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Shooting Adventure Travel Videos for Beginners


Of course, you can have an expensive DSLR and lots of bulky equipment to take the most amazing footage possible but let's start with the smartphone. Most everybody has a very capable piece of camera equipment in their pocket every day and that is the smartphone be it an Android or iOS most of today's smartphones have incredible camera features that do not get utilized. We are going to try to go over some best practices to help you capture the moments of your adventures.


Don’t film in portrait

If you want to be able to use your footage in other projects, it’s important to shoot your videos horizontally. Whether your video is finally displayed on a TV, computer, or YouTube, it will be viewed in landscape.

Don’t use any zoom function

The zoom on your iPhone is digital zoom instead of optical zoom, which is going to cut out the details and lower the video quality.

Remember to lock your exposure

To make sure your shot is sharply focused, frame your shot, tap the screen on the area you want focused and hold it until AE/AF lock box appears to lock your exposure.

This will ensure that your final video isn’t blurry and out of focus, even if it’s continuously adjusted according to the movement.

Make use of time-lapse and slow motion

A little bit of time-lapse or slo-mo footage added to your video can give it a professional touch. But it depends on what you’re filming, for example, a shot of someone surfing will be super great in slow motion but will be too quick for a timelapse.

Don’t shoot from six

This refers roughly to the height of an average man holding a camera to his face. Perspective is everything, so getting high above, or well below eyeball level can give an otherwise ordinary image a unique angle. Kneel down, stand in a hole if you have to, or hold your camera over your head. That may be all it takes to lend an image a fresh perspective.

Apply the “Rule of Thirds”

Among the photography techniques you can use, the Rule of Thirds is most important and highly necessary for capturing great images. It will help create a good and balanced composition of the subject and the background without placing the former in awkward places in the shot. The concept requires breaking the image into thirds horizontally and vertically to make nine parts or boxes. Place the subject on the intersecting lines/points (rather than in the center of the shot) to make it more natural-looking.

Tell the story with images big and small

The importance of telling a travel story with images of varied scale. This includes the use of wide sweeping landscapes, medium-range shots with intricate detail, candid portraits, and even macro shots illustrating the most minuscule scenes. When you view your surroundings this is how you digest those visuals. You look out at a mountain range as it stretches out across the horizon. You then study the details of the forest, and then inspect the subtle nuance of a pine cone. Those shots create a composite of images that depict an entire experience.

Any shot is better than no shot

Having a camera at the ready is the difference between a great shot and a fun memory. Many of the best shots are chance opportunities. You can’t exploit those moments if you’re not ready for them.

Shoot The Ordinary But Seek The Extraordinary

People are the key to telling adventure stories. It is images of their behavior and how they interact with the wilderness adventure that communicates to the viewer just what the trip was about. Showing their highs and lows, their pain and their exuberance, how they overcome a physical challenge, all convey a sense of adventure.

Move and pan slowly

Nothing is worse than fast or jerky pans and quick spins or turning when watching a video. In fact, it can even make some people nauseous when watching. Focus on moving slowly and steadily when panning or spinning. It takes some practice.

Memory and Resolution

Apple, Samsung, and others tout 4k as the best video around. In terms of resolution, it is. At first, you will probably be tempted to use the highest resolution, but that’s not always optimal. 4k and 2.7k videos will eat up a lot of storage space really fast, as well as power. So you are very likely to run out of memory or battery fast. If memory is a concern then we advise selecting a video resolution of 1080 HD at 60 fps. With 60 frames per second though, fast-moving objects will be less blurry and you always have the option to create that slow-mo effect by slowing it down to 30 fps. For a more dramatic slow-mo, you will need to shoot at 120 fps or even 240 fps if your camera has that option.

For the record, I always shoot at 2.7k and 60 fps for more flexibility in editing later but I also carry multiple memory cards and charge often from a power pack. If you are shooting in 4k with a companion DSLR, in which case you absolutely want to shoot in the same resolution and frames per second to make editing easier.


Getting into the adventure mindset starts with pre-trip planning and determining a storyline. A personal narrative relating your adventure to a foreign land is far more compelling than just a long list of shots of the lovely sunsets and crowded markets. Storytelling is really about asking and answering questions.

  1. What is the trip about?

  2. Who is going?

  3. Will there be any specific events to plan for in advance?

  4. What happened on your journey?

  5. Why are you there?

  6. What are the challenges you face?

  7. Who are the people you meet?


The Establishing Shot

Establishing shots are commonly characterized as wide introductory views of a specific location. This type of shot can be used as a lead-in to a new setting right before the action begins. Creators can even show the passing of time through subtle, or not-so-subtle, changes in scenery.

The Close-Up Shot

Creators use close-up shots to bring the viewer’s focus to a specific subject — oftentimes, a person’s face. In your YouTube video, this type of shot is great for conveying emotion and eliciting a corresponding response from the viewer. Viewers take their cues from the subject of a close-up shot. If the subject is a person who appears to be vulnerable or distressed, viewers will respond differently than if the person makes a humorous facial expression. One type of close-up evokes a feeling of sympathy while the other is intended to make viewers laugh.

The Medium Shot

As seen with close-up shots, a person’s proximity to the camera can impact the emotional intensity of viewers' response. When talking conversationally to viewers, YouTubers often use medium shots to put themselves at a comfortable distance from the camera. With a medium shot, a person and their surroundings are both visible within the frame. This type of shot emphasizes the person or subject in view rather than the setting.


One of the most unique features of any destination is its people. This is something that you should aim to include for any destination. There are two ways that you can capture people. There is the obvious “portrait” which are head and shoulder shots with the emphasis on the person’s face and eyes. The second is “environmental portraits” which capture the person and their surroundings. These will be wider angle shots that might capture what the person is doing. Try to get a mix of portraits and environmental portraits to give your photos variety.

The Main Sights

Travel icons, tourist sights, whatever you want to call them, should always feature on any travel shot list. Yes they have been photographed millions of times and yes they are busy, but they are tourist sights for a reason. Do your research on them when you are planning your trip to see if there is a unique way that you can capture them.


You won’t have to travel far to come across a big cityscape hanging on a wall somewhere. A beautifully lit and composed cityscape can look stunning. These shots should be one of the main ones that you try to capture around sunrise, sunset or the blue hour. Most cities will have natural lookout points that give a view of the city so finding the right location shouldn’t be difficult.


Look for an area that’s not too busy. The best landscape photos convey space as much as they convey beautiful sceneries. The best time to get out your phone and take video is 30 minutes before and after sunrise or sunset or "Golden hour." During blue hour capture the clouds of the sunset 30 min after the sunsets.

Daily Life

Travel photography should transport the viewer on a journey to that location. To do this well you need to show the viewer things that sometimes tourists miss. Little moments in people’s daily life can look stunning and captivate the viewer. This could be as simple as someone getting on a bus, or a market vendor making a sale.

The key to capturing these shots is to always have your eyes open and be ready as these are fleeting moments.


Food is a huge part of the experience of traveling. So it is one of the “must-haves” in your collection from a destination. Usually, every region will have its own specialty. You should aim to capture as much of it as possible. Don’t forget to also try and take video of the preparation of food as well. This is also part of the experience.


In every part of the world, people have to get around. In some places, it’s with cars, taxis, buses or even bicycles. Other places it might be trams or even a horse and cart. Some modes of transport are unique to that part of the world. Always be on the lookout for these types of shots that can usually tell an intriguing story about that location.


Whether it’s old or new, Gothic or Classical, every place has its own unique style. In most big cities you will find a whole mix of old and new and it is something that is worth looking for and capturing. Remember that architecture doesn’t have to mean capturing the entire building, it could just be a small section or even a unique view.


From the blue hour onward, cities seem to transform as night sets in. Lights come on to illuminate the city and sometimes make even the most mundane scene look beautiful.


One of the big challenges is that they have to be able to capture a wide variety of subjects well. Sometimes this means wildlife. This could be anything from domestic wildlife such as farm animals to animals in a zoo.

These shouldn’t cause too many challenges as you will be pretty close to them and will have plenty of time to capture the shot. If you are planning a trip like a safari it would be advisable to learn more about wildlife photography as a specialized topic.


Travel guides, locals, and your travel partners all make great subjects for interviews. Shots of people are a good way to mix up your footage, and you can even edit their voices over certain shots. For example, if your travel guide is describing the history of a landmark, this is a great time to cut right to your footage of it.

Time Lapses

Many cameras, including your smartphone, have time-lapse functions that you can take advantage of. All you need to do is set your camera in a steady place and wait. It’s not always necessary, but it’s helpful to have a tripod handy for filming time-lapses. If you don’t have a tripod, just make sure you have a flat surface where you can place your camera or phone.


A good story requires a little preparation. This preparation is called a shot list. All you need to do is jot down the basic shots you want to get on a shot list and the story will start to manifest itself. You don't have to overthink it.

Here is a Travel Video shot list template you can use to get started:

1 x Introduction Talk to Camera

2 x Walking Shots

2 x Wide Scenic shots

4 x Medium Shots of People doing stuff

2 x Interviews

8 x Close-Ups of Details like signs and faces, hands

1 x Talk to Camera Conclusion

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