When starting out as a travel photographer, things can feel fresh, exciting, and full of adventure. Quickly, though, as you gain experience, it becomes clear that travel photography is not all rainbows and butterflies. It takes hard work, skills, patience, and most importantly, an ability to go with the flow.
That’s right—as any traveler knows, travel rarely goes as planned, and when we throw photography into the mix, it can feel equally as unpredictable.
Never fear, though. This doesn’t mean you should feel intimidated or hopeless when it comes to setting up your travel photography business. Instead, it simply takes some planning, reframing expectations, and revisiting some of the basics of photography.
If you’re ready to get serious about travel photography and put out your best work, we’ve got all the best travel photography tips and tricks headed your way.
It should go without saying, but if you want to thrive as a travel photographer, having a passion for travel should be a must. Not only will this passion translate through with your work, but being passionate will also carry you through those difficult travel days.
Delayed flights, language barriers, and jetlag are just some of the difficulties that naturally come along with travel.
If you don’t have any experience with these things, we recommend spending some time traveling just for fun prior to deciding you want to jump fully into the world of travel photography. It will set you up with realistic expectations, as well as give you the experience necessary to get through those harder travel days.
When you think of travel photography, it’s probable that you naturally think about adventure.
While travel photography certainly has an adventurous element to it, keep in mind, it’s also a profession, and professionals should always go into their jobs with a clear plan and vision.
This means you need to take the time to sit down and research.
Most importantly, research your destination so you know exactly what to expect. The climate, the culture, the political situation, and the food are just some of the things you’ll want to know prior to booking your ticket to your next destination.
Again, this isn’t just any trip you’re taking. This is a work trip and that means you need to pack like a professional.
We’ll talk about camera gear in a moment but also don’t forget to consider your packing beyond your camera gear.
Think about the clothing you will need to capture photos comfortably. Is the climate hot and dry? Do you need to bring snow gear? What about rainy seasons or the potential for extreme weather? Packing for these situations will save you a headache down the road.
Not to mention, there are also practical packing items that can make your experience much more enjoyable. A water bottle, sunscreen, extra money, and even medications if you happen to catch a bug during your travels are all worth considering. Extra batteries, the correct charger cords, and plenty of SD cards should always be on the list.
Once you have your more practical items packed, you need to spend some serious time considering what photography equipment you’ll pack with you.
There’s only so much you can carry, but if you forget to pack something and you’re traveling a far distance for your photos, you won’t have the option to simply turn back and pick up your forgotten equipment.
Make a list of all the items you frequently use and stick to it.
You’ll notice on the packing list mentioned above we included a tripod. We want to take a second to call this out because it can be extremely important for travel photographers.
When traveling with multiple lenses and all your equipment, it’s easy enough to tell yourself that you don’t need to also carry a tripod, but we urge you to not make this mistake.
Depending on your destination, carrying a tripod with you can be the difference between clear, bright images and ones that are blurred. The tripod allows you to catch beautiful images in low light settings or during moments when there might be a lot of motion in the image. If you are traveling to a location known for its Northern Lights displays, spectacular starry skies, or may be photographing inside historic buildings or indigenous homes, your tripod is a must-have.
One of the worst things you could do as an aspiring travel photographer is book a ticket to a destination, pack up your bags, and hope for the best. Instead, we recommend practicing in your own backyard before you join the big leagues.
Of course, you don’t have to physically limit yourself to your backyard, but stay within driving distance and see what kinds of images you get. This gives you time to experiment with composition, angles, foreground, backgrounds, and lighting without the pressure of having to worry about an expensive airplane ticket sitting in your back pocket.
Most photographers will be familiar with this rule, but it’s an especially important travel photography tip, considering you’ll likely be shooting a lot of landscapes.
If you’re not familiar, the rule of thirds suggests dividing an image into thirds both horizontally and vertically, resulting in nine equal parts, and placing important elements of the image at the intersections or along the lines. The idea behind this rule is to create a visually balanced and pleasing composition.
The Rule of Thirds is just a guideline, and there are times when breaking it can result in a more effective image. However, it is a useful tool for travel photographers to use when composing their shots, especially when starting out.
Just like with the rule of thirds, this is another photography principle that most photographers will be familiar with, but is particularly important for travel photographers.
Think of it this way: Without leading lines, the viewer’s eye doesn’t know where to land, which can be particularly problematic with travel photography where there’s often a lot going on visually.
Leading lines also create visual interest, depth, perspective, direction, flow, context, and environment in an image. Without leading lines, there’s no sense of place and space.
Mastering your camera should always be your priority as an aspiring photographer, but once you have the hang of that, we highly recommend letting your creativity loose. One of the least expensive ways to get creative with your equipment and help improve the look of your travel photos is with filters.
Even a very basic filter can be especially helpful for travel photographers by protecting your expensive lenses from travel dust and the elements. Not only do filters protect the lens, they can reduce glare and reflections, control the amount of light entering the lens, and add creative effects to images.
Bottom line, filters help capture better-quality photos and even be used to add a unique artistic touch.
We know that shooting in raw can be a little intimidating when you’re first starting, but trust us on this one, if you want to improve the quality of your travel photos, you need to get used to shooting in raw.
We recommend travel photographers shoot in RAW because it captures more data, provides greater flexibility for post-processing, and offers better image quality. RAW files also allow for non-destructive editing and are ideal for capturing travel photos where color and detail are important.
In other words, when you shoot in raw, you have more control over your image and can deliver the best image possible.
Having a plan as a travel photographer is important. You don’t want to waste time during your travels.
Having said that, also being open to spontaneity can help you produce work beyond what you thought possible for yourself.
Embrace adventures that you didn’t have on the schedule, look for unique patterns and textures, and don’t be scared to shoot images that might feel a little raw and outside your typical aesthetic. You might be surprised to discover what you’re able to capture when you open up your perspective
As a photographer, you know this already, but it’s something that we want to drive home, particularly for travel photographers.
When you’re traveling for a photo, it’s more important than ever to take the time to get extra shots. What if you never go back to that location again? Or what if you think an image looks a certain way but when you get the images onto your computer, you notice a flaw?
Experimenting with different angles, compositions, lighting, and depths of fields can ensure that you get exactly what you want and won’t leave you regretting your trip.
This is a tip that applies to all photographers who are shooting people, but it is an especially important tip for travel photographers to keep in mind.
Well, because when you’re out on a job, it’s easy enough to start treating people like subjects. We forget that not everyone wants to have their picture taken. This can be especially true if people from different cultures don’t understand what you’re doing or why you’re taking their picture.
You should always ask permission before taking people’s pictures, and you should never continue shooting if someone seems upset, uncomfortable, or reluctant to have their photo taken. If communication is a problem, remember, there are plenty of apps available that make language barriers much less difficult to navigate in our modern era.
Editing your travel photos can take them from great to totally stunning. Editing is important for travel photographers because it allows them to enhance and refine their images, bringing out the best in their work. Here are a few reasons why we love editing for travel photographers:
Editing allows travel photographers to refine their images, adjusting exposure, contrast, color, and other elements to create a more polished and professional-looking final product.
Editing also allows travel photographers to express their creative vision, experimenting with different styles, filters, and effects to create a unique look and feel for their images.
Editing can help travel photographers tell a story or convey a mood or emotion in their images, using techniques such as selective focus, color grading, and composition to create a specific mood or atmosphere.
Editing can also help travel photographers maintain consistency in their work, ensuring that their images have a certain style and look that reflects their brand and creative vision.
If you simply want to pick up travel photography as a hobby, then sure, a website might not be necessary. But, if you ever want people to actually see and appreciate your work, you’re going to need a website.
A website not only acts as a hub for all your photos, but it also works as a place for you to share upcoming events, news, your contact information, and even just general information about yourself for those who might be interested.
Plus, don’t forget that a website can be a great place for sharing your social media handles and your email newsletter if that’s a marketing route you’ve decided to go down.
You can have the most beautiful website in the world, but if you’re not sharing your photos in a way that is accessible and enjoyable for the public, then chances are, all that website design work isn’t going to pay off.
You want people to come to your website, check out your photos, and notice your talent. If your photos are small, blurry, or hard to access, you decrease the likelihood of this happening.
Plus, having an online portfolio website makes it much easier to share your work with people who are interested. You don’t need to constantly carry a physical copy of your portfolio with you, and instead, you can simply share your website with anyone who is interested.
Since we’re largely focusing on travel photography tips for beginners, we don’t want to overwhelm you too much with marketing ideas, but at the end of the day, if you don’t spend at least some time on marketing, then your photos will likely live in obscurity.
If you’ve put in the time to learn photography, hone your skills, and nail your aesthetic, here are some marketing ideas you can begin implementing to get eyes on your travel photography business:
Social media is a powerful tool for travel photographers to showcase their work and connect with potential clients. You can use Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share your travel photography and engage with your audience.
You might not get opportunities like this right off the bat, but once you have some experience under your belt, reach out to tourism boards and travel companies and offer to collaborate with them on projects. You could offer to provide them with high-quality travel photography in exchange for exposure on their website or social media channels.
Step outside the box and consider creating photo books or prints of your travel photography and selling them online or at local markets. This can be a great way to generate additional revenue and showcase your work.
Participating in photography contests and exhibitions can help you get exposure and build your reputation as a travel photographer.
Attend photography conferences and events and network with other photographers and industry professionals, such as travel writers. This can help you build relationships and learn about new opportunities in the industry. If you’re not sure where to start, be sure that you’re on social media and start connecting with photographers who are also in the travel photography niche.
If the answer to this question isn’t an immediate yes, don’t feel intimidated or like you won’t succeed as a travel photographer. While we hope these travel photography tips and tricks inspired you, the number one thing that will increase your confidence is always going to be experience.
You can’t simply go out into the world and expect that you’re going to be the best travel photographer out there. Instead, you need to practice your skills, figure out your style, and probably most importantly, get your portfolio website all set up so people can actually find and enjoy your work.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to setting up a portfolio website, never fear, Format has you covered!
Designed specifically to provide photographers with professionally-designed website templates, people are going to wonder where you got your design skills from (don’t worry, we won’t tell).
Try out Format today and see what all the fuss is about.
Your travel photography business is about to thrive!
*Offers are valid until December 31, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. PST. 50% discount off the subscription price of a new Basic, Pro or Pro Plus annual plan will be automatically applied at checkout with code 50FORMAT. Discount applies to the first year only. Offers cannot be combined with any other promotion.