One Simple Tip for Taking the Best Travel Photos Ever

Just do this one thing and you’ll be on your way to snapping the best travel pic of your life.

There’s something missing from the iconic photos you see of the Roman Colosseum, the Pyramids of Giza, Angkor Wat, and every other popular destination in the world: the tourists. When you see photos of the Parthenon, do you imagine yourself there in the scene, enjoying that extraordinary view in person? What you might not envision are the massive crowds hoarding into the same place to snap the same shots and enjoy the same experience.

It won’t be easy to get a clean shot.

The solution? Consider sacrificing some sleep and get to your destination in time for sunrise. You’ll find it’s a far better experience, and the photos you’ll snap are well worth the sleep deprivation. There’s nothing quite like sharing the entire Great Wall of China with just a handful of your friends—even if you did have to wake up at 3 a.m., take questionable taxis, and hike all the way to the top of the punishing ancient Chinese StairMaster because the gondolas don’t run that early.

The morning light enhances the shots. Known as the golden hour or magic hour, the time just after sunrise and just before sunset makes for gorgeous photography.

It’s not fun to get up before dawn when you’re on vacation in paradise, but seeing Haleakala at sunrise is the only way to go. It’s just not the same to see it in the middle of the day. If you go to the Grand Canyon every morning at sunrise, you’ll get an unforgettable show each time. If you get to Machu Picchu at 6 a.m. when the gates open, you won’t be the only one there, but you’ll have a better chance of getting to the spots with the most spectacular views first.

You can sleep in any other day, but on those special days that you get to visit those monumental sights—rise, shine, caffeinate, and get after it.

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By Melissa McGibbon

Melissa McGibbon is an award-winning adventure travel journalist, editor, and photographer. She is the Senior Editor at Outdoor Sports Guide Magazine and is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers Editors Council and the North American Travel Journalists Association. Her work also appears in Outside Magazine,, Elevation Outdoors, and

Her favorite travel accomplishments include circumnavigating the globe on a ship, meeting with Fidel Castro, BASE jumping in Idaho, flying over an erupting volcano in Iceland, skiing steep chutes in Canada, and downhill mountain biking in Peru.

She is usually skiing, biking, climbing, practicing yoga, flying, diving, or surfing—and is always in pursuit of adventure, travel, or some daring combination of the two.

Follow Melissa on Twitter @mcmliss or on Instagram @missmliss. Her website is

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