Photography & Print

The A-Z of Travel Photography

Travel photography is the ultimate way to sink your teeth into the planet’s innumerable aesthetic marvels. By mastering the art of travel photography, you can experience the complete cultural spectrum and keep a piece of it for yourself when you move on. But for those of you with a taste for travel and a thirst for photographic knowledge, you’ll know that travel photography is much, much more than just spontaneous snaps with a disposable – and here’s what separates the professionals from the amateurs.

Preliminary Research

If you want to ensure you make the most of your location, conduct some preliminary research before you make the trip. By identifying aesthetic landmarks, natural marvels and points of interest, you’ll have your photographic agenda sorted before you even arrive – leaving you free to soak up your surroundings and travel off the beaten track in pursuit of the perfect shot.

As a photographer, you’ll want to concern yourself less with tourist hotspots and more with the obscure corners of your destination which are guaranteed to be packed with cultural richness and one-of-a-kind aesthetics. This is the key to ensuring that your images have more than just the makeup of an exceptional photograph, but also the character of a unique and authentic experience.

“Remember when you’re shooting for a travel story, nobody wants to see the ‘grip and grin’ shots at dinner. These are snapshots–perfect for posting on Facebook, but nothing that should be used in an article. Avoid posed photos and get people doing things, action shots. If you’re going to shoot a famous building or nature scene, put someone in the photo to give it some life. It will still be that iconic view of Yellowstone falls or the Eiffel tower, but with a person in the photo – there is more to the image.

Remember to zoom in. Photos for websites are usually small, and you will create a better image by zooming in, or cropping tightly. Often people shoot street scenes of people walking away from them. Nobody wants to see the backs of people, they want an engaged subject doing something, looking right at you. Get closer in general – when an editor looks over a big group of images in a Google Plus gallery, their eyes go toward the close-ups. Make sure to get right in there tight, and also try to shoot from different places, low down and high up. People generally look better looking up at the camera than from a lower position.”

Max Hartshorne, Editor at

Technical Skills

Travel photography isn’t really about the gear – but that doesn’t mean that exceptional adventure shots won’t require some photographic prowess. By guaranteeing that you’re using all of the technical skills at your disposal, you can be sure to come out with stunning travel shots to rival the paid professionals.

Here’s the scoop:

  • Use Aperture Priority mode (Av) – this helps you achieve maximum depth of field, ideal for sweeping landscape shots that are sharp from front to back
  • Use a telephoto lens for natural portraits of locals – this way you can blur distracting backgrounds and keep the focus on your subject
  • Get creative with composition. Obey the Rule of Thirds and try placing your subject in the left or right area of the frame, rather than dead-centre – and try incorporating leading lines which point to your subject. These little tricks will make for an infinitely more satisfying composition
  • For subjects in motion, increase your ISO to achieve a perfect action freeze-frame
  • Shoot in RAW – this way, your image will contain much more data than a standard JPEG where your post-processing options are limited

An Audible Voice

As a travel photographer, your purpose extends beyond capturing good-looking scenes on camera. The greatest weapon in your arsenal is an ability to convey concepts and make statements through photography – delivering powerful messages through images on your travels. This potential to have two-dimensional media work as a stimulating, multi-sensory art form is an exciting thing and perhaps the most rewarding aspect of photography.

While travelling, it’s inevitable you’ll come into contact with diverse and fascinating cultures. Some will be enlightening and inspiring, where the circumstances of other communities across the world can be a frightening eye-opener. Professional travel photographers accept the role of documenting and delivering these rich stories – creating images that not only look good but really say something.

Authentic Wanderlust

The paramount component of winning travel photography is a love of new experiences and a commitment to adventure. More important than having the right gear and even doing your research is to approach travel photography with a sense of wonder and eagerness to explore and capture your findings and highlights as you go.

Ignore clichéd agendas and generic travel brochures – the beauty of authentic travel photography is in the personal journey, taking your own routes and finding your own landmarks, stumbling upon the obscure corners of your destination and looking under the proverbial rocks to find something no-one has looked at from your perspective before. Embrace your inner adventurer and any photograph you take on your travels will serve as a reminder of your experience.

“First, forget about equipment. A lot of folks get caught up in a race to get the biggest and best gear, and forget that the key part of photography is in fact the photographer. Sure, specific shoots might require specific gear, but if you’re out and about trying to capture your experiences, the camera you have is most likely perfect. Even if it’s just the one in your phone.                                                               

Far more important than gear is the story you tell with your photos – and that’s where the art comes in. Ask yourself what you’re trying to tell your audience – the person who will be looking at your photo. How will you capture their imagination, share your adventure, and make your image stand out in a world that is increasingly crowded with distraction? Get that right, and everything else will follow.”

Laurence Norah,


Image by Joe Cornish

Photographic Fearlessness

“Photography is about sacrifice and never settling for the easy shot. Photographers miss dinner for great light, cover themselves in mud to get the right angle, and climb mountains for the right perspective. When it comes down to it, if a shot is easy to take or a location is easy to get to, chances are it’s been done 1,000 times before. Explore every angle of every subject and remember that it’s generally the most challenging one that offers the most interesting scene.”

Brendan van Son,


Rules were made to be broken, and that’s especially true with photography. Achieving exceptional travel shots means thinking outside the metaphorical box – so take risks with your composition and especially with your subjects. Rather than contributing to the generic universal portfolio by photographing the same tourist attractions that have been snapped a thousand times before, find people or places or things that are unique and evocative – with their own sense of character and authentic photographic potential.

Spend some time ignoring the Rule of Thirds, defying photographic norms and taking chances in pursuit of that perfect shot.

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