Travel photography incorporates many other areas of photography. Street, landscape and architecture are all part and parcel of what travel photography is.
It is the feeling of a time and place. Some images remain timeless, others reflect the moment in which it was taken, portraying land and its people.
Photographing while travelling covers such a wide variety of subjects in wildly different circumstances.
Travel photographers need to have many adaptable skills and a versatile nature.
Successful travel photographers need skills that far surpass photographic knowledge. They need rigorous organisation, a dab hand at researching and planning.
To be outgoing and social is also an advantage. It’ll make it easier to get portraits of people you encounter on your travels.
Language knowledge can also really aid you in getting the best shots possible. There are many websites where your images can be stored and shared.
Some, such as 500px offers a platform of communication between photographers. Here, they can rank photographs and offer advice.
Traditionally travel photographers earned money through Stock photography, magazines and commercial projects.
Nowadays, the stock photography market has become saturated. Due to this, more and more photographers are using innovative methods of earning a living.
Many photographers teach through workshops, classes and photo walks. They can also advertise on their travel blogs, and sell images through smaller, more specific clients.
Packing Your Bag
Everyone needs a checklist to pack their travel bag. I can’t leave the house without forgetting something. Travelling requires a few more items than your keys, wallet, and – I’m sure there was something else.
Pack an item, check it off. If you don’t have it, figure out if it’s necessary or not. Think about where you are going, and do they have the things you might need to buy? And don’t forget to update your list after each trip.
Always picture the worst case scenario, and have a backup plan. Two if you are super organised and/or anxious.
We all try to take too much stuff. The general idea for clothes is to lay out only the bare minimum and then halve it. Too many times have I travelled with someone who doesn’t follow this rule.
Then they ask me to carry their bag. You can imagine my response.
Reduce your stuff as you don’t want to carry it everywhere. Pack your camera equipment first, and then clothes if you have any space left.
And use your clothes to pad your equipment. Socks over lenses work great.
Read here for more great packing hacks to get you started on the right foot.
Essential tools for your journey cover you and your camera gear. It is so difficult to get out and photograph if you don’t have the right accessories or clothing.
Etip gloves allow you to use your camera and smartphone without taking them off. Good shoes or hiking boots mean you are prepared for any occasion.
The only place you won’t want them is at the beach. So take flip flops too.
Our extensive guide gives you more items that you and your travel photography will benefit from.
Everyone knows a photographer. If they are going off on some wild or adventurous travels, this list is for you. These gift ideas are something that photographers never plan for, yet they are super helpful.
If they are going to a place where the local language has 15 ways to say typhoon, the shutter hat is a great addition to their gear. Small, lightweight but practical in saving your camera from rain.
It goes up in seconds, faster than you can say flash flood. Read our article for more great ideas to show them that you have their photographic back, as it were.
An ideal travel camera is versatile, lightweight and takes great photographs. There is no space or time or anything else.
A DSLR is a go-to camera for capturing high-dynamic range images and even video.
Mirrorless systems also have their place as they are super silent. Perfect for those candid street photos, or shooting those monks during their daytime prayer.
You might decide that an action camera (like a Go-Pro) is also helpful.
You would be right, but be careful of that wide angle. Getting-in-close will be your action word.
All three systems have their place, and now it just depends on what you will capture. Or just get all three.
A camera bag needs to have quick access. Travel photography is going to require you to stay on your toes and keeping your eyes open.
It’s a wide world out there, with ever-changing landscapes and scenarios.
It needs to protect your gear, maybe even stop water getting to your very expensive equipment.
You would also benefit from having something that doesn’t scream ‘tourist carrying very expensive equipment‘.
Read our article here for the best choices of bags, covering all needs and circumstances.
A tripod helps you capture long exposures and stops movement in low light conditions. It also allows your arms a little rest while keeping your camera safe.
I know, they can be heavy and a burden when you don’t need them.
Yet, there are lightweight carry-on choices that can fit in your bag. You also don’t have to take it with you on your daily scouting sessions, but it is there when you need it.
Better to have it and not use it than the alternative.
Read here for more information on tripod choices for all your travel photography needs.
You and your travel photography will benefit from accessories. You have to think that you might be in a place where buying an extra battery is either not possible or very expensive.
Grab an alternative system before you go.
Make sure you have something with you to take off that tripod plate you forgot about. It could save you, and won’t make your trip about that photograph you DIDN’T take.
The other 19 accessories are here, so dive in and let’s get equipped.
How To Start
You can literally go anywhere in the world and take photographs. And if you use a few basic compositional rules, you are halfway there.
Perhaps your scope is too big and you need to refine it. This list is here to do just that. Every different country, every different culture will offer you something different.
Be it landscape, food or architecture.
Think about what you are interested in, research and research some more.
When is the best time to go, and how do I get there? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.
Your camera settings are going to come down to your subject. What are the light conditions? How do I want to portray it/them? Is it dark already?
These are the things that denote whether you are photographing with a low shutter speed and/or a high f/stop. The ISO shouldn’t stray too far from 100, if at all.
By all means, use Aperture Priority (A/Av) or Shutter Priority (S/Tv) to make it easier, but try and utilise manual above all else.
Travel photography is not about your camera. It isn’t even about where you are. It is about the stories you tell with your captured images.
The way you take these stunning images is through research. Researching your location will let you know what is available to photograph and the best time to capture it.
Going deep into a culture lets you see all of its inner workings. This lets you experience foods and areas that tourists are not privy to.
Read our article for the other eight rules of travel photography.
Travelling safely with your camera ensures you can enjoy yourself and keep photographing.
Having an item or camera stolen can really put a dent in your experience and your budget. Insurance could be a viable option.
By covering up your cameras’ brand and model, you can really deter thieves looking to take your gear. This is best done using black tape.
Using padded cases makes sure that your camera and lenses are protected against all knocks they will encounter.
This is a great way to keep your lenses in and out of your bag for your extra protection. You can also use them separately on a strap or belt.
Your aim, whether you’re photographing to keep or to sell, is to return home with stellar photographs. We have 10 tips that can really help you get the most out of your travel photography.
People are key here. They have the potential to give your viewers a sense of their culture, and therefore, their location.
The subtlety of hinting within travel photography creates interest.
Read more to learn the other 14 tips to help you take stunning images of your travels.
Taking It Further
Using specific techniques for travel photography can help you to create interesting images. Changing your perspective is an approach that many photographers miss.
Getting high changes the scene to something more dramatic and special as we rarely see the world this way. Use a drone or find a high vantage point.
Unusual angles also create interest as the viewers will stay stuck to your image trying to work out what it is. Great for abstract or fine art photography.
Read here for more techniques to use in the field.
If you feel stuck in a rut, and find yourself photographing the same topic in the same style, you need a jump start. Go bold, or go home.
Go and photograph something that might shock the viewers, and even scare you.
A volcano, for example, is something not all travel photographers capture. Perhaps their sanity and survival instinct won’t allow them.
But it will set your photography apart and display your willingness to go above and beyond. Read our article for more ideas on shocking your photography.
While travelling, you will come across many subjects where you are presented with mixed light. This term refers to the different temperatures of light you will come across on a day’s shooting.
On a midday shoot, your images will come out a little cool. Not 90s cool, but cool with a blue tint. This is because the daylight is coming from a blue sky.
An overcast day acts like a light diffuser and will give a white light.
Want to know how to make the colour a little warmer and richer? You are going to have to read our article to find out.
Compositional rules exist to help create interest in your images. These can be layered for maximum effect, turning a somewhat dull image into something awe-inspiring.
Using reflections is a great place to start. These can be in the windows of shop fronts as you photograph that Cuban street. Or they could be from pools of still water after a heavy rainfall.
These repetitive images are great for the viewer as they add depth and another dimension to your subject. More compositional ideas can be found here, in our article.
Many photographers prefer to shoot in black and white by changing their cameras’ settings. I prefer to do it with my street photography as it stops me from becoming distracted by colour.
By utilising black and white, you look at your subject and scene in a different way. Here, you focus on the contrast of a scene. Its texture and shapes seem to pop out more.
These black and white images all revert back to being colour at home, giving me more choice. Read here on why you should look at the city in black and white.
People make the place. You get a sense of a culture and livelihood from the people in the scene of a photograph. What they are wearing and doing tells you what kind of people they are.
It also lets you know in what time period they exist and what area of the world. By capturing the place and its people, you start to tell a story.
This is what truly makes a travel photography image.
Look beyond that facade, and delve in deeper. See what exists behind the mask propped up for tourists.
Knowing a little about cropping can really help to boost your travel photography. What you leave in is just as important as what you leave out.
You have the capacity to change the whole meaning of an image using this simple technique. You could just benefit from cutting away some of the unwanted negative space around a subject.
This lets you hone into the subject, creating something more interesting. Read our thoughts here about cropping. Remember; you can always take away from your image…but you can’t add to it.
Just as there are great images, there will be tons of images that don’t make the cut. Some of those will be downright terrible. Don’t let this put you off.
I am yet to meet a photographer whose entire photographic history is perfect. Your images can benefit from a little insider knowledge.
Here is a list of mistakes you should learn to avoid.
Number one being; don’t bring too much equipment. If you’ve left your tripod at the hotel, you’ll find another way to stabilise your camera. Don’t rush back to the hotel and risk missing that great sunset landscape photo!
Utilising an external hard drive is the most important way to safely store your images once they are out of your camera.
Backing up in the field means that you need to find a solution to keep your images safe, far from a computer.
Having a system that will copy your images from your memory cards means not having to buy more of them.
A week’s photographic journey could have you carrying around seven 32 GB cards.
This system is prone to losing a card, getting it dirty or accidentally wiping the wrong card. Check out our article for better alternatives.
Smartphone Travel Photography
Using your iPhone for travel photography has numerous benefits. The first one is that you already have one.
You don’t need to buy anything else, no expensive DSLR body and no need to stress over a prime or zoom lens.
The second most important thing is that it takes great images. With the inbuilt camera app, you can shift the focus and even add or subtract exposure values.
It is lightweight, fits in your pocket and can even house lenses if you so wish.
The iPhone is there when you need it, so no changing settings or thinking about different shooting modes. Perfect.
By travelling with your iPhone, you will definitely benefit from taking advantage of a few apps. By using VSCO, you can edit your images on the move.
This simply designed app works on editing your images. You can use its presets to change effortlessly to black and white, or use sliders to create or tweak your own styles.
You can even change the colour and tint of your images.
VSCO also doubles up as its own social network, where professionals and amateurs alike share their snaps.
Or they can be exported to your photo library for Instagram, or any other social media platform.
Fine Art Travel Photography
Fine art landscape photographs are those that look at the scene in an artistic way. There is an underlying concept from the photographer, which comes out in the image.
This style is far from a snapshot, and can show a story or can even represent something more innate to the photographer themselves.
To create fine art landscape images, you need to consider why you look at the landscape.
What is it about the landscape that attracts you? Answering this will help you get deeper into the subject.
Fine art street photography is also something that the photographer puts a lot of themselves into.
These could be a series where a specific topic is covered. Rather than just photographing what you see, you actively seek out images that fit your idea or concept.
This could be storytelling through visual representation.
Our article suggests that this intention allows you to look at the street in a different way.
It encourages you to develop your own style, which is the height of artistic characterisation.
Architecture is a great subject that can benefit from a fine art representation. Great architectural images show the form, texture or shape of a building or structure.
By looking at architecture in a different way, you create fine art. The artistic element comes from stepping away from general snapshots of structures.
It looks at the meaning behind a series of images that work together.
This fine art architectural photography comes from working a scene. By moving around the subject, you start to delve deeper into the subject and are able to photograph it differently.
Read here for more tips.
One area of travel photography is wildlife. Not all travelling is done by sitting in a cafe, watching the world go by.
Many people will actively seek an alternative to their usual life and will visit the countryside or nature.
By looking at nature and wildlife with a concept in mind, you aim towards a fine art portrayal of what you experience.
To be considered fine art wildlife photography, your images need to be full of your own creativity.
You are not just simply documenting the landscapes and creatures you come across, but showing them in an imaginative light.
One way to accomplish this is to look for dramatic lighting.
Ethical Travel Photography
Ethics are very in travel photography. As you go to any other culture or nation, it is important to respectfully and accurately portray those you photograph.
These images will have an impact on the world and have the potential to change other’s views, based on those images. You have a responsibility to our subjects and who they reach.
One way to make sure your travel photography stays as ethical as possible is to research.
By researching, you learn about their cultures and might find that photographs of women are unacceptable, for example.
Tipping is the act of giving someone money in exchange for a photograph of them.
Usually, it is a local person in a local environment who adds something to the image. It makes the image possible. But you might find these locals will ask for something, usually money, to be in your image.
To pay or not to pay, that is the question. This is something that many travel photographs will be faced with many times.
It could be that no one asks you for money, as it isn’t their custom.
In this case, it’s probably not a good idea to start it. Read our thoughts on this topic in our article here.
A fixer is basically a person who fixes something for you. Not your car, but your experience. They are the locals that speak the language, know the contacts and can show off the hidden highlights of a place.
Usually, these fixers have worked closely with photo and non-photographic journalists.
They can be expensive, based on their experience and their lack of competition, but are incredibly useful. Read more here on how to source fixers for your travel photography.
A travel photographer provides imagery for the $1 trillion global tourism industry. This might be for magazines, newspapers and books aimed at marketing, information or documenting cultures and events.
Being a professional travel photographer means making money from your images. This can be done in multiple ways, to help you travel more and take more images.
One way is to sell your prints. The images that you capture can be sent to these publishing houses, or you can sell them as artwork to spruce up someone’s wall. Read here for more tips.
Having a strategy for capturing the best images is just one tip from photographers who make a living from their travel photography.
This is done by researching the place or culture you want to visit and photograph.
Giving yourself time to learn more about what you need allows you to be better equipped to deal with the setting or scenario. Better organisation means less time needed to grab that perfect shot.
Read here for the other 9 tips on how to take better images, and get paid for them.
Selling your travel photography images can be one area that photographers might overlook. Photographers tend to be great at capturing stunning sunsets, but tend to lack the business acumen to be able to sell them.
Firstly, the images you take need to be very good. No one is going to buy a substandard image since there are many perfect images online. Every scene is different and needs a different approach.
Make sure you use the most out of your equipment. Push the boundaries of that tripod and take images that show you know your camera inside out. People will notice that extra effort.
There are more places to sell your travel photography than ever before. It is becoming easier and easier to be a freelance travel photographer, as flight prices drop and more avenues open up for exploration.
It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are – you can sell your images. One thing that does matter is having your images organised. This means using an online photographic portfolio or album.
This gives the viewer, or potential buyer, all the information they need without having to chase you down. They won’t chase you down, they will just move to the next person in line.
Read our article here for all of your travel photography selling needs.
Post-Processing Travel Images
Going from capturing your travel photography to the editing stage is a whole different ballgame. Preferably, you would benefit from photographing in a way that will help your editing process.
Whether your photographic techniques reflect your post-processing or not, you would definitely benefit from a workflow.
This might differ somewhat between editing on the road and post-processing your images at home after your journey.
One way to keep hold of your photographic organisation is to create a different Lightroom catalog for each journey.
For other great workflow tips, read our article here.
Lightroom is one of the best tools for post-processing. It hosts a great library system for effective image storing and a simple to use adjustment area for all modifications.
One great tip is to adjust your camera profile. This is an area that a lot of photographers overlook.
The camera profile area of the adjustment panel corrects various optical issues. These issues are commonly found with lenses, such as vignetting and distortion.
By going to the Lens Corrections tab and selecting Enable Profile Corrections, you start with a corrected image. Neato!
When it comes to editing your travel photographs, the file format you choose will have a big impact on the final outcome.
Choosing raw over jpg allows more information to be stored in the image, allowing for more play in the editing stage.
Here, you can really play around with the exposure and other local adjustments without losing the quality of your image.
Read all of our editing tips here.
Adobe Lightroom presets are a great way to edit your photographs fast. You upload them to your Lightroom preset folder, and they are free to use them as you wish.
They adjust your image at the click of a button.
Exposure values, shadows and highlights are a few modifications that could change due to the preset.
Others are more extensive, changing the tone and colours of an image to emanate a certain atmosphere.
Here are a few free presets for you to work with to get more from your images. If you need some help installing these presets, see our article here.