A Journey Into The Realm of Light
There’s nothing we cherish more than our travels and if we had only one thing to say about travel photography it would be this: travel photography is the best way to capture our wanderful moments to eternity and use these memories to warm up our hearts even in the darkest of times.
Although Maria is our website’s main writer, photography-related pages and posts are researched, drafted and revised by Katerina.
All Maria does is edit and proofread the copy before it goes live.
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What Is Travel Photography
Photography (Φωτογραφία in Greek) is a compound of the Greek words φως (light) and γράφω (write or draw). Wikipedia defines photography as the art, application, and practice of creating durable images by recording light. It’s crazy to think that all we see when we look at photos is light. Crazy yet fascinating.
If we tried to give a definition of travel photography, it would be something along these lines: travel photography is the documentation of all those components that make up any given destination. These include the landscape, both natural and human-made, the people, the culture, the food, and, ultimately, the very history of this place.
Of course, tourism photography is part of the travel photography genre, too. It focuses on shooting hotels, resorts, restaurants, and any other businesses in the tourism industry.
“Photography is a form of time travel.”— Neil deGrasse Tyson
About Travel Photography As a Genre
Travel photography is the broadest photography genre in terms of all the different subjects it covers. It encompasses numerous other areas of photography, such as street, landscape, or architecture photography. This is why it takes a lot more than mere photographic knowledge to excel as a travel photographer.
A good travel photographer must be flexible, well-organised and outgoing. Flexible to adapt to time-related challenges (e.g. waking up early, staying up late). Well-organised to plan photographic trips to the last detail. Outgoing because, well, you can go a long way with a smile if you plan to, say, take portraits of total strangers in faraway lands. Learning a foreign language or three wouldn’t hurt either.
However, there’s something unique about travel photography that makes it stand out from all other photography genres. The purpose of travel photography goes beyond just shooting a spectacular image. Travel photography is a means to tell a story, to inspire, and, above all, to educate people on the diversity of our beautiful world.
Top 5 Travel Photography Tips
In the last decades, many factors have conduced to travel being accessible to more and more people. As a result, travel photography isn’t appealing to professional photographers alone. Pretty much everyone who suffers from wanderlust is keen to perfect their skills in travel photography. Here’s a handful of simple tips on travel photography to help you up your photography game.
1. Research Your Location
Your photographic trips should begin well before you even reach your destination. No matter if you are an amateur or a professional photographer, researching your location is vital if you want to snap those epic shots you’ve always dreamt of. Either you are on holidays or specifically travel for photography, a brilliant idea to help you keep track of all the places you want to visit is to create a personal map (e.g. with Google Maps) with all the points of interest you want to shoot.
Equally important is to know in advance the best time to visit the photography locations on your list. For example, some places are best enjoyed at sunset, while others should be visited at dawn to avoid the crowds. Do your homework and adjust your day-to-day schedule accordingly.
2. Choose Your Gear Wisely & Learn How To Use It
Even if you’ve decided that you want to invest time and money in travel photography, you shouldn’t buy the most expensive gear right from the start. That’s because you may eventually realise that travel photography isn’t for you after all. Furthermore, it will be easier for you to master the basics of shooting while using entry-level equipment.
Start with an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera and keep practising until you’re confident with using the manual mode. Let’s be honest here. There’s no reason why you should spend so much money on a camera if you’re planning to use the Auto settings alone. You’d be better off with a good smartphone if that’s the case. Moreover, always shoot RAW, as it allows you to edit your images afterwards.
Once you know your camera well, start flirting with the various lenses you can buy to achieve diverse results. For instance, with a wide-angle lens, you will be amazed at how an entire village can be squeezed in a single frame. Or, perhaps, you’d like to experiment with a telephoto lens, especially if you are into wildlife photography. The possibilities are endless. It all comes down to your preferences and budget.
If after a certain time you’re still hooked on travel photography, you can start buying other accessories, too. These may include tripods, extra batteries, a flash, or even a drone. At some point, you will know that it’s time to upgrade your camera, too.
3. Keep Practising & Be Patient
If there’s one thing about travel photography that you must always remember, it’s this: you need to practise, practise and then practise a bit more.
Don’t wait until next time you travel to test your camera and its functions. Go on a photography trip around your neighbourhood and start shooting. Shoot indoors and shoot outdoors. Shoot in bright sunlight, shoot in low light, and shoot at night. Hold your camera and shoot, use your tripod and shoot. In a nutshell, play around with all of your camera’s settings and functions (on manual mode, don’t cheat).
Once you come to terms with the importance of practice, it’s time to embrace patience, too. You can’t expect to learn everything in one go. You must invest a lot of time to finally be able to shoot superb travel images.
Furthermore, photography can be a waiting game. Very often, you will find yourselves waiting for the right time to take the perfect shot. It may be the exact moment when the sun dives into the sea or when the high tide comes. Also, bear in mind that weather conditions won’t always be in your favour while waiting. So, it takes a lot of determination, but most of all, patience to make it as travel photographers.
4. Always Carry Your Camera With You
You’ve spent an entire day out shooting and now you feel it’s time you left your camera at the hotel room to go have dinner and maybe enjoy a drink or three. You’re right about the food and drinks part but think twice before you leave your camera behind. Why not experiment with night photography while taking your (probably much-needed) post-dinner stroll?
No matter how well you’ve planned your trip, you never know when an exceptional opportunity arises for a shot you won’t want to miss. It’s better to carry your camera and never take it out of your bag than to leave it behind and regret not capturing that perfect moment in time that unfolded before your eyes and then vanished for ever.
5. Respect Locals & Wildlife
Whether you’re travelling within your country or abroad, you should always respect the locals. Under no circumstances should you make anyone feel uncomfortable for the sake of snapping the perfect shot. Not even a one-billion shot is worth making another person feel uneasy. If you’re dying to take a close-up of locals (and, especially, their children) or shoot during a local event, always ask for permission first.
Similarly, you should be mindful of animals and their well-being at all times. If you’re planning to shoot wildlife, you must always keep a safe distance and avoid any noises or movements that may disturb the animals. This is when a telephoto lens comes handy. On a lighter note, you can get as close as you want to super cuddly kittens or puppies who are willing to pose for you. Just make sure you reward them with a hug and/or a treat after the photoshoot.
From Hobby To Dream Job: How To Become a Professional Travel Photographer
Making a living out of your passion is certainly the dream. That holds for many travel photography enthusiasts who pursue a career in this field. There are several factors in play when it comes to becoming a professional travel photographer. Here’s a list of the five most important steps to take if you’re after a career in travel photography:
- Understand that professional travel photography is all about commitment and hard work. Therefore, make sure you are genuinely passionate about it before taking any further steps in this direction.
- Learn photography. Attend travel photography courses, classes, and workshops. Watch tutorials, read travel photography books, and practise a lot.
- Create a portfolio to showcase your work to potential clients.
- Network and collaborate with photographers around the world and other content creators. Attend conferences and similar events to get in touch with travel brands and tourism boards.
- Remember that competition is hard. Be ready to step out of your comfort zone when pitching yourself for travel photography jobs.
“I love photography, I love food, and I love traveling, and to put those three things together would just be the ultimate dream.”— Jamie Chung
My Journey As a Professional Travel Photographer
Now a professional travel photographer, I started like any other traveller who wanted a few photos as keepsakes from our travels. I always liked photography but I needed a purpose to take it more seriously. When we started this website back in 2018, I found my purpose.
As our travels became more frequent and our website grew into a business, it was time we invested in good travel photography gear. It was then that I took the plunge and bought my first DSLR camera. From that point onwards, there was no looking back. I had found my true calling and I was hooked for life.
At first, I was into landscape travel photography alone, but I soon discovered the endless possibilities of travel photography. I studied a lot. From reading books and registering for online courses to watching video tutorials, attending photography classes and joining photography clubs, I never stopped expanding my photography skills and knowledge.
I patiently learnt the techniques of travel photography and I practised a lot. I still do. Learning about travel photography is an ongoing process. One that never fails to excite those who’ve chosen to be initiated to its secrets.
At some point, I inevitably started exploring the magical world of video, too. During the 2020 lockdowns, I found myself with a bit of extra time in my hands. Therefore, I dedicated most of it to learn the secrets of video-making and YouTube. After that, the sky was the limit. Or not? Soon, aerial photography won me over and I added a drone to my travel photography equipment.
I now work as a professional travel photographer, but it’s not just a job for me. Travel photography still is and always will be my life’s passion.
“Photographing is an emotional thing, a graceful thing. Photography allows me to wander with a purpose.”— Leonard Freed
Essential Travel Photography Gear: What’s in My Camera Bag
- Main Camera Body:
Sony α7 III with 35-mm Full-Frame Image Sensor
After months of tormenting thoughts and endless sleepless nights watching YouTube reviews and tutorials, I finally gave an end to two of the most haunting dilemmas I ever faced:
1. DSLR or Mirrorless?
At first, I hated the idea of turning my back to DSLR cameras and entering the world of mirrorless technology. In the end, I saw the benefits of mirrorless cameras for travel photography. They’re way lighter and more compact than DSLR cameras.
2. Nikon or Sony?
Once I decided to upgrade to a full-frame mirrorless camera, another dilemma started messing with my head. As a purist, I couldn’t imagine investing in any other camera brand than Nikon. However, after much thought, I succumbed to the siren call of the dark side and went for a Sony instead. I’m happy I did so and never looked back ever since.
Featuring 4K video, fantastic focusing and impressive battery-life, the Sony α7 III is the camera I chose for being one of the best travel photography cameras in my budget for both photography and video.
- Camera Lens:
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Sony E-mount
This all-in-one zoom lens has the ideal focal length range for travel photography, it’s lightweight and, most of all, quite affordable.
- Lens Filters:
1. Hoya UV Filter 67mm for protection.
2. Hoya Variable ND Filter 67mm for cinematic video and long exposure shots.
- Backup Camera For Video:
DJI Osmo Pocket
That’s hands down the best handheld camera for travel video out there. With exceptional 4K video and offering the simplest way to shoot motion lapse and time lapse, the DJI Osmo Pocket is a fantastic video camera that literally fits in your pocket. Most of all, it’s very easy to use. It’s the only piece of my travel photography equipment that Maria is allowed (and often assigned) to use.
DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo
When I decided to buy a drone, I went for the DJI Mini 2 instead of a fancier one for two reasons. First, I considered it prudent to test my flying skills on a drone that wouldn’t cost a fortune. Secondly, I wanted to make sure I genuinely liked aerial photography before investing in one of the most expensive drones for travel photography.
With 4K video and the option to shoot RAW, the DJI Mini 2 is great value for money. Especially if you buy the combo, which comes with two extra batteries, a stylish bag and lots of other goodies.
I enjoy flying the DJI Mini 2 immensely. That’s probably because my feet never stop touching the ground. At last, I can admire spectacular views from above without all the negative emotions I get from my fear of flying when travelling by plane.
- Travel Camera Backpack:
Thule Aspect DSLR Backpack
I had been looking for a while for a travel backpack that would fit all my travel photography gear, my laptop and my personal items. While I researched, finding travel photography bags to love was the easy part. Finding one that wouldn’t break the bank was the hard part. The Thule Aspect ticks all my boxes and comes at a very reasonable price for what it offers.
- Small Camera Backpack:
Benro Swift 100
That’s actually my first-ever travel photography backpack and it’s still my number one choice when I don’t need to carry all my equipment around.
- Travel Tripods:
1. Manfrotto Befree Advanced Alpha Travel Tripod
This reliable travel tripod that features maximum stability and easy set-up is the best travel photography tripod you can buy without spending a fortune.
2. Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod
Fitting literally in my pocket, I’m happy to carry this super lightweight tripod with me at all times.
3. Xiaomi Mi Selfie Stick Tripod
This was bought as a mere selfie stick but it comes really handy when shooting a time lapse or motion lapse with the DJI Osmo Pocket.
- External Microphone:
When I was just starting with video, I needed an affordable and compact camera microphone to minimise noise interference when used outdoors. The Rode VideoMicro does the job just fine.
- Cleaning Kit:
Trivial though it may sound, a cleaning kit for your camera lenses is of the utmost importance and it’s a purchase you should make right from the start. When it comes to cleaning kits, the sky’s the limit. I make sure the cleaning kits I buy include microfibre cleaning cloths, a cleaning pen and an air blower.
- Memory Cards:
Shooting RAW and video means that I always carry several fast memory cards with me.
- Portable Hard Drives:
I use fast SSD hard drives to store my images and video footage.
- Spare Batteries:
There’s nothing I fear more than running out of battery in the middle of a photo shoot. That’s why I’m obsessed with having spare batteries for my camera and drone handy at all times.
Fun fact: When I went to the camera store to buy the Sony α7 III, the guy at the counter told me that I wouldn’t need to buy a second battery for it. I ignored him and bought a spare battery anyway. Soon I realised that he was right. However, I have no regrets. It turns out that peace of mind can be bought after all.
What’s So Important About Travel Photography
As one of the most famous travel quotes goes, travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. Therefore, who’d want to let these precious memories go to waste? The importance of travel photography lies in its superpower to revoke those memories long after the smells, sounds and tastes that accompany them have worn off.
However, travel photography isn’t just about helping travellers keep the memories of their past trips alive. It’s about showing the world to people who haven’t travelled as far and wide as they’d like.
Not everyone has the privilege to travel as much as their heart desires. Travel photography has the noble mission of communicating the most exotic feelings to these people, making them travel with their minds and souls and inspiring them to roam the world if and when their circumstances allow it.
Last but certainly not least, the absolutely most significant thing about travel photography is that it’s the next most powerful tool in the fight against intolerance, second only to travel itself.
As a means to get a glimpse of cultures and people in faraway lands, this superior form of art can bridge the imaginary gaps that exist between people. It can provide proof that our world is a stunningly diverse wonder. Ultimately, it can teach people that there’s nothing wrong with being different. From North to South and from East to West, travel photography captures fleeting – yet meant to become timeless – moments in the lives of people from all four corners of the globe.
At the end of the day, it makes no difference if the light that goes through our camera’s shutter records joyful or sorrowful scenes. What matters is that it takes but a look at these travel photos to know that the light shines as bright on all of us, regardless of skin colour, age, or gender. And this is what we love about travel photography the most.
“Photography can light up darkness and expose ignorance.”— Lewis Hine