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6 Tips for Creative Travel Photography

Photo by Matt Anderson

Implement these 6 travel photography tips to elevate the appeal of your photos on your next adventurous trip. Wondering what actually qualifies as travel photography and how to improve? The key to better travel photos lies in your creative intent and in taking a story-telling approach.

What is Travel Photography?

Photo by Matt Anderson

Travel photography is a wide genre and it can be difficult to say what actually fits under this broad umbrella. I’ve always felt that travel photography includes scenic and cultural impressions which show off a region and the way of life there. Tip #1: The strongest travel photographs are images that bring cultural elements together with environmental context. It’s a story about the landscape, the people and their unique way of life.

Photo by Matt Anderson

 

What's the Difference Between Travel Photography and Photos Taken While Traveling?

Perhaps it’s easier to identify what travel photography is not. Pictures taken while traveling often get misconstrued as travel photography but they aren't really the same thing. While they may overlap occasionally, the key difference is in the story that these photos tell. Can the viewer of your photos get a deeper understanding for this special region, it’s interesting characters and their unique cultural attributes? Or do the photos simply tell the story of one photographer’s journey to that place – as interesting as it may have been? Tip #2: Focus on telling the story of the place and it's people, rather than your journey there.

Photos by Matt Anderson
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How to Develop Your Travel Photography Skills

Photo by Matt Anderson

Do you actually have to travel far to build your travel photography portfolio? Perhaps not. It may seem like frequent visits to faraway places is the best way to develop your skills, but I strongly disagree. My opinion is that travel photography is all about intent. Tip #3: Visualise a travel photography project that you could do much closer to home. Envision photos of people at work, involved in traditional industries and preparing food in ways that are unique to the location. Could your photos offer a glimpse into the special spiritual or religious aspects of life or how the people are adapting to modernization while still staying connected with traditions? One thing is for sure – these are stories that can’t be told with just one or two images!

Why is Travel Photography Important?

Travel photography is such a great way to work on your skills as a visual storyteller. How would you build a compelling series of photographs if your favourite magazine hired you to shoot your home town tomorrow? Make your visualisations concrete. Tip #4: Write out a detailed shot list of the photos you see in your mind. Getting specific will help the project feel more reachable – even if the shots end up looking different. Answer these questions to help you solidify your ideas. From which point-of-view will you photograph? Who are the characters in your pictures and what do they look like? Which lenses will you use? Every experienced travel photographer knows that it takes forethought and planning to produce an interesting photo story. Now go out and shoot it! By going through this process you'll be preparing your travel photography senses and composition skills to help you take full advantage on your next international photography adventure.

Photos by Matt Anderson
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Make Travel Photography a Priority

Photo by Matt Anderson

If you’re a photographer with itchy feet, then you’ll need to hit the road and build your travel photography portfolio eventually. Nothing beats the real thing. Tip #5: So put a trip on the calendar so you have a special experience to look forward to.  This will help stoke your creative inspiration and keep you motivated to practice in the meantime. Go on a landscape photography course , practice your portrait photography skills and consider doing some street photography too. These can all be considered travel photography skills which will help you creatively document faces and places on your next big trip.

Photos by Matt Anderson
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Research Your Travel Photography Destination

Checking out the work of other travel photographers who have visited your destination is not cheating. Visual impressions will give you ideas, but to take things further you’ll need to give it your own spin. Tip #6: Do your homework and learn about the destination and culture before your trip. To make your travel photos as interesting as possible, it helps to know your subject well. Since time will be limited, find out as much as you can before visiting. It won’t be possible to know the people or culture like a local would, but avoid showing up with zero knowledge. If you don’t know much about the subject in front of your lens, then you may return with photos that look a bit like tourist snaps. Knowing your subject is a way of getting closer to the story, and this will give you that "stop and look" quality in your images.

Hire a Local Guide

Photo by Dagmar Anderson

Bonus Tip: Consider hiring a local guide who can help you find the travel photos that you have in mind. This person may not think like a travel photographer, but will know local people and places – giving you a real advantage and saving you a lot of time in between shoots. Your shot list will come in very handy as you explain the kinds of travel photos you’re looking for. Without knowing your must-have shots, you may be following your guide to some situations that aren’t very productive.

Viewfinder Travel Photography Tours

Photo by Matt Anderson

If you don’t have time to plan your own travel photography experience or you wish to learn new skills from our experts, then join Viewfinder on a guided photography tour. Our photographic trips visit some of the most amazing places on the planet and all of the planning, logistics and lodging are taken care of for you. We offer a variety of photography tours to shoot various photo subjects, visiting a variety of climates at different times of year. Viewfinder photography tours are a great opportunity to learn new skills, gain confidence behind the camera and build your travel photography portfolio. Our group sizes are small, giving each participant the chance to receive thoughtful, personalised instruction. Make your next big photography adventure with Viewfinder and take your travel photography further!