Lonely Planet Writer

The biggest mistake we make when taking travel photos, according to this award-winning photographer

With over 2.5 million followers, Gary Arndt knows a thing or two about framing the perfect shot. In 2007, the Wisconsin native sold his home, packed his bags and travelled across all seven continents, documenting the trips on his blog Everything Everywhere.

Top tips from a travel photographer.
Top tips from a travel photographer. Image by Gary Arndt

Arndt, whose future adventures include Greenland and Quttinirpaaq National Park in Nunavut, Canada, has noticed people putting more time and energy into perfecting their photography skills, perhaps due to the prevalence of platforms like Instagram. Arndt is of the opinion that you should spend your money on flights, hotels and experiences, but investing in a professional camera is not an essential. Across the world, he has seen “countless people with very expensive cameras going on very expensive trips, with no idea how to use them.”

However, even the most impressive equipment does not equate better quality. “In reality, a camera is like a musical instrument. If you don’t know how to play the piano, sitting down at a Steinway won’t make you sound better,” Arndt says. His one piece of golden advice is to understand what all of the buttons on your camera do, and know how to control the various aspects of exposure. As for editing? Shoot in raw and enhance images later.

One of the originals on the travel blogging scene, a decade and some 180 countries and territories later, Arndt agrees that the online landscape is very different now. “The travel industry pretty much ignored blogs until about 2010. Everyone who did it back then did it because they loved to travel. They didn’t start it to make a buck. Even if they later did make money from it, they probably spent several years doing it while making nothing.”

The visual aspect of Everything Everywhere was instrumental in Arndt’s success, and he has been named Travel Photographer of the Year on two occasions by the North American Travel Journalists Association. Inspired, he has now created The Travel Photography Academy, a self-paced, online course which covers everything from the basics of framing a shot to how to shoot in tricky situations like museums or sacred buildings. For more information, see here.