Being a travel photographer is often a lot of people’s dream job. Travelling the world taking photos and then seeing your hard work published in magazines, newspapers and guidebooks can be an incredibly rewarding profession. But being a travel photographer requires a lot of skill, hard work and determination. Here are 7 attributes you need to become a travel photographer.
Travel photography is often a lonely profession and usually you won’t have the luxury of “settling in”. You need to hit the ground running and be able to quickly adapt to your surroundings and environment, as your time is usually precious. You also need to be able to adapt your photographic technique and even your shot list to the conditions.
For example you could be faced with a few days of boring overcast sky where the light is flat and uninteresting. What do you do? You can either sit in your hotel room and do nothing or adapt your shot list to photograph things like portraits and food that don’t require beautiful sunny skies.
See What Others Don’t
Let’s be honest, you’d be hard pushed to find any destination that hasn’t already been photographed thousands of times so how can you continue to photograph places over and over again? One of the biggest attributes travel photographers have is being able to often see what the average tourist misses. It might just be the way that the beautiful afternoon light is illuminating something or someone, it might be a fleeting moment of interaction between two locals or it might just be a small bit of detail that is easily missed.
The good news is that with practice and experience you will become better and better at seeing these things, but the key is to just get out there and snap away – but keep your eyes open.
Predict The Future
OK, maybe not predict lottery numbers or who is going to win the Super Bowl, but being able to anticipate what is going to happen is often one of the most powerful assets that a travel photographer has. For example, being able to anticipate how a scene will look in a few minutes when some of those clouds disperse revealing a beautiful light coming into the scene, or notice something interesting is about to happen in front of you like an expression on someone’s face. Whatever the outcome it’s amazing how often your instincts are proved right. Again, with practice, over time you will become better at anticipating scenarios like these.
Set A Trap And Be Patient
Ever wondered why your travel photos don’t look as good as the ones in magazines and newspapers? You’re not alone. Most newbie travel photographers have asked themselves the same question. Often one of the biggest reasons is that they are not patient enough to wait for everything in the scene to come together. They rush around trying to take as many photos rather than taking one great one.
Setting a trap (or rather a photographic trap (also known as pre-visualization)) doesn’t mean snaring someone, but rather framing your photo and then waiting for it to come together. For example, you could have a scene in front of you that will only work or be improved if someone walks into the scene. So, you would set your “trap” by framing your shot and then just waiting for that someone to show up and give you the great photo you’ve been waiting for. How long would you be prepared to wait before giving up? A travel photographer would rarely give up on that shot.
Walking around is one of the best ways to see a city and really experience it. You will end up with so many more photo opportunities by simply walking around than by getting a taxi from this sight to the next one. Of course sometimes if the distances are too great you will need to use transport, but always set enough time in your shoot plan just to wander around, especially in cities. Set yourself two points on a map and then walk from A to B. Once you’ve done that set yourself another point and walk there. Next time you are away, try it and you’ll surprise yourself with how many great photos you’ll come back with.
Sometimes a good travel photo comes down to sheer determination and hard work. Yes, you can get lucky sometimes and a great photo can present itself right before your eyes, but that’s rare. Often you have to be determined to capture the shot that you wanted and do everything you can (within the law) to make it happen. This might mean returning to a location time after time to make sure you catch the perfect light. It might mean having to walk through the pain barrier up to the high view point to capture that stunning vista. Or it could just be that you need to wake up in the early hours of the morning again after just a few hours sleep.
Whatever the scenario, it’s your determination that can push you that little bit harder and that could be the difference between a satisfactory photo and a terrific photo.
Love What You Do
Ask any travel photographer about their profession and most will tell you “you won’t get rich” doing it. But, all of them will also tell you that they wouldn’t want to do anything else. To succeed in this industry you will need to absolutely love what you do. That’s not loving “travelling” or “holidays”, but actually photographing a destination and being able to tell the stories that you need to through your photos. Your whole focus should be about the photos and capturing what you need to, not because you have to, but because you want to. Nothing else matters. Not the tiredness, not the hunger, the lack of sleep, the cold, the wet or even the blisters. That’s love.
To be a good travel photographer requires many skills. Some of these can be improved over time with practice but the real attributes of a good travel photographer are often ingrained into the person’s character. For those who have these attributed they are already half way there to becoming a successful travel photographer. So ask yourself, do you have what it takes?
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. Dreamstime. No usage without permission.