Travel Photography Tips: 5 fail-safe tricks (and 4 pitfalls to avoid)

Anyone can take a picture, but capturing the memorable moments takes a little skill. This guide for both beginners and pros will get both beginners and pros on the road to stunning shots.
Jeff Cremer is an award winning nature photographer who likes to break records with the photos he takes. Photo: Jeff Cremer

Up close shots of llamas on the Inca Trail, monkeys swinging from trees and several hundred year old colonial-style buildings – these experiences are what a trip to Peru is made of. Unfortunately, as the years pass by, the details of your trip of a lifetime can become fuzzy. But, fear not, thanks to technology, photos are a fool-proof way to make sure memories last a lifetime. It’s also a great way to bring a piece of Peru back home to share with your friends and family.

Jeff Cremer knows this first hand. He’s an award-winning wildlife photographer and Amazon jungle conservationist. He also recently shot a one-of-a-kind photo of Machu Picchu. At 16,000 megapixels, it’s the world’s largest resolution photo. Originally from Colorado, Jeff now splits his time between Lima and Puerto Maldonado where he works for Rainforest Expeditions, the Amazon eco-tourism partner of Peru for Less. Each week, Jeff takes eager travelers on Amazonian nature safaris where he teaches amateurs the basics like framing and shutter speed and helps professionals hone their skills in a challenging environment.

As our go-to photography expert, we asked Jeff to share some must-dos and mistakes that both photography pros and newbies need to know.

Jeff cremer photography class

Peru for Less clients can go on a photography safari with Jeff. He provides the equipment and training; his students snap stellar shots. Photos: Jeff Cremer

DO Consider Taking a Photography Class or Workshop

Get the building blocks with the a basic photography book or an online class. Jeff recommends to learn about photography and editing programs. For those who want to go a step further, Jeff says attending a photo workshop is one of the best ways to improve. He gives workshops in the Peruvian Amazon where travelers come out for a few days and use his professional equipment to take amazing shots of all the fantastic wildlife without having to make a huge investment in everything from several thousand dollar lenses to incredibly heavy camera kits.

DON’T Be Afraid to Get a Little Dirty

The jungle floor can be muddy at times but it’s also where a ton of activity happens (think animal tracks, wild plants and out of this world insects). Don’t be afraid to get dirty and if you are, bring a piece of plastic to sit or kneel on when you have to get down low to get shots of leaf cutter ants or frogs.

Ben Stephenson photographer image

While you don’t need expensive equipment, you do need a critical eye. Photo: Ben Stephenson

DO Use Your Body

People are used to seeing everything from a standing height, but if you get down low and point the camera up or take the photo from a very high vantage point it makes for a more interesting picture. For wildlife photography, Jeff recommends trying to get to the same level as the animal. In the same sense, use your feet as a zoom. Get close to your subject and just when you think that you are close enough, get closer. There’s no need to buy really expensive telephoto lenses when your feet can often do the work just as well.

DON’T Spend a Fortune on Camera Gadgets

There is a saying: The best zoom is your feet. You don’t have to have a fancy super zoom lens on your camera. Just take a few steps closer and take the picture. You also don’t need a fancy camera. Buy a decent camera body and if you want to spend the extra money, invest in lenses. Remember that cameras go obsolete but lenses don’t. One way to enjoy fancy equipment is to rent it from a camera store, or take the photography workshop with Jeff through Peru for Less. He will provide the equipment and if you like what you use you can always buy it later.

camera equipment

“The best camera is the one that you have with you,” Jeff said. “As long as you know how to use it, are able to find good light and interesting subjects and angles, you will get good pictures.” Photo: Nigel Jones

DO Bring Along Some Extras

Batteries die and memory cards can get corrupted. Having extras protects your pictures and thus your memories.  

DON’T Turn Off Your Camera

The last thing you want do is spot a jaguar or family of monkeys and then miss getting the shot because you are waiting for your camera to boot up. It doesn’t use very much battery life leaving your camera on and it will ensure it’s ready to go when you spot something cool.


“Keep your camera on and your lenscap off,” advises Jeff. “When you see an animal you don’t want to waste any time. It could be gone in a flash.” Photo: Sek Keung Lo

DO Let Your Pictures Tell a Story

Jeff says telling a story through a series of photographs is one way to really make the images you shoot stand out. Another way is by shooting shots that evoke feeling and emotion. For example:

  • The Capital: Take pictures of people selling food and drinks on the street in Lima; or go hang out in the local markets and photograph all of the exotic fruits that vendors sell there.
  • The Amazon: The jungle has life on so many levels – underwater, on the ground, in the trees and through the sky. In the rain forest, all life is intertwined so getting pictures of that interconnection tells a great story.
  • Machu Picchu: Shoot candid shots to show the emotion travelers feel when they set their sites on the Inca citadel.

DON’T Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

Beginners will undoubtedly make mistakes along the way and the key is not letting those mistakes stop you. Practice shooting whenever possible and look at your work with a critical eye. Also, consider studying the work of the photographers you admire and then mimic what you like about their shots.

The beauty of Peru

Don’t just take photos – tell a story while you’re at it! Photo: Terra Hall

DO Get Creative

Peru is an awesome place. Jeff recommends that people tackle taking pictures by acting like a photojournalist. Take the overview shot that everyone sees but then go in and take photos of the details. For example, one of the interesting things about Machu Picchu is that the rocks are stacked so perfectly that there is very little gap between them. This makes for a good close-up shot that tells a story.

Plan your own photography adventure with a trip to South America. Trip itineraries and different travel preferences are important variables to consider when figuring out the trip. Let our team of experts at Latin America for Less help you! Talk to a travel advisor today.