outrageous prices) and you are a bad person, you can use your digital camera to take a photo of your picture. Now you did not hear that one from us ;) This also works for the postcard section (“Gee, I did not know that the Sydney opera house looked like that inside.”).


“Cannock Chase Forest, UK” captured by Navid Qureshi (Click Image to See More From Navid Qureshi)

Personal Experience – The Memory Card Mess

Keep track of your memory cards if you have several ones. I met an Irish couple in Jordan who managed to lose their card with all their photos from the trip. Memory cards are really cheap these days, so get a big one (if your camera can handle it) so you do not have to bother with several cards.

Rule of thirds

Many people perceive the camera as a rifle: aim in the middle and hopefully you catch what you shoot. Many times pictures with people, animals and other stuff centered in the middle look pretty static and sometimes downright boring.

The trick is not to always put your subject straight in the center of your picture. The rule of thirds states that you should divide your image into different sections. Imagine two horizontal lines and two vertical lines in your viewfinder like a tic-tac-toe grid. Where these lines intersect is where you should place your subject.

Try to put the horizon on one of the lower or the upper lines of the image.

tips for taking photos on backpacking trips

“Hong Kong” captured by dennis robins (Click Image to See More From dennis robins)

Use flash

Flash is not only useful when light is low. If the sun is positioned behind the subject, the subject can turn into a dark silhouette.

Move in close

Do not be shy. Moving in close on your subject can create a strong sense of presence. This technique may not always be appropriate, e.g. at certain religious procedures. Some people have a strong aversion to having their picture taken for various reasons.


Diagonals can be used to provide a path for the viewer’s eye to follow in the photo. It can be used to lead the eye in one direction into the photo and in on direction out of the photo such as in the below example.

Personal Experience – The Mineralnye Vody Mistake

At the small airport of Mineralnye Vody in Russia my friend brings up his camera to take a picture of a plane he finds quite amusing—something most people would never set their foot in. Two Russian guards materialize from nowhere and demand he hand over the film. Which he did after a few minutes of “negotiation”.

Use natural frames

You can sometimes find natural frames which you can use to frame your subject. This can range from doorways, window frames, rocks, trees, etc. and can give a good composition to your photo.

Use your imagination

Change your level, e.g. shooting upwards from a low position or downwards from a high position. Also experiment with changing from horizontal to vertical position in your camera.

photography backpacker techniques

“Alpen snow galaxy” captured by masahiro miyasaka (Click Image to See More From masahiro miyasaka)

Taking photos is all about being creative. Try to look for new ways of seeing your subject. What if you climb the stairs and get above it? What if you lie down on the ground? What if you turn the zoom lens while you take the photo? What if you use the timer on your camera and hurl it into the air and see what happens? What if you break all the “rules”in this section?

About the Author
This article is based on the free e-book The Backpacker’s Toolbox It contains checklists, templates, FAQs and practical advice (and a few bad jokes) to make your backpacking experience as smooth as possible. – practical advice for new and experienced backpackers for all trip stages: get inspired, plan your trip, advice on the road, tips when back home.

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3 responses to “Photography Tips For Backpackers”

  1. Fred says:

    These are more like travel tips, not backpacking tips. They all apply to travel, but there is nothing backpacking specific. And when I think of backpacking, it is the backcountry camping, hiking experience, not students sightseeing in Europe on planes and trains, going to internet cafes. I would like to see some tips about my kind of backpacking.

  2. Mei Teng says:

    I prefer having several memory cards rather than one or two. If you lose one, at least you still have the rest.

  3. I think the advise of buying a really big memory card is terrible advise. Why risk having all of your photos one one card if you lose it. I always take multiple cards with me and keep them in different bags incase I get robbed or lose a bag. Keeping all your eggs in one basket is asking for trouble.

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