Family Travel

How To Capture Drama in Your Travel Photos!

Me Ra Koh

Every photographer wants to raise the bar of drama in their photography.  This is one photo tip on how to capture drama in your travel photos.  But before I share my opinion, I want to start by asking for yours.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments today because there isn’t one right answer.  This was a question I felt challenged by while in Angkor Wat.

Capturing drama feels easier to me when shooting portraits.  People alone are full of drama and emotion.  Even a local on her bike in the morning. Her face holds enough emotion to add drama.

How to Capture Drama in Your Travel Photos from Me Ra Koh in Angkor Wat, Cambodia

But what about the ruins of a temple? 

Yes, the architecture is amazing, but it has to be more for me.  I needed to find dimension in the temples.  I wanted to capture Angkor Wat in a way that brought these ruins to life.  How to capture drama in your travel photos … means chasing the LIGHT.

The greatest difference between a pro photographer and amateur is often one thing. 

The pro knows how dependent they are on exploiting the richness of light.  The pro knows that with dramatic light, they can capture an image of a temple at noon (but it feels a little flat), or they can capture the monks walking to the temple at sunrise.

How to Capture Drama in Your Travel Photos from Me Ra Koh in Angkor Wat, Cambodia


  1. Um, well, I capture drama by hiring a really good photographer… like you! 🙂

  2. Your sunrise shots are glorious. Love the spectrum of orange and yellow, and pinks/purples. How awesome our God is! He is the ultimate artist who paints the sky in glorious colors. We are priveledged to take the snapshot. Beautiful work MeRa and kudos for getting up to capture the beautiful images. The family photo in the tuk-tuk is beautiful. Pascaline is becoming a little lady. la-te-da… hehee! I had two girls and I loved watching them bloom into beautiful young ladies. Your son is simply adorable too! Priceless moments.

  3. Jen Smith says:

    Let’s hear it for “exploiting the richness of light!” Great shots — and I love the rim light of you, the kids and the Tuk-Tuk driver. Like you said, it takes a basic tourist shot to the next level, exuding warmth.

  4. I often wish I were the type of travel photographer who woke up before the crack of dawn to capture an image, but alas, I’m not. Maybe one day I will be! I can’t seem to get up before 7am…

    But, because I am normally shooting during the ‘unfavorable’ times of day, I have found that I’ve gotten pretty good at learning to combat the issues I come across during these times.

    On my more recent trip to Puerto Rico, I would have killed to have a bright, sunny day so that I could exploit the heck out of the light bending through the narrow cobblestone streets, but reality isn’t always in line with our expectations. We never got one of those sunny days in the city, but there’s no use crying about it 😀

    Here are some of my recent photos:

  5. Me Ra says:

    OH, Wayfaring Wanderer, I LOVE that first photo of the cobble stone streets on your blog! Love it, love it, love it! Thank you so much for sharing your blog with us!

  6. sarah says:

    GREAT advice. thank you.

  7. Christen says:

    I love this post on capturing dramatic light in your images… I have definitely found this to be true and I love that it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we can make it, but rather… just simplify your life and photography by scheduling your sessions around the light more than ANYTHING else. =)

  8. I love the light, and the way that it brings drama to the images. I totally agree with you that light is a huge element of drama. You can find the drama in black and white images as well with color (although I think color is more dramatic, Light is still the underlined element allowing the drama to unfold)
    I also think that Line brings drama to images. For example your second photo, if you were to follow your finger between the sky and silhouette of the building you will find a curved line. If this image would be a straight line of a silhouette it would not be as dramatic. This one really allows your eye to travel across the image.
    The trees in the 5th picture help frame with thick straight lines. Which creates a sense of strength.. which to me is dramatic.
    Love all these shots.. I cant wait to see more (and what a day to talk about drama 😉

  9. Genie says:

    I’m with you mamabloo…or at least someone to deliver the camera I left at home…How’d you get the monks to line up that way?

    But in case you can’t tell, I AM learning from your blogs. Even if I haven’t yet shared my images…:) soon, vedy, vedy soon…

  10. Kelli says:

    Beautiful! Is that really a “hot air balloon” hot air balloon? If so..that basket is huuuuuugge! Looks like a platform!

  11. Cindy says:

    gorgeousness and great tips! Thanks (O:

  12. CA says:

    Wow. What great images! I am absolutely addicted to the drama in relationships. Last year I offered to shoot a family with 11 kids. The husband and wife had a few of their own and then so lovingly adopted so many others that were living in 3rd world countries being plagued with malnutrition and other horrible situations (and a few that were in terrible situations in this country). You could feel the love oozing out of those parents for ALL of the kids. Not just the ones that she birthed. My favorite dramatic shot was of Mom and one of the older kids. Mom had her in her lap, arms around her and was giving an eskimo kiss. It’s on my old blog, so don’t judge too harshly (I *think* the new one it better, but I could be wrong), but it is down near the bottom of this post:

    Also, MeRa, as if you don’t have enough to do, I wonder if you would be willing to share some recipes for some of the shots with the sun in them? Specifically the monks and you guys on the tuk-tuk. I haven’t quite mastered the art of that yet and would love to see what settings you are using.

    As always, thank you.

  13. kimpr says:

    i love the tips….thanks me rah.

  14. The darkness only makes the beautiful light shine brighter. Thank you for always encouraging us all to find the light and move towards it MeRa. The darkness has it’s place…and will be put in it’s place when it is swallowed up by the light. The darkness is ugly, but only makes that which is ready to shine forth with a pure heart more beautiful! I may be talking in riddles but I think you get what I mean. Love you!

  15. Robin says:

    Beautiful post, very inspiring.

  16. lora says:

    I love this post! It just confirms what I was already thinking about starting sessions just before sunset. And you opened my eyes about needing less editing when the light adds drama. Thanks Me Ra!

  17. […] the top of our head, and it was 100 degree heat.  The Dramatic Lighting that we talked about in last week’s post was not an option.  Sunrise was long […]

  18. […] the timing of this Photo Tale was great with two earlier posts I wrote this month on lighting;  How to Capture Drama in Your Photos and Seeing Beyond the Light.  A third Photo Tip post on lighting for April is crazy fun!  Enjoy […]