Why Taking Photos While You Travel is Important

Gary Arndt January 17, 2014 8
Taking time to find the beauty in a shot in Yosemite National Park.

Taking time to find the beauty in a shot in Yosemite National Park.

I occasionally get the comment from people that photography takes away from what they are experiencing when they travel. A recent article from Smithsonian Magazine suggests that this might be true. They did a study where people who took more photos in a museum remembered less about the paintings they photographed than the people who didn’t take photos.

Personally, I have found the opposite to be true. Over the last seven years of traveling around the world, taking photos and becoming a photographer has done more to enhance my experiences traveling than anything else I have done.

That being said, there is a difference between taking photographs and taking snapshots, which is exactly what most travelers do. A photograph is a purposeful attempt at taking a beautiful image. It requires some thought, positioning and awareness of your surroundings. A snapshot is nothing more than pressing the button on your camera while standing in front of something.

Taking the time to take real photographs can enhance your travel experience in several ways:

1) Photography makes you more aware of your surroundings.

I tend to notice much more because I’m always looking for photos. I’m looking at the tops of buildings, down side streets and even on the ground. There have been many times where I break off from a group of people to take a photo and suddenly the group gravitates to me to take snapshots of something they missed. Once you begin looking for photos, you see much more of the world than if you are just walking through it.

2) Photos help you remember.

Despite the conclusion of the Smithsonian Magazine article, the real test of a photo’s ability to help you remember doesn’t come the day after you take it; it comes years later. I’ve looked back on the images I captured very early in my travels and have been mentally taken back to moments that I hadn’t remembered in years. As time passes, you need things to jog your memory and nothing works better than photos that you took yourself.

3) People will actually want to see your vacation photos.

Most people are bored to tears of vacation photos that are nothing more than endless shots of people in front of landmarks. Most people don’t want to see you on vacation; they are more interested in the destination itself. If you focus on taking better images, people will actually be interested in seeing your photos.

Travel photography isn’t about owning a large, expensive camera. You can do it with nothing more than a smartphone. What it is is paying careful attention to your surroundings and taking the time and effort to create beautiful images.

On your next trip, take the time to pay attention to your surroundings and you will be rewarded for years to come.

Getting There

G Adventures invites you to improve your photography skills in one of the world’s most inspiring settings with the guidance of Wander-in-Residence Gary Arndt. Learn tips and techniques while capturing the diversity of South Africa through your viewfinder. In co-operation with Gary Arndt — the world’s most read travel blogger — G Adventures is pleased to present a very special departure of its ‘Cape, Rails & Kruger Quest’ this May. Reserve a space on this very special departure today.


  1. Melinda January 18, 2014 at 10:05 am - Reply

    New to photography and have a canon 6D with kit lense. Going to Paris this fall and having a hard time deciding if I should take only that one lense or purchase to 28-300, or the 70-200 to go with the kit lense. Any suggestions? Thanks this was a great article.

    • Attit Patel January 20, 2014 at 4:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Melinda. What kit lens do you have for the 6D? If you have the 24-105, i would suggest not getting a zoom lens that big. You will get great range, but your image quality will suffer. In a city like Paris, you’d surely want to shoot wide angle. Do you have the option of renting a lens instead of purchasing? I think that would be a better option, that way you could take multiple lenses without spending a fortune.

  2. Gary Arndt January 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I use an 18-200 lens almost exclusively and I don’t find my images are suffering that much. It is only an issue in very low light situations.

    The benefits of having a lens like that is you have an amazing amount of versatility. If you go out for the day, you have no idea what you will encounter.

    I also carry a 50mm f/1.4 and a wide angle lens as well just incase the 18-200 can’t do the job.

  3. Bram January 20, 2014 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. I, too, am constantly looking for new ways to look at things. Photography totally helps.

  4. zara February 10, 2014 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Memories can only be capture when you are keen do the photography while on travelling trips.
    It is an excellent way to expressing the travel experience through photo and writing about it.

    thanks to share us.

  5. Aksel February 11, 2014 at 8:05 am - Reply

    Thank you for a thoughtful article. I’m passionate about my photography, and I’ve had much the same experiences as you. The better I learn to “see”, the more alert I am to my surroundings. I also want to add that photography can be a way to reach out and get to know people, even when you don’t master the local language. I’m an introvert and this is tough going for me, but it’s amazing what you can accomplish with a smile, empathy and a polite request, camera in hand. This is also a way of taking in the world.

  6. Miranda Farley February 17, 2014 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    I also believe that more than just having a memento, photos are captured memories. These photos even help us remember the emotion we felt. It makes us smile, laugh and even cry. That’s why I love taking photographs when I travel.

  7. daniel March 16, 2014 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    miranda is right!

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