Wednesday, 2 April 2014

So you want to be a Travel Photographer! - Part 1

" Wow! You guys have the best job in the world!!!" We've heard this line so many times over the years and are constantly asked "what does it take to become a Travel Photographer. Anybody that maintains a living from Travel Photography will tell you that it probably is one of the best jobs in the world but like any other business where you are self employed there's the business side of the fun and Travel Photography is certainly no exception. We'll go a little more into depth about that later.

So what is professional travel photography?

"Travel photography is a subcategory of photography involving the documentation of an area's landscape, people, cultures, customs and history. The Photographic Society of America defines a travel photo as an image that expresses the feeling of a time and place, portrays a land, its people, or a culture in its natural state, and has no geographical limitations."

Well thats the defintion in Wikipedia at and it explains it quite well.  As an amateur whenever you take photos on holidays, even if it's with a mobile phone, it can be classed as travel photography (excluding the self portraits). Once you do this kind of photography as a full-time job then you are a Professional Travel Photographer however there are still different types of travel photographers. Some will travel and concentrate on supplying images for Travel Magazines & Photo Libraries, others will shoot for the Fine Art print market while others will produce products such as publishing books, postcards etc. We fall into this last category, however occasionally we also do commission jobs for resorts & tourism authorities as well. We do not work with magazines or image libraries however over the years many of our images have been licensed to companies for calendars and various print outputs.

So what does it take to be a Travel Photographer? There are several key ingredients to being a successful Travel Photographer - here's a suggested checklist :

  • A passion for photography - This one is pretty obvious but unless the passion is there to learn the art of photography and spend countless hours learning the technical skills required to be taken seriously in this field, then forget it. You must develop an "eye" for recognising great images and the skills for capturing them. You also must learn to shoot in any light (throw the theory of only shooting in the early hours of the morning and late afternoon out the window) 
  • A passion for travel - another obvious one considering this blog is about Travel Photography. Being good at planning a trip is essential (especially noting places that you cannot shoot eg near military installations) . Very few Travel Photographers will just arrive at a destination and start shooting so planning is very important.  Having a great "Travel Sense" is a must for any Travel Photographer so if you are vague or flipant when travelling then you will be constantly using your Travel & Equipment Insurance. Oh and by the way there are no days off when you are on the road (except if you are really sick of course!). Besides, Sundays are a great source of images of church-goers, especially in places such as the Pacific Islands.
  • Equipment - buy the best equipment that you can afford which is most practical for your output. Weight has always been the priority for us as we can walk for up to 20km a day with our equipment. For example you may want to consider investing in a Mirrorless camera system which tends to be a bit lighter or a carbon fibre tripod which are lighter than the aluminium ones and very sturdy for long exposures.
  • Telling a story - being able to adapt a unique style with your images is very important and being able to separate you from every other person out there with a camera. With the age of digital photography there is more competition than ever so you need to develop a "look" that captures the emotion of the viewer. Whether this is done "in-camera" or in "post-processing" is up to you. 
  • Curiosity  - you need a sense of curiosity about people and the destination they live in. Having a real curiosity will lead you to places that will give you opportunities to shoot the images that nobody else takes. Don't just follow the crowd. 
  • A rapport with people - This ones really important! If you can't approach and communicate with people regardless of the language spoken then this is not the profession for you. There is always a way to develop a rapport with the locals but usually trying to speak a few words of their language will always break the ice. Standing in a corner with a 300mm lens on your camera and shooting may get some great candid shots but you need to be good at both. Never get frustrated if someone cannot understand you - just remember that you're a visitor in their country!!! 
  • Beware falling coconuts - very important point if you want a long career in Travel Photography. Paul has never been the same!!

Keep an eye out  for Part 2 of this post.  We will also be expanding some of these points in future posts.

If you need any further information or would like some advice please leave us a comment or email us at

Visit us on Instagram at @widescenes_photography

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you.

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