Travel photography is exciting, and it’s popular among just about everyone who picks up a camera. There is almost always a travel destination that chimes with your particular style of photography.
How do you get into travel photography though? Added to this, are you experienced in travelling? There are skills you need as a travel photographer beyond being a good photographer. After reading this article you’ll be ready for that amazing trip, and methodical in your approach to planning it.
The Yeeping festival in Thailand is an amazing photography opportunity. However without practicing your photography it’s easy to get stuck with low light photography like this.
The first thing to take note of is that you’ll need to learn your craft. Does that mean jumping in at the deep end, and booking your flight to a far flung destination? In a word no, as there are sensible steps you can take before you hit the road.
These are important steps. Think of it as the equivalent of a professional sport player practising before going out to perform in the big match.
Getting Started With Photography
The best advice is to start local and build up. The area where you live will almost certainly have photography opportunities in it, so start with these. The photographic techniques you’ll need for travel photography are the sames ones you’ll require to get good photos in your local area.
The following are the types of photography you should be practising in your neighbourhood.
Most people come to Suncheon bay to see the sunset. The day this photo was taken it was cloudy, so a different type of photo was possible during blue hour.
- The magazine spread – Imagine you’re going to photograph a story for a travel magazine. Call it 48 hours in your town. Make a photo list of places people would visit, the food they’ll eat, and the place they’ll stay at. Then take photos of each of these things.
- The big booming landscape – This is the photo that shows the entire scene, it could well be your double page spread. This photo will take some effort, with the emphasis on big you’ll need to get a good vantage point.
- A festival or event – Festivals are a staple of travel photography, they last a short time and you need to nail your photos. Practice getting varying photos from these events such as the scene setter, some portraits, and some detail photos.
- Food photography – Practice taking photos at a restaurant, without upsetting your dining partner of course! Think about natural light, arranging the table to get a clean photo, and try using an off camera flash.
- Street photography – Always practice your street photography. When you travel it’s the people who will bring your photos to life.
This photo was taken in Suncheon, where I live, during a cultural show.
Learn How to Travel Smart
Travel photography can quickly become expensive. If your aim is to go into travel photography as a career, practising in your local area is the first step. Beyond that you’ll need to learn how to live on a modest budget, but at the same time have enough money to pay for that big ticket photo.
Once you’ve photographed your town a few times, up the ante with some day and weekend trips. These will get you familiar with the process of learning a new place, and you need to learn places quickly in order to get good photos of them.
You’ll be doing a lot of walking as a travel photographer. Use local transport as much as possible, and avoid staying in a five star hotel bubble.
The moment I saw this monk I felt that there was a good story here. This photo would later be used as a double page spread for an inflight magazine. The location is a day trip from where I lived.
Learn to Photograph in Any Weather
It’s a luxury being able to photograph in the best weather conditions, one not always enjoyed by travel photographers. This means you need to learn how to make the most of any kind of weather, to get meaningful photos.
Once again, you can practise this at home. How do you get great landscape photos on cloudy days, or sunny days? Going to your local viewpoint and practising for both these scenarios will help a lot. There are plenty of photo opportunities when it rains, that can give you beautiful photos.
Try your hand at some reflection photography, once the rain stops.
There are times when the weather can do amazing things! This photo of Boseong green tea fields, a day trip for me, would become a double page spread in a magazine.
Best Camera Equipment
Weight is an issue when it comes to travel photography. You will be spending a lot of the day walking. That means carrying your gear around the whole day. Aim to carry two lenses. It’s great to have a tripod and off camera light gear as well.
Do you carry everything with you all day? No. Decide the specific photos you will take that day, then choose the equipment you need. Leave everything else at your accommodation.
There is an increasing number of photographers who are moving from dSLR’s to mirrorless versions. The smaller size and lesser weight is the obvious appeal here.
Practising photography techniques like long exposures is best done where you live.
Planning a Longer Trip
Day trips, and in particular weekend trips, will be how you have prepared for this. Good trip planning will allow your photography to flow. Failure to do this will mean wasting time organising things on the ground.
- Book ahead – Getting used to websites such as rome2rio and booking.com means you don’t need to worry about much of the logistics on the ground.
- Research – What would make a good story from your destination? One key difference between a photographer and a travel photographer is the travel photographer has a keen eye for a story. Are there any famous foods? Is there a big festival? How about famous local produce? Any and all of these things can make a good story, when a sequence of photos on that subject is put together.
- Fixers – Reaching out to people already on the ground will help massively with your trip research. It also means you have people you can meet when you arrive. A tour guide might even be able to organise a photo-shoot with locals you’d otherwise not be able to work with.
- Weather – Although you will have practiced photographing in all weather conditions, you want to aim for the best conditions. Arriving in the middle of monsoon season is not the best idea. Look at yearly forecasts and monthly average conditions to plan the best time to visit.
Take advantage of any seasons like spring and blooming trees.
Travel Photography Tips for Beginners
Going to a new destination can be daunting. In addition to orientating yourself for the basics like food, transportation and accommodation you also need to be thinking of the photos you will take. The more you practise locally, the easier this will be.
Here are a few additional tips you can use.
- Photography list – Make a list of photographs you wish to achieve during your trip. This will give each day clear direction and structure. Use websites such as suncalc to see where the sun will be in relation to your subject. Visit websites like 500px and use their search tools. Search the destination you wish to visit, and gather some inspiration from the photos that come up.
- Wake up early – In destinations that are hot, crowded or both, this is a must. Photographing your destinations without having to deal with crowds of people will improve your chances of getting good photos. In addition to this there will be more local life first thing in the morning.
- Local photographers – Reaching out to local photographers can be a great way to learn about your destination. If you’re lucky they may share some of their favourite photography locations. The expectation is you reciprocate if a photographer reaches out to you in your neighbourhood.
Seonam temple is a short bus ride from where I live in Suncheon. There are some beautiful scenes to photograph there.
At the end of the day you need to perform in any line of work, or creative endeavor. Do you now have a usable set of photos that can be used to pitch for a story?
Whether you plan on using your photos in a personal blog, or a magazine article, you want a cohesive set of images that portrays your destination. At the end of a trip, you can take a few steps that will give you an idea of your success, and help you prepare for future trips.
- Top photos – Organize your photos into an album of perhaps twenty images. These will show a mixture of landscapes, people and detail photos. This can be great for personal satisfaction. It’s also a portfolio of work to show to prospective clients.
- Magazine pitch – The top tip for any of you aspiring to have a travel photography career? You will need to become just as good a writer as you are a photographer. Magazines love it when you can offer them fully packaged up articles with text and images. The website travmedia is a great way to connect with magazine editors, and see which articles they are looking for.
- Self evaluation – The end of the trip is a great time to evaluate your performance. How well did you pack? Was everything you packed useful? Is there a way to lighten your backpack, and still deliver great photos? How good are the photos? Are there things you can improve on, perhaps learning a new technique? Never stand still as a travel photographer, always look at how you can be better.
The sulfur mines of Kawah Ijen in Indonesia are a harsh place to take a camera. In travel photography you have to be prepared to go the extra yard. The series of photos taken here would go on to be used by an inflight magazine.
Time to Hit the Road
Learning to be a good travel photographer is a step by step process. The chances are you already have some of the skills mentioned in this article. Even so going out to practice often will keep your eye sharp, vital for any photographer.
Have you already begun your travel photography journey? What has been your biggest success to date? Are there any tips you can share with out community, or perhaps your best travel photo! Having read this article, and prepared well, it’s time to hit the road for an amazing travel photography adventure!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
Thank you for reading...
if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera.
It's my training video that will walk you how to use your camera's functions in just 10 minutes - for free!
I also offer video courses and ebooks covering the following subjects:
You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos!
Thanks again for reading our articles!