How To Get Perfect Travel & Instagram Photos

One of the number one questions I am asked is "How do you get those incredible travel photos"?

If you are a traveler, or you are just suffering from a severe case of wanderlust, then chances are you have found yourself glued to Instagram. We have all been there, scrolling through travel Instagram feeds, wishing our travel photos looked like the ones we see reposted time after time.

how to get the best instagram photos

Instagram photography has become an art form of it’s own, but I still come across dozens of dull travel photos. And let’s be honest, if you are not posting a dynamic photo, why are you posting on Instagram at all? Now is the time to accomplish those #photographygoals because I am here to tell you just how to capture that envy-worthy shot. 

Know the Basic Rules of Photography

Knowing the basic composition rules of photography is key. The first rule to understand is the rule of thirds, and even if you don’t use this rule for all photos, keeping it in mind can make or break some of your photos.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is essentially a guideline to placing the most interesting elements in your photo along imaginary guidelines, which are broken up into thirds, or at the powerful points where the lines intersect. Some cameras, including your iPhone, have a grid that can be set up to help you automatically find these points while photographing.

 (In this photo, I am the point of interest, so I am placed at a power point)

(In this photo, I am the point of interest, so I am placed at a power point)

Fill the Frame

Another important rule is to fill the frame. I am amazed by how many times people post photos on social media, and the subject of their photo is so small that you almost have to squint to see it.

woman nepal habitat for humanity

After coming home with some underwhelming travel photos from a trip to Egypt, I attended a National Geographic travel photography seminar. The best takeaway from the seminar was that, if the photo wasn’t as interesting as the subject was in real life, then you almost always were not close enough or zoomed in enough. The more you fill the photo with your subject matter, the more exciting the photo becomes.

Use Quality Equipment

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I definitely cannot take credit for every aspect of my photos on Instagram feed - the equipment I use really helps me get those fantastic shots. I currently use a Sony A7sii, a GoPro Hero 4 Black, and a DJI Mavic Pro. Of course, not everyone can go out a buy a $3000 DSLR, when they are just starting out, but there are several inexpensive options that can allow you to take fantastic photos. Try to find the best camera you are able to afford, but remember that the best camera you have is the one in your hand, which means whatever camera you will carry with you the most. If your camera isn't with you, you'll miss the shot. 

I also use an incredibly discreet camera bag to stash all of my gear (The Claremont from Lo & Son’s), which looks more like a purse. In some places, I can’t leave my purse to get it out of the shot for fear it may be stolen. This way, an ugly camera bag doesn’t ruin otherwise great candid shots I’m in; instead, it adds to them. It also provides greater safety from creeps looking to prey on travelers, since it doesn’t look like a camera bag and prevents me from looking like a tourist. It also makes me less of a target for theft since you would never guess that I have a a lot of expensive camera equipment on me.

claremont lo and sons camera bag

Don’t Be Afraid of Strangers

What does stranger danger have to do with photography? Frankly, a lot when you travel alone. I’m often asked if I have a photographer that travels with me to take my pictures. Not yet, but apparently I am very good at making it look like I do! 

how to take photos when you're alone

Conditions (such as high winds at the Grand Canyon) and impromptu moments aren’t always made for tripods. I don’t always want a selfie stick in my photo, so I’m not afraid to ask strangers for help to get the perfect instagram shot. Even if someone speaks a different language, it’s easy to explain that you are asking them to take your photo. About 50% of the time you will get someone who is really enthusiastic about taking your photo; this is when you have the opportunity to be the director and tell them exactly how you want the photo to look, primarily by showing them examples.

In addition to providing examples for inspiration, I also instruct my new photographer to use burst mode. Burst mode is extremely easy if you have an iPhone; just hold the button down instead of tapping (even the iPhone6 is capable of taking 10 photos per second). This rapid fire photography allows me to adjust my facial expressions, posture, and the direction I’m looking, while also getting a variety of shots. It takes a period of 15-20 seconds, but this means one of them is bound to be good, even if the person taking the photo doesn’t know what they are doing!

This also means having a ton (as in hundreds) of photos to filter through, which can be time consuming. However, it is far better to have too many images to choose from than to have not enough. When there is no one around be sure to have a great tripod handy, or a selfie stick. I use the GoPole Reach because it’s very long, and I can often get pictures without the selfie-stick even being in the shot!

Stop Feeling Embarrassed

instagram beach travel vietnam

I don’t allow myself to feel embarrassed when taking travel photos anymore. Even if people judge me for using my selfie stick, or the fact that I may look really funny crouched down to get a good angle of some nearby scenery, I just stopped letting it all bother me.  The fact of the matter is, most people are so self-absorbed that they aren’t paying much attention to me anyways.  

Though it is not the most impressive of my talents, I’ve mastered the art of the candid pose. Pictures where you are smiling are great, but they aren’t as interesting on the eyes. I look especially silly to others when faking a candid pose, (like when gazing into the distance) but I have stopped caring. At the end of the day, I’m the one that has the beautiful photos and has turned my Instagram account into a huge part of my business.  

Plan Ahead

I wait for the timing to be just right, as the best photos are captured during that sought-aftergolden hour when the light is perfect. This is one I learned from one of my friends who has over 700,000 instagram followers. Noon light is the worst, for it casts weird shadows on faces of subjects and creates a flat boring light for scenic shots. The best is to get up early for sunrises or wait around until just before sunset. This golden hour creates the most aesthetic palette for capturing scenery and people, as the light is less harsh, more forgiving and void of awkward shadows.

monkey temple nepal trusted travel guide girl

While most people aren’t waking up early for the good light, they will stick around for sunsets. This is why if you are going someplace that is super touristy, I recommend waking up before sunrise to get the shots you want without the crowds. It takes some dedication, but it’s well worth it! When I can’t get a shot during golden hour, I still try to take note of the best lighting options. Always avoid a shadow on your face because you’ll hate the photo the moment you see it.

Another way that I plan ahead is by researching the places before I go. You can use Instagram and Google to see what cool images people have shared by location. I do not look to copy, but it definitely gives great inspiration, a sense of how you want to tackle the photographs, and sometimes these inspiring images are too good not to pay homage to! Just remember when you copy a photo to try to give it your own spin and let it represent you! Using someone else as inspiration is awesome but exact replicas are boring (if not plagiarism).

Learn to Edit

Yes, I edit my photos. No matter how great a photo is, sometimes it isn’t able to do justice to the experience I had. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to color correct, sharpen and saturate, but if you want to keep up with everyone else, you need to edit your photos! I often spend 20 minutes editing a photo before I put it on Instagram.

learn to edit photos lightroom

My favorite editing tool is Adobe Lightroom, however if you are keen to use your phone, the best apps for editing are SnapSeed and VSCO. On SnapSeed I am able to select certain parts of the image and adjust accordingly without messing with the rest of the photo.

For example, I was in St Lucia and had this great image on the beach, but it was a little dark. I was able to adjust the color to bring back the colors I saw while on the beach, as well as lift the shadows. What remained was the integrity of the rest of my photo, and a photo that created an accurate depiction of my actual experience as opposed to a photo that made my experience not look as beautiful as it actually was. Editing isn’t lying, it’s just another form of art!

Be Adventurous

I take risks to get great photos. I hang off ledges with steep drops, I climb up to steep heights. I’m not careless and I take as many precautions as I can, but I’m not going to let the fun pass me by. By taking risks and being adventurous, you will get photos with more interesting perspectives that others without courage only dream of.

nepal monkey temple.JPG

Just be careful and smart, and take caution to heed any posted warning signs that you may encounter. Recently in Norway a traveler died trying to get an instagram photo at Devils Rock, and even more recently a woman tumbled to her death when she tripped into the Grand Canyon. I’m not encouraging you to act recklessly - I want you to stay safe for a lifetime of adventures. I am, however, encouraging you to climb mountains, seek great heights, and tackle fears to get to a place for the most incredible photo.

adventure travel instagram photo luca race school laguna seca

Lastly, photography is all about expressing your unique point of view. Find a style that you like, make it your own, and stick with it. You won’t get there overnight - just scroll through my Instagram and see that the process to go from average to exceptional has taken well over a year. 

If you are inspired by my tips to create some rad instagram photos be sure to tag me so that I can check them out! (@TrustedTravelGirl)

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How to get perfect instagram and travel photos

Holiday Gifts For Travelers (2017 Guide)

holiday bulbs toronto casa loma

Travelers tend to value experiences over possessions, making them difficult to shop for. We have scoured the planet and tested hundreds of products to compile a list of the best travel gifts for the holiday season. Whether you are shopping for someone else, or compiling your own wish list, these gifts are sure to please even the pickiest travel addicts. 

Map Glasses

map glasses uncommon green

Etched pint, wine & whiskey glasses by Uncommon Green are the perfect way to remember your favorite travel destinations. Not only can you collect glasses with maps from major cities, but these etched glasses are 100% customizable to anyplace in the world with a zip code. Collect them to remember your travels, or snag a few with your college or hometown. 

They even have topographical versions, which was perfect after my trip to Nepal where I caught a glimpse of Mount Everest, I love the Everest whiskey glass!

The Ultimate Adventurer's Watch

victorinox swiss army watch

When traveling, I am always looking for my next adrenaline-inducing adventure– which means I need gear that can stand up to the elements. The I.N.O.X. watch by Victorinox Swiss Army is the ultimate traveler's watch. It's practically indestructible, Victorinox has run it over with a tank, dropped it off buildings and lit it on fire– and it still kept ticking! They make both men and womens versions, with a selection of bands, I opted for the paracord wristband. 

4G Hotspot


SkyRoam has been a staple in my life over the last two years of my travels, and I love how easy it is to stay connected. This compact lightweight device provides you with a global hotspot to access the internet on your phone and computer from nearly anywhere on the planet with only a phone signal.

The new updated version– Skyroam Solis, is even better. With 4G capabilities, a better battery life and an all new option to use it as a powerbank, Solis is the only phone accessory the traveler in your life needs to carry.

Pocket-Sized Camera

The Sony RX100 V is the perfect all around pocket-sized camera. When I want to travel light, but don't want to lose out on the quality of my photos– I bring this small yet powerful point and shoot. With manual settings, amazing priority settings, and a phenomenal Zeiss lens, this is the perfect small camera for professionals as well as beginners. With 20.1 megapixels, you will be sure to capture every last detail of your adventures!

A Mirrorless Camera

sony a7sii

The Sony A7sii is a travel photographers dream camera. With incredible low light capabilities, 4k video capabilities, and the small size, Sony mirrorless cameras have been blowing DSLR's out of the water. 

Travel-Size Drone


Drone photography may be all the rage, but theres only one drone that's built for travelers. The DJI Mavic is small, lightweight, but a real powerhouse. It shoots stills and video with 12MP and 4k capabilities for professional quality.

Camera Backpack

Finding the perfect photography backpack to carry all of my photography gear has proved to be challenging. The Travler Pack by Travler has thoughtful features like a padded laptop sleeve, rain poncho, customizable interior, an RFID protected pocket, and even a headphone port. The bag retails for $160, making it one of the most reasonably priced camera backpacks on the market. 

The Perfect Weekend Bag

lo and sons weekend bag gift guide

Packing for a weekend away is something that men may have mastered but most women struggle with. It’s difficult to pack enough to be prepared for any spontaneous adventure that may present itself, while still packing all the necessities we, as women, generally need. Ladies, the Catalina from Lo & Son’s has got you covered and is the only weekend bag you will ever need. 

The Catalina doesn’t look big, but stores a ton of stuff! A separate bottom compartment is perfect for storing shoes, sandy towels, wet bathing suits, or anything else you want separated from your clothes!
It also makes for a great carry on bag for longer trips thanks to the smart design that allows the Catalina to easily slide over the handle of any dual pole suitcase.

GPS Luggage Tracker


There are two kinds of luggage, carry-on and lost. Save yourself some sanity when checking a bag, and invest in a GPS luggage tracker. LugLoc will allow you to track your bag from anywhere in the world with your smartphone. The device will even send text updates to the location of your bag. The rechargeable battery lasts up to 15 days, so if your bag ever were to be misplaced, you will have ample time to recover it. 

Carry-On Cocktail Kit

carry on cocktail in flight travel drink kit

Since a simple Jack & Coke won't always cut it, this carry-on cocktail kit is perfect for enhancing your in-flight drinking experience. Feel like you are in first class, even if you are in economy by making an Old Fashioned, a Moscow Mule, or a Margarita. Just add alcohol. 

Durable Expandable Suitcase

spectra swiss army

A suitcase with the ability to expand is essential for travelers. Often times on press trips I find myself unexpectedly picking up oversized souvenirs to bring back for my family and friends. For years, this has meant I needed to get creative with my packing, throw things out, or buy an extra bag while traveling. After discovering Victorinox Swiss Army’s Expandable Spectra suitcase, I always have the extra room I need to take home souvenirs.

Victorinox Swiss Army is one of the few brands that makes quality items across the board in everything that they do. Although they are best known for their knives, Victorinox Swiss Army is one of the leaders in quality travel gear. I have trekked all over the globe with their products by my side, and they have all stood up to the elements, as well as abuse from baggage handlers. Swiss Army products are always designed with function in mind without sacrificing the eye-catching look of the bag.

My favorite bag from Victorinox is the Spectra Expandable. It has a sleek design, is ultra durable and has the ability to expand up to 40% when overfilled! In addition, it has practical features such as opening from the top and a special pocket for your swiss army knife. 

Mesh Laundry Bags

laundress mesh laundry bags

Doing laundry isn't an exciting part of travel, but if you are gone long enough, it's an inevitable part of your trip. Protecting your important clothing items from harsh machines (even if you are sending your laundry out to be washed) just became easier with these high quality mesh bags from Laundress. Cheaper versions fall apart after just a few washes, but this brand keeps clothes protected and secure.

Neck Pillow & Eye Mask

cabeau neck pillow

My favorite neck pillows and eye masks are from CabeauThe Evolution neck pillow has been my go-to travel pillow for years.

It’s made from memory foam, which makes it extremely comfortable for long haul flights. I’m a germophobe, so another feature that is important is the removable and washable cover.

The Midnight Magic eye mask is fuzzy and comfortable, most importantly, it completely blocks every bit of light from your eyes.

Another great feature of this eye-mask is its adjustable to fit the shape of your face. It also had rounded inner eye liners to keep the mask from pressing on eye-lids. By far the most functional and comfortable eye mask on the market!

A Travel Photography Backpack For Every Adventure and Every Camera

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This post and video were created in partnership with Travler. As always, opinions expressed are entirely my own.

As a travel journalist, my work takes me on crazy adventures. I need gear that can keep up with me and the conditions of the destinations I visit. Finding the perfect photography backpack to carry all of my photography gear has proved to be challenging. Some camera packs are too large and cumbersome, and some aren’t big enough for all of your gear. Finally, I have finally found the right bag for all of my camera gear. Travler has just invented the one of the best photography backpacks I have been able to find.

Check out the Travler Pack in action!

One of my favorite things about the Travler Pack, is the price, $160. $160 is an insane deal for everything you are getting with the Travler Pack. Comparable bags range around $250-400. I have personally tested the Travler Pack throughout California, Nepal, Thailand and Korea and I can say with certainty that it’s great quality.

Thoughtful Features

The backpack looks great, but practicality is key for a photographer. The Travler Pack has thoughtful and customizable features to make the bag functional and versatile. 

Padded Laptop Sleeve

The pack contains a padded laptop pocket in the area that would go against your back. It is easy to access, making airport security a breeze. There is an additional layer of padding in bottom of laptop sleeve to ensure it will be protected during travel.

gotravler pack


At only 3.4 pounds/ounces, the Travler Pack is very lightweight, on a recent trip I compared bags with another photographer and she wished hers was as lightweight as mine.

Rain Poncho

The pack features a rain poncho to protect all of your gear from the elements. In addition the fabric and zippers are water resistant (perfect if the surface you have to rest your bag on isn’t completely dry. It’s always best to use the poncho in any damp environments to be safe. I also like the poncho for deterring theft, as it wraps over the entire bag. 

Customizable Interior

This backpack is completely customizable inside to ensure that each camera and camera lens has a secure and supportive spot in the bag. It’s also helpful for staying organized. The rearrangeable pockets are soft and come with a high-grade thin-toothed velcro. The velcro can attach the dividers to any part of the bags interior, making the bag 100% customizable. The top layer of the bag even collapses incase you don’t need any divided sections at all. 

Added Organization

The top section of the bag features a key ring holder and two organizational pockets, perfect for a phone and water bottle. 

Headphone Port

Travel free and easy, the headphone port will allow you to listen to your music handsfree.

Room For More

This bag has the ability to be overstuffed and still keep your gear secure. As someone who travels light, I often leave little or no room for souvenirs. The ability to overstuff my bag is immensely helpful. 

Super Secret Pocket

The back of the Travler Pack has an RFID secret passport pocket that when worn is against your back makes it nearly impossible for pickpockets to get to. The added zipper garage makes the zipper difficult to access for thieves and is blocked by strap means no one can get into the most important part of the pack. This is the best place to stash cash and passports.

Reasonably Priced

With the prices of comparative packs around $250, the $160 price point makes this bag even more appealing.

How I Pack My Camera Bag

I have organized the bottom side pockets to carry my Sony A7sii and 55mm prime lens on one side. The other side has sections for my 16-35mm wide angle lens and a lens cleaning kit. The RFID pocket holds cash and passport. The top of the bag is perfect for storing a small purse, gorilla pod, sweater (airplanes are cold!), and it could even fit my small drone. I keep my phone and a granola bar in the water bottle pocket, as I prefer to keep all water far away from my gear. 

Deciding on the perfect backpack and luggage comes down to personal preference. At the end of the day, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to organizing your gear. However, the guys at Travler have done a great job of including details that will work for just about everyone, and thought of nearly everything a traveler and photographer would need in a single bag. The versatility and flexibility this bag offers, combine with the quality and lightweight materials make it just the right for me.


  • 25L bag, expandable to 30L
  • 45 cm x 33 cm x 20 cm (18 in x 13 in x 8 in)
  • 1.5 kg (3.4 lbs)
  • Black webbing, buckles, zippers, and mesh foam Vintage brown top grain leather accents
  • Oxford Cloth (600D Melange Polyester - PVC backed)
  • Weather resistant exterior zippers
go travler backpack photography - 1

Does Choosing the Window Seat Mean You Are Selfish, or Smart?

window seat selfish or smart telegraph trusted travel girl

The "Expert" Claim

You may have seen some articles being tossed around social media the last few days make claims over personality types based on airplane seat preference. Incase you missed it, according to two psychologists who were interviewed by the Telegraph, window seat people are selfish.

Passengers who favor the window seat like to be in control, tend to take an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude towards life, and are often more easily irritable
— The Telegraph

Now you may be thinking "Whoa! Wait just one minute, I'm a window seat person". Yup, I was thinking the same thing, I am also a window seat dweller. 

According to the Telegraph article:

“Passengers who favor the window seat like to be in control, tend to take an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude towards life, and are often more easily irritable [...] They also like to ‘nest’ and prefer to exist in their own bubble [...] Aisle passengers are often more sociable and definitely more amenable as people; they are also more likely to be restless fliers and less adept at sleeping on planes."

Is The Window Population Actually Different Than The Aisle Population?

Is this large generalization of the population based on seat choices, or does it hold some merit? I think it holds some merit. Hang on window seat dwellers, stay with me here– remember I am one of you. As an over-generalization, there is definitely a personality difference between the two populations.

Window Dwellers Are More Seasoned Travelers

Although the aisle seat population could be considered to be more selfless (if they choose the seat based on not wanting to force someone else to get up), that does not mean the window seat population is necessarily selfish. In my experience, window seat travelers tend to be more well-seasoned travelers, who are more likely to require some Zzz's while at cruising altitude.

Window Dwellers Are Smart, Not Selfish

Window seat dwellers can be considered smarter, more savvy travelersnot more selfish. The "every man for themselves" attitude, might actually just be caring for one's health and wellness. Long haul flights often require travelers (especially business travelers) to sleep. Often when business travelers or travel journalists arrive they have a full day scheduled when they land. Window dwellers know they can rest easy without being woken by their neighbor every hour for a bathroom break. They can sleep through meals, get up only when they need to, and they probably know that with the curvature of most aircrafts they will give them slightly more room in the window seat (yes, if you didn't already know, thats an expert travel tip– window seats almost always give you an extra inch or two. Even Anthony Bourdain is a window seat dweller, proving once again that more seasoned travelers prefer the window. Window seat travelers are comfortable disturbing others to get up, not because they are selfish, but because they are smart enough to not be the one who gets woken up.

Call me crazy, but if I'm sleeping on a 15 hour flight, I'd rather be the one to wake someone else than take the risk of being woken up every hour by someone with a weak bladder. If that's selfish, than selfish I am, but I prefer to call it wise.

Do you think window dwellers selfish or more seasoned travelers? What seat do you prefer?


smart or selfish window seat pin trusted travel girl

Estonia: The Country I Don't Want You to Know About

There are some places on this planet, so enchanting, that they are simply too good to share. Recently, I fell so deeply in love with an incredible country, and I don’t want to tell you about it because I don’t want to contribute to someplace authentic turning into another country overrun by an exorbitant number of tourists. Once word gets out about how wonderful it is, I fear mobs of tourists will come rushing in.

kihnu estonia

One of the joys of travel is finding the secret places that the tourists rarely visit and this country still remains unruined by tourists. This country is Estonia, and I doubt you’ve ever thought to visit.

Estonia has a rich history. From the height of the medieval period in Tallinn to the rich history on the island of Kihnu, this country is special. Not quite Scandinavia, and in close proximity to Russia, this Baltic state has a multitude of influences, yet the unique Estonian culture has remained intact.

Stunning Castles

castles in estonia

The Baltic states are filled with stunning castles that look as if they just flew off the pages of a children’s storybook. One such castle is the Kuressaare Castle on the island of Saarema. Just gazing up at the magnificent towers will make you think Rapunzel will be letting down her golden locks at any moment. Every good castle needs a decent moat, and the giant moat surrounding the Kuressaare Castle makes it feel just like the castles of your childhood imagination.

The Perfect Country For A Road Trip

Estonia is the ultimate roadtrip country. With so many incredible islands and towns to visit, although not necessary, having a vehicle will only enhance your Estonian experience. Vehicles are perfect for visiting the bluffs in Muhu and the Jaanihanso Cider Farm.

Adding nearby Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania to your list can create the perfect road trip trifecta.

tallinn estonia rooftops aerial

Spas & Manors

Whether time is spent participating in the 3 hour spa ritual at the Hedon Spa in Parnu, or getting a homemade scrub at Padaste Manor on the island of Muhu, Estonia is well known for decadent spa treatments. The spa therapist at the spa at Padaste Manor not only creates his own skin-soothing recipes on premises, he literally forages the island of Muhu for the ingredients for the spa treatments. This unique practice ensures that all spa ingredients are local, in-season and of the highest quality no matter what time of year you visit.


rapeseed estonia.JPG

When compared to the rest of Europe, Estonia is a bargain destination. Hotels, meals and transportation are all a fraction of the cost you would expect in most European countries. Despite the low costs, there is no sacrifice of quality in Estonia. Even at Noa, the top restaurant in Tallinn, you can easily dine for under $75. Uber rides from Tallinn airport to the old town are only around 5 Euro each way, and luxury car rentals are cheaper than most economy cars in the US.

Spectacular Views

From the medieval cities to the nearby islands, Estonia’s scenery is magical. The islands of Muhu and Saaremaa boast dramatic bluffs. In Muhu you may catch a glimpse of wild horses playing in the water, and Saaremaa yields acres of fluorescent yellow rapeseed flowers blooming for acres.

Even the capital, Tallinn is picturesque. Tallinn delivers architecture and winding cobblestone streets that are straight out of the pages of a Grimm’s Fairytale book.

tallinn estonia streets

Un-ruined by Tourists

The least enjoyable part of traveling is realizing that there are a million other tourists visiting at the same place at the same time. Even Estonia’s busiest city, Tallinn, has been spared from mass tourism, maintaining the authenticity of the area. Traveling during high season without loads of crowds was a refreshing experience, and helped create a feeling of authenticity in the city.

Estonia is magical year-round. With stunning flowers in the summertime and chilling ice-roads to the islands in the wintertime, you are guaranteed to have a spectacular visit...

... just don't tell anyone.

estonia lighthouse