The world is filled with incredible islands, every spot more beautiful than the next. Each of these islands ranges in landscape orientation and diverse scenery. From roaring ocean beaches’ to sand dunes, along with handfuls of mountainsides and lush forest sprinkled in between. There’s no set expectation or standardize view when it comes to the typical look for islands (especially coming from each of the seven continents). It’s no wonder that many interested tourist, artist, and curious minds alike wander from all over the world to popular getaway-island destinations.
For a photographer, there’s nothing more satisfying than capturing stunning views behind your camera lense, not to mention the ability to add a wide range of island photography to your portfolio. With an entire globe to adventure to, and many islands waiting to be explored – don’t be surprised if you find yourself completely captivated by each place, as they all offer a completely unique set of experiences (whether that be people, sights, cultures, or customs). So bring along your camera as we discuss our favorite spots to capture island photography from all over the world.
The Azores Islands in Portugal
While still occupied by the country of Portugal, the Azores islands are more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from the mainland. Located 900 miles off the coast in the center of the Atlantic Ocean lay the nine major islands that make up the islet cluster (bonus points for there being nine explorable islands over one!). Each island is known for its unique set of qualities and different traits. The three major islands for tourist (and photographers) are Terceira, Sao Miguel, and Pico. Whether island hopping or staying at one particular place, these locations will provide exceptional island photography images.
Pico Island is known for the eponymous volcano called Ponta Do Pico (otherwise known as Mount Pico). Mount Pico is the highest mountain in the country of Portugal and a great setting for capturing island photography, as the backdrop of the volcano is lush greenery with a drop off of continuously blue water. In Sao Miguel, there are over dozens of incredibly scenic and unique jaw-dropping natural landscapes like Furnas and Sete Cidades. The city of Angra de Heroísmo in Terceira provides beautiful city backdrops against aged historical buildings alongside the coast.
Bali in Indonesia
While being seen on many travel blogs and pinterest pages, the island of Bali is a stunningly diverse and full of amazing opportunities for island photography images. This may be a surprise to many, but the beaches of Bali should not be the focal point of your photos. In the district of Ubud (in the northern region of Bali), are many rice fields, the iconic monkey forest, and the many healing Buddhist temples located throughout the area, are the ideal locations for shooting island photography.
In addition to Ubud being a scenic place to bring along your camera, Bali also has smaller islands with amazing rock formations. One of these islands is known as Nusa Penida, where photographers can shoot from a top a hideaway secret point beach and capture cliffs resembling a T-Rex – which makes for an excellent portfolio piece.
Naoshima in Japan
While getting it out of the way and stating the obvious, yes Japan is all located on an island – an island full of incredibly beautiful sights to shoot and capture creative island photography. In particular, there is a small island located in the center of the country on the southern border called Naoshima and nicknamed the Art Island.
What makes this particular island worthy of our list, is the large amount of art installations embedded all throughout the city. Some of these pieces include: Yayoi Kusama’s famous Yellow Pumpkin, the Three Vertical Squares Diagonal from George Ricky, and Walter De Maria’s Time/Timeless/No TIme sculpture in the must see Chichu Art Museum (amongst many other installations).
Hvar in Croatia
Many claims that the island of Hvar has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the entire world. As the sun sets and reflects off the Adriatic Sea, the sky turns into rich colors giving off vibrant hues of orange, pinks, yellows, and purple – the sight you could only imagine to see in paintings. While the city of Hvar does have an associating reputation with partying and being one of the top spots during Croatia yacht week, the island has much more to offer. In addition to capturing island photography of the sea during sunset, try heading over to some of the city’s deserted villages.
Created with original Dalmatian architecture, stone walls and old homes take up stretches of land, each creating amazing depth and texture with their building material, making the imagery extremely detailed. To finish off your island shooting adventure, make sure to take photos of the islands many lavender fields and olive trees, which are two of the main export sources for the country of Croatia.
Isla Mujeres in Mexico
Just when you thought that Mexican beaches couldn’t be any more scenic or beautiful, you take a boat ride over eight miles from the coast of Cancun and reach Isla Mujeres. Meaning in spanish, the women’s island, Isla Mujeres occupies over a four mile stretch of land made up of white sand beaches, crystal-clear blue sand bars, and naturally made rock pools that are not only great for taking a quick swim, but for gathering the perfect island photography content.
After finishing shooting images of the beach settings head over to El Meco Archaeological Site to take some historical photographs, or Garrafon Natural Reef Park where there’s great nature photography content.
The country off the coast of India known as Sri Lanka is completely full of mesmerizing sights that many photographers who love capturing nature settings like beaches, mountain cliffs, peaceful gardens, and historic buildings. For those looking to take photos of Sri Lanka’s southern mountain wall, head to the Ella Gap as it’s one of the best spots in the country to take island photography images as well as give you access to beautiful forest and tea plantations. An animal lover? Capture great content while helping wildlife by attending the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Along with these two spots, don’t miss out on Adam’s Peak, Dambulla’s Cave Temple, and Polonnaruwa.
Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, underneath both Italy’s Sicily is the country of Malta. Comprised of multiple islands (making up an archipelago) it’s the perfect location to capture island photography. Along with the beautiful water, drop off cliffs, and luxurious ports with mesmerizing yachts, the islands are home to a wide variety of historic buildings and an interesting past.
Given the island’s location, it has been home to many of the world’s great civilizations and empires such as The Romans, Moors, as well as the British and French occupancy. With the various amounts of rule over the island, witness (from behind your lense) stunning architecture ranging in all styles and time periods.
To many, the perfect spot for a destination getaway or honeymoon, but for photographers, the Maldives is a content-rich country with countless areas of potential shooting spots. Each of the twenty-six atolls (which are ring-shaped reef islands, or a chain of reef islands) contain stunning locations to shoot incredible island photography.
Amongst the twenty-six atolls are over one thousand coral islands filled with extensive reefs. This is the ultimate spot for those looking to shoot underwater. If visiting, start your trip off at the Ari Atoll as it’s made up of the most coral islands (around one hundred).
There are countless reasons why Aruba is a must-see for capturing incredible island photography content. Along with the iconic divi-divi trees that slank towards the northeast winds and rooted into white sand beaches, there’s some of the best diving in the world (those who love to shoot underwater content will marvel at the two offshore World War Two shipwrecks (SS Antilla and the SS Pedernales). For those that can handle an uphill hike, you may just see the country of Venezuela off into the distance from the Hooiberg on a clear day.
Southeast Asia is full of countries with amazing islands, the thing about Singapore, is that the entire country is an island – so you’re bound to get an eyeful with each visit. Whether wanting to shoot typical island photography and take pictures along the coast, or venture into the street markets and capture some food imagery, this country has it all! The most scenic and incredible views in Singapore, would either have to be the Garden by the Bay or a top the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
While one is a rather expensive hotel stay (costing you roughly four to five hundred dollars), the views of the city from the infinity pool are incredible. The other, (the Garden by the Bay) is full of both interesting and bizzare light shows on metal tree-like objects with canopies intertwining the length of the park (certainly a once in a lifetime show). By leaving on your high exposure, you’d be amazed at the dancing lights you’ll capture in your final photos.
Nova Scotia in Canada
Besides ordering yourself some delicious lobster rolls in Nova Scotia, try exploring to some of the island’s incredible natural wonders and historical sights. First stop is Kejimkujik National Park, with the option to stay at a resort or camp, guests of the park can capture incredible imagery of water creeks or the foliage around Kejimkujik Lake (make sure to check out this park during the fall months as the leaves are vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow).
Next is Citadel Hill, a historic fort founded in 1794. The star shape of the building will make for great aerial shots of the area. Important worth mentioning that drone cameras will not be allowed or permitted to fly around the fort.
Kona and the Big Island in Hawaii
Mentioned in our piece regarding best photography spots in each state, Kona in the Big Island of Hawaii takes a worthy place on our list. While also being one of the most stunning views of water and drop-cliffs, the site of an active volcano is surely a piece to add to any photographer’s portfolio. Explore the vast amount of dried lava fields throughout the island. Additionally, Kona is home to Kona coffee brewing as well as beer brewing farms and facility. These two landmark locations would make for great content as you shoot a mixture of product, machinery, and nature (all at one spot).
For those of you with experience in shooting star content, up on the mountain late at night, the sky is filled with a countless number of stars. This site makes for incredible long exposure shots as sights such as Orion’s Belt and the North Star are visible during a clear night. Make sure to check both the forecast as well as the moon cycle before venturing out to shoot the sky – as full moons tend to block out the star’s visibility with their bright light.
Ha Long Bay in Vietnam
Named as one of the seven natural wonders of the world in addition to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay is a definite must-see if making the trip over to Southeast Asia. Instead of being called an island and being restricted to one piece of land, Ha Long Bay is instead thousands of limestone cliffs emerging from the sea.
What photographers in particular love about the Bay’s unique limestone formations, is the replica images or sights they represent. For example, some of the island’s names are known as Whale islet or dog islet, as an aerial or side profile view reflects just that, a sight of a whole or a dog. Another hot spot destination point for photographers is one of the only remaining fishing villages in the bay. Capture colorful home built on top of the water (appearingly floating).
A true nature lover’s paradise, Iceland is hands down one of the most mesmerizing landscapes. From black sand beaches and smokey grounds to thundering waterfalls, there’s not much more this country can provide you on when it comes to natural beauty. The best way to venture throughout the island is by renting a car and exploring on your own.
While tours are enjoyable, the ability to stay put at a location for longer than five minutes to capture great island photography content will be your saving grace (for you and your portfolio). Some of the must-see sights Something to keep in mind, Iceland’s sights like the waterfalls and glaciers plus the typical rainy weather in Iceland can have your camera gear in jeopardy. If venturing around with an expensive DSLR non-waterproof camera, make sure to secure it.
Capri in Italy
Aside from the fancy shops and over priced salad dishes, the island of Capri is one of the most wonderful and downright magical places one could venture to. Initially making your way from the stunning Sorrento port in Italy, guests arrive at the port of colorful walled building filled with a wide arrangement of boats on the harbor (everything from million dollar yachts to two-person fishing boats). While not surrounded by white sand beaches, Capri has much unique and beautiful offering for those looking to capture incredible views with their camera.
One of the must see spots on the island is the blue grotto. Guests will take boats in through a canyon off the side of one of the island’s rock cliffs. Once inside, the hue of a bold cobalt blue light will fill the dark corners of the canyon’s cave; the light reflecting off the water causes this. Enjoy the sites back to the port from the Blue Grotto, as you’ll notice huge rock formations all around your boat (your guide may even drive you through the tight and narrow spaces for a more adventurous ride).
Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
Follow in Darwin’s footsteps as you uncover some of the most evolutionary species that were studied by science almost two hundred years ago. Before arriving in Ecuador, there are a few pieces of information to keep in mind. One, the Galapagos are an assortment of volcanic islets versus one single island. If visiting, make sure you’re hitting up a number of islands during your stay, as each is very different and can give you a huge range in elements to photograph.
Lastly, there are no direct flights to the islands (as they’ve kept relatively preserved and eco-friendly). Guest will have to arrive in one of Ecuador’s coastal cities and take a boat over to the Galapagos Islands. If looking to replicate Darwin and capture on camera the wildlife, he spoke of, make sure to visit Santa Cruz Island and the town of Puerto Ayora. Once here, visitors can also tour the Darwin Research Station and wildlife like black turtles, and marine iguanas.
Ireland & Northern Ireland
While the two have faced trials and tribulations over the years, as one is Irish rule and the other is occupied by the UK, as a whole the island is home to many beautiful and scenic locations in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. Ranging from natural landscapes like Cliffs of Moher to historical attractions like famous castles (and everything in between), it would certainly be wise to pack extra film or sim cards in your bag when looking to capture content in the land of forty shades of green.
First, on our list of the must-see in Ireland is the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. As the sea meets the cliffs, guests are in sock at the sheer force of water propelled into the air. If you’re lucky enough, the clouds will be just clear enough to see the causeway but close enough to create imagery that reflects the rocks hidden between the white caps of the sea and the clouds. Next, Dublin Castle has almost one thousand years of history and would be a great addition to any photographer’s portfolio.
Ibiza in Spain
More than providing many spring breakers with electronic dance music, Ibiza is home to many diverse beaches. Ranging from white sandy beaches to rocky cliffs and dropoff beaches, there are many avenues to explore in Spain’s iconic party hotspot. Some of these places include: Platja d’en Bossa, Cala d’Hort, Cala Comte, and Talamanca beach.
Don’t miss out on the limestone rock formations off the coast in Es Vedra, not only is it a beautiful site to capture on camera, it’s home to many local stories and legends. If visiting Ibiza, make sure to plan ahead of time and make sure that you’re arriving in season. Unlike many locations where you get lower rates and better deals on the off-season, Ibiza as a whole will be a ghost down with no running business’ during the off-season.
Isle of Skye in Scotland
Only occupying fifty miles, Isle of Skye is full of mountainous land and picture-worthy waterfall lagoons. Known as great space to capture long exposure imagery, the falls create many opportunities for Instagram worthy island photography and images.
As this is the United Kingdom’s actual paradise, it wouldn’t be complete without a medieval castle. In the town of Portree, guest can roam around the historical setting, shop in many of the boutiques, or even head over to the on-site bar after a day of shooting amazing content.
Zanzibar in Tanzania
Covering both the romantic elements of island photography and the historical, Zanzibar is a site full of crystal clear blue water, an Arabian fort, and national reserve forest. For incredible views and great shots full of both a dynamic forefront and background, head to the Changuu. Only reachable by private boat, this is also a great place to bring your camera if you’re interested in shooting wildlife imagery as this island is home to many giant tortoises.
If visiting Zanzibar and wanting to experience more animals to capture on camera than just tortoises, don’t miss out on the national park of Tanzania called the Jozani Chiwaka where photographers can see Skyes monkey and bush babies. Plus! Over forty species of birds and over fifty species of butterflies.