A panoramic photograph of the woods surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, Dolomites, Italy

3 Tips for Travel Photographers

First of all, what is travel photography? To me travel photography is a genre in between photo-documentary and landscape photography. On the one hand, it is about documenting the culture and folklore of a specific country, region or people. On the other, it is about photographing breathtaking scenarios – both urban and natural – and buildings. The final outcome of this genre should target the travel industry. Which is saying: hotels, resorts, national parks, etc.

Surely, many of us, interpret this genre in a slightly different way. Travel photography might also be seen as the process of documenting what we see and experience on our trips. In this instance, we might be more interested in building a photo-book or enriching a personal project, rather than selling our photographs to the travel industry directly.

I have never approached this genre with the objective of extracting value from my work by selling my photographs to travel entities. However, I have always photographed with the attitude of a street photographer. Therefore, my main aim has always been to document what was before my lens and compose it in a meaningful way.

I would like to share with you 3 tips that I have learnt on my trips abroad and might come handy the next time you will plan to leave on holidays.

Tip 1: Travel Light

A panoramic photograph of the woods surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, Dolomites, Italy

Cortina d’ Ampezzo, 2015

As I mentioned in previous article, remaining in the ‘creative mode’ for a long period of time might be a serious challenge. This can become even harder if you do not feel comfortable with your equipment. Personally, I tend to get bored and tired after a long walk, carrying heavy equipment that I do not use. As a result, I have learnt to carry along what I need only. Most of the times, this implies a single camera setup – one camera and one wide-angle lens – and an extra, longer lens. I also take with me a few filters in order to better manipulate light, especially if I photograph when light is harsher and at sunset. Finally, I always have a few spare batteries and a light tripod on me as well.

Many of you might think that this is a very risky approach, as I am not carrying a second body. I would argue that my body has never given me any cues not to trust it and I feel confident enough that nothing will happen next time either. Surely, there are some exceptions. Indeed, if I were on assignment for a client, I would take an extra body. A faulty camera would mean loss of revenue and especially a reputation damage, which is quite difficult to heal. Similarly, if I were photographing in a very remote location, one spare body would be advisable. As it would be impossible to have my main body repaired or buy a new one from a shop.

Tip 2: Plan in Advance

A black and white long exposed cityscape of Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Florence, 2015

Travel photography is not that different from travelling in a broader sense. When you plan you holidays, you will buy your transportation tickets, book you accommodation and research the most interesting excursion at the time of your visit. Well, this amount of research should go into photography as well. Firstly, you should research which are the landmarks and touristic attractions of your journey. Even though a photograph in this location might end up being a postcard rather than an original and creative image, if you research well in advance you might identify new angles and perspectives to photograph that spot under a new light. I often research on travel websites on the internet, by looking at local photographers’ portfolios and by searching for a specific location on Instagram.

Secondly, I always research whether folkloristic events or festivals take place while I am on my journey. These occurrences are perfect to blend in with locals and capture the true spirit of their culture. Moreover, these events are quite busy and packed with photographers. Therefore, your presence will go much more unnoticed and the chances of capturing real candids increase substantially.

Finally, by understanding which events to take part in and how to photograph specific locations, you can better plan the gears you will need and the ones you can leave at home. I ensure you that you will end up carrying much less weight and being much more productive and creative.

 

Tip 3: Be Brave

A street photograph of a man fixing his bike in Villa Borghese Gardens, Rome, Italy

Rome, 2017

Being brave is of the most important characteristics to become a successful street photographer to me. Indeed, you will often need to approach people, ask for permission in order to photograph them, ask for directions and advices – yes, locals know much more than you know, so ask!

You fill find several blogs on the internet that tell you that you have to be fearless. I disagree! There is no worse advice than being fearless. Indeed, fear is what helps you realising whether you are in danger or not, whether you are safe talking to that person or not, whether you can access that place at that time and being unharmed. Fear is what keeps you alive and this is scientifically proven. What you have to be is brave. This implies realising what your fears are, while being able to discern the well-grounded ones from the ones that are not. After this instinctive reasoning, you can act accordingly. The main advantage of being brave is that you will always act consciously. You will always be aware of your surroundings, the possible dangers and your personal limits.

Be Brave, do not be fearless

Conclusion

Travel photography has several acceptations. On the one hand, you can photograph to sell your work to any player in the travel industry. On the other, you can photograph for your own pleasure or desire to document the human condition in a specific place of the world.

I gave you three tips to improve your travel photography and produce a more consistent work.

Firstly, you should travel as light as possible. This will make you much more productive and creative, especially after a long walk.

Secondly, you should research extensively what, where and how to photograph during your journey. By planning it in advance you will be much more productive and efficient.

Finally, you should be brave but must not be fearless. Fear makes you safe, while being brave will open up a whole world of new opportunities before your eyes.

 

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22 thoughts on “3 Tips for Travel Photographers”

  1. thanks for the lovely tips ❤ indeed, being brave is a must! but i don’t know about fear . . . I think it depends on the person and how fear makes them feel

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree my friend. Every tip is quite personal and subjective. I think that we can all benefit from them as kind as we are able to apply them to ourselves and think about hem critically, as you have just done. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Travel photography is one of the important aspects of travelling, where we witness everything new and then we click, again it depends on many things like the place where we are visiting is purely nature based or purely historical or purely culture or purely concrete landscapes.. Or the combination of any.. Travel photography refines one’s skill of photography needn’t you require very expensive cams.. Just 15-20 MP cam will do.. Rest is one’s approach

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting article and very true. I agree for the lighter weight as possible especially if you go up in the mountains but in my experience a light tripod, even a light but strong carbon fiber, is quite risky if you use a dsrl with a tele as you often get a micro camera shake (even if you use the cable, you lift up the mirror etc…) as you enlarge the photo in a monitor. So bring with you only the necessary but if you can … bring with you a sturdy tripod.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree, Enrico. I think that I will write another article emphasising on the importance of a tripod for travel and cityscape/landscape photography.

      Thank you very much for sharing your opinion. Hope that you will stay in touch

      Like

  4. My photography style can’t be described as anything more than beginner. One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to overcome is simply taking the shot. This might sound pretty basic, but when I’m on the move … which is most of the time … hesitation about whether to stop and invest in the photo is a big consideration.
    A photo that isn’t taken is always a failure. Maybe that falls simply under the category of being brave.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Probably this is related about being brave for sure. However, it’s also about getting used to the equipment and feeling comfortable when using it. Often, when you are in a rush you might decide not to make a photograph just because it would take too long. However, the better you know your equipment, the less time it takes you. I would encourage you to read though the “photography basics” series on my blog and start experimenting with your camera. Let me know if that articles are useful to you.

      Like

      1. Actually you make an excellent point about knowing your equipment.
        One article I had read a short while ago talking about setting your camera up in advance to reflect the likely conditions you would be shooting in. In my case, something simple like sunny vs cloudy conditions.
        It sounded like such an easy and obvious thing to do, yet I wasn’t doing it and it’s made a huge difference to me when out wandering.

        Liked by 2 people

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