Nothing beats experience and practice when it comes to photography. Every photographer has to start somewhere and we all have to go through the same learning experiences. Over time you will face your own challenges and work out your own solutions to photography problems you may face. But you may also be lucky enough to come across experienced photographers who will share their wisdom and experiences with you. Here some of the best bits of travel photography advice that I have been given over the years.
Surround yourself with great photographers
Travel photography is a lonely profession for the most part. Even when you are photographing a busy city, you are often working alone with little time to engage with other people. Any encounters will be fleeting. Travel photographers are also naturally very guarded and protective of their clients. This makes them see other travel photographers as competitors. But one of the best bits of advice I was given early in my career was to look at other travel photographers like a support community. I have some good friends and contacts who have helped me immensely over the years. So don’t be shy and find good photographers whose work you admire. It will inspire you to improve your own work.
Collect photos, not camera gear
I remember right at the start of my photography journey thinking “if only I had a better camera I would take better photos”. It wasn’t until my university instructor at the time showed me some photos he had taken with a point and shoot camera that I realised how wrong I was in my thinking. From the moment he told me to stop worrying about my camera equipment and concentrate on improving my photography, it almost felt like someone had taken off the shackles. I wasn’t able to use that excuse anymore so I was forced to work hard at improving my photography knowledge and skills. A great photographer will be able to take photos with any camera in the same way as a great writer will be able to write a great article with pen and paper rather than the latest laptop.
Awards for vanity, sales for sanity
This is something that most full time working photographers will relate to. While winning a photography competition is great and can give you a sense of pride, there are lots of amateur photographers who get despondent when they don’t win or get criticism. The reality of being a full-time photographer is that often clients want photos that are not going to pick up awards. So don’t concern yourself with accolades (that extends to social media too) but instead take photos for yourself (or for your clients). That isn’t to say you shouldn’t enter competitions, but just develop a thick skin and worry less about what other people say about your work.
Turn around and face the other way
Okay, granted this doesn’t always mean literally facing the other way to where the view is, but the point is to try and look beyond the obvious. So when everyone is facing one way and photographing the “sunset viewpoint”, you should look in the other direction. This was another great exercise that we were often set at university. Our tutor would set us a challenge of representing one of London’s famous landmarks but we were not allowed to directly photograph it. So, for example, we had to look for reflections, shadows, paintings of the landmark or even being more abstract like photographing a child’s reaction to hearing the bells of Big Ben. This was a great exercise that has been invaluable in today’s digital age where capturing unique photos is more difficult than ever.
Photograph what you are least comfortable with
Every photographer has strengths and weaknesses. Some are great at photographing people, other photographers, landscapes or wildlife. But everyone has areas of photography that they could improve. Instead of being afraid of these and trying to avoid them, dive in headfirst and immerse yourself in that type of photography. For example, a common issue for amateur travel photographers is shyness in photographing strangers. So instead of photographing people up close or even asking people if they can photograph them, they avoid it altogether. But if you went out and approached 100 people, I guarantee you that you will be more confident by the end of the day in photographing people.
Get it right in camera
Editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop has revolutionized digital photography. They allow you to do amazing things and transform a photo that might otherwise be ordinary into an extraordinary one. Even with all of this, it is best to capture photos as best as possible when you are taking the photo. Not only will this ensure you understand how different aspects of photography come together to allow you to take a photo, but it will also make you learn more. Try to view post-processing as a way to enhance what is in your photos, not to create them. Which means avoiding that famous phrase “I’ll fix that in post-production”.
Don’t be afraid to fail
If you want to capture really great photos you have to be willing to take risks. Not life-threatening risks but photography risks. Go out and photograph landscapes when it isn’t blue skies and sunshine. Break the rule of thirds. Play around with your aperture to achieve different depths of fields. Capture portraits in different lighting conditions. Because without trying different things you will just end up with the same photos over and over again.
These are just some of the best bits of advice that I have been given over the years. You may already have some of your own or you may have experienced things that you can pass on to others. The most important thing is to keep learning and improving and build on your experience and knowledge. But for now, you may find these bits of advice as useful as I have done over the years.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.