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Central America travel photography

Five Tips to Improve Your Central America Travel Photography

Want to improve your Central America travel photography in 2021? Follow these five tips, get yourself some photo editing software, and become the king or queen of Central America Instagram!

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times. Central America is the most photogenic region on the planet. It’s every wannabe Instagram influencer’s dream.

Where else can you capture the turquoise Caribbean Sea, all palm-fronds and white sands, on the same day as snapping the deep blue Pacific, with, um, more palm-fronds and white sands?

Where can you find jungle-clad mountains and misty highlands with every shade of green you can imagine, hiding ancient lost cities of the Maya?

Can you think of another region so full of monkeys, sloths, whales, and other wildlife all waiting to be #hashtagged by you? Imagine hiking volcanoes in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, or Costa Rica and photographing bright the bright oranges of the active lava flows. Or capturing the colors and flavors of a Mayan marketplace for lifelong posterity. Imagine the pastel shades of a Lake Atitlan dawn.

There’s nowhere more colorful, more vibrant, than Central America. We’ve said it a million times, which is why we love Instagram so much.

On our Instagram account, we try to highlight the best photographers in Central America, both visitors and locals. We have almost 3,000 images of Central America by hundreds of photographers, all proudly showing off the region.

This week, we’ll be highlighting our most popular Instagram images of the year, as we do around this time every year. And it got us thinking, what makes a photograph popular?

How come some photos take off on social media, while others don’t? What is it photographers in Central America (and elsewhere) can do to ensure amazing images?

We asked our favorite photographer in Central America, Adam Baker from San Jose, Costa Rica’s Tempest Pictures for his advice on taking the best pics possible.

Below, please find his tips to help you make your photos of the beauty of Central America stand out more than those of everyone else.

1. Location Location Location!

It’s one thing being in Central America, but it’s another thing altogether finding the best places to photograph. When everywhere presents a unique photo opportunity, how do you stand out?

There are a million photos of the Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua, Guatemala, Cathedral Point in Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park, or the Great Blue Hole in Belize. And for good reason… these classic images will always impress. But try getting off the beaten path, too. There’s nothing like some shipping shots from remote spots on the Panama Canal, Panama or a deserted beach in Honduras no-one’s ever heard of.

Get on Instagram and look for places less photographed or #hashtagged than others. Ask around at your hotel or hostel for secret spots. Central America is far more than the main sites.

It’s also worth knowing where not to take photos. Some countries in Central America don’t allow photos around airports, police stations, military bases, and so on. Churches are also a no-go in many places. Just ask around if you’re unsure.

2. Take portraits.

What can say more about the place than the local people? Especially in Central America where the people are as beautiful and as diverse as the land where they live.

Afraid to approach people on the streets and ask them for portraits? Don’t be! If you smile, stay polite and friendly, and always ask for permission before taking photographs of strangers, they will be likely to agree. And if they don’t, move on and ask someone else.

One caveat to the above is in Guatemala. A lot of the Maya are sensitive to having their photos taken. If you ask politely, especially in tourist or market areas, you should be okay if you offer a tip afterward. But off the beaten track, be careful. And never take a photo without permission.

Suppose your shoot yielded multiple striking images. In that case, consider making a collage online as an effective way to showcase your work. Online collage makers often offer drag-and-drop interfaces, which make compiling your images a breeze.

3. Know the rules of composition and lighting.

Good composition is the line between a regular image and a professional photograph.

Remember the Rule of Thirds: split the image into nine squares and align your objects along the lines of the central square. This way, the viewer will immediately be drawn to the objects of the photo and see the full composition.

Another good tip is the Golden Hour Rule. The best time to shoot outside is one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. During these hours, the air is filled with a golden hue that makes every shot look perfect and warm. If you can’t take pictures during the golden hour, at least avoid the unflattering direct sunlight at noon.

4. Learn about photo editing and post-processing.

Would you like to correct the colors of your images or remove small blemishes from the model’s face? Nowadays, many photo editors have one-click solutions to perform these tasks. However, if you’re striving to become a professional photographer, you should learn the manual features as well.

But where to start? It’s often worth getting a decent software to learn the essentials of photo editing, like PhotoWorks software, for example.  This is a far better option than using Instagram filters to make your pictures look top-notch.

Is your image overexposed? Adjust the highlights and shadows to restore the correct lighting.

Inexperienced photographers often have issues with crooked horizons which can be easily fixed with special tools for landscape photography.

Getting serious about your travel photography is a lot easier if you’re using the right tools to help you. The professionals do it, why not you?

5. Practice and repeat.

If you want to become a successful travel photographer, you have to practice a lot.

The best motivator is to be better than you were yesterday. Take a challenge and start taking as many photos as you can, and post the best ones to your Instagram account every day. You’ll see your pictures get better as you learn more about your technique and editing skills.

And please don’t forget to use the #centralamericaliving hashtag or to tag us in your Instagram shots to get featured and get onto our 2021 hall of fame!

James Dyde is the editor of He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

James Dyde

James Dyde

James Dyde is a British immigrant to Costa Rica and the editor of this website. He has lived in Central America since 2000 and retains a deep love for the region. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.