7 Travel Photography Tips I’ve Learned from People in the Industry

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Like any profession, over the years and countless hours of working and talking to people in the industry, you will pick up tips, advice and even things to avoid. This will ultimately help you improve and possibly make your photography business more profitable. Here are some of the main tips that I have picked up over the years from people in the travel photography industry.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry - new zealand

#1 – Blue Sells

If you were to line up a whole load of travel magazines next to each other, you will notice that the vast majority of their front covers have something in common, the color blue. Whether it is the sky or water, magazine covers tend to feature photos of gorgeous sunny days rather than moody, dark and atmospheric conditions.

I had always noticed that my “gorgeous sunny weather” shots outsold the photos with other types of conditions. But it wasn’t until the editor of a travel magazine told me the reason that I understood why. They found that historically, issues with beautiful sunny shots on the front cover sold much better than issues with dark and moody conditions. The reason is that most people going about their day aspire for tranquil and beautiful holiday conditions. So, while a stormy landscape photo might look more dramatic and striking, the average holidaymaker doesn’t want to go somewhere and experience a storm.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry - Scotland

#2 – Avoid “Tourist” Shots

I remember asking a picture editor once for the single biggest piece of advice they could give me and they responded with, “Don’t send me tourist shots.” But what does that mean? After all, if you are in a city and have to photograph the most famous landmark then how do you avoid tourist shots. Once I delved in a little deeper, I realized what he meant was that he didn’t want just another shot of the famous landmark taken at eye level because he could get thousands of them through any stock agency.

Instead, he wanted to see a photo that demonstrated an experience, feeling or mood. This was a few years back and more and more I have been asked by picture editors and stock agencies I work with to try to show these “experiences” in the photos. So rather than taking a photo of the landmark, it might be worth photographing a couple enjoying an ice cream in its shadow. The key is to look beyond the obvious shot and look for a moment or composition that can convey an emotion.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry Turkey

#3 – Give Them People

Often the easiest way to capture unique photos that don’t look like tourist shots is to include people. But including people in your photos can also convey a sense of scale, portray an emotion or a feeling and often tell a much more intriguing story. One of the best bits of advice I was given was that including people can also help you capture different types of shots from the same location. That, in turn, means you can maximize your stock shots from a single location.

For example, take any scene in front of you. If you capture that scene with a couple admiring the view holding hands it tells a completely different story than capturing the scene with someone running or cycling. So you suddenly go from one photograph per location to three. Move slightly around the scene and capture a few different scenarios and you can suddenly end up with a whole load of different stories from practically the same spot. As any stock photographer will tell you, it’s a numbers game and the more photos you have the better your chances of selling some.

 7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry Turkey

Taken from the same location as the photo above but a completely different message.

#4 – Check Every Photo, Every Time

Photography is a competitive industry. You are often competing with pretty much everyone with a camera to try and get work or make sales. The last thing you want to happen is to have a photo that has been chosen by a client come back to you because it isn’t focused properly or you haven’t removed the dust particles. Not only is it embarrassing, but it can also hurt your chances of working with that client further down the line.

So don’t try and cut corners. You worked hard to capture the photo so do it justice and make sure it looks its best when it’s going in front of someone else. Check every inch of the photos you intend to send out to clients. View them at 100% in post-production and make any corrections or edit as necessary. Be professional in your approach from start to the finish.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry

#5 – Face the Opposite Way

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there will usually be a spot marked “sunset viewpoint” or similar where everyone will go to capture their photos. Often this is because that particular spot offers the best view. But sometimes it is because it is the easiest and most convenient place for lots of people to get to or stand.

One bit of advice that has been floating around for many years and has been said by numerous photographers, is that when you get to one such location, face the other way. Go against the crowd and photograph what is behind everyone. Clearly this advice shouldn’t be taken literally as sometimes photographing the other way wouldn’t give a good photo. The point is to look beyond the first and most obvious location and viewpoint.

If you are prepared to do your research beforehand and are willing to put more of an effort in than the average tourist, you will undoubtedly end up with better photos.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry

#6 – Step Closer

The world famous war photographer, Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”. This is something that most amateur photographers struggle with for travel photography and photographing people. It often means having to get close to your subject and they then might notice you.

The truth is that usually, the worst that can happen is that the person you want to photograph will just say no. But getting closer means having to be right in the middle of the action and that you also have to engage with that person and build a connection, if even briefly. This, in turn, will transfer into your photographs and give you a much better and more intimate photo than if you were standing 300 yards away with a telephoto lens.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry - Italy

#7 0 Don’t Be Shy

One of the biggest things that you may realize as a photographer is how accommodating and intrigued most people are about your profession. I have not kept a tally of the number of conversations I’ve had with total strangers all based around photography, but it’s been a lot. One thing I learned is that sometimes when you have a camera on your shoulder it can work to your advantage (and sometimes it can work against you) as people may help you capture the photo that you want to take.

But you have to be willing to ask. If you don’t ask you will not get. For example, one of the best places to take photographs of a city is from your hotel room. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been upgraded to a room with a better view by simply asking and explaining the reason for it. This extends to if you want to photograph people, places, and so on. Don’t be shy, just ask. The worst that could happen is being told no.

7 Travel Photography Tips I've Learned from People in the Industry Thailand

I took this photo of the Bangkok skyline from my hotel room.

Conclusion

Over the years you will pick up your own tips and advice that you have been given or have derived from your own experiences. In the meantime, hopefully, the ones above can be as helpful to you as they have been for me.

Do you have any other bits of advice that you have been given? Please share below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kav Dadfar

is a professional travel and landscape photographer based in London. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising but loved nothing more than photography and traveling. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty, Axiom Photographic, and Alamy and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, Lonely Planet, American Express, and many others.

  • These are some very effective tips, and we have used these methods in our travels, and we find that this is a commonly used method. https://intanminhthanh.com/san-pham/in-phieu-qua-tang-dep-gia-re-tphcm

  • Patrick Dote

    ‘Face the Opposite Way’ sooooooooooooooo true. always try to remember that.

  • Rochet

    Useful and interesting ideas. I would love to include people but how do you do that if you need a release from everyone in the shot? Even if the person is unrecognizable, facing away from the camera, stock photo companies request model releases

  • Good article! Thanks!!

  • That is what happens if your money based. You wont shoot for fear of not making $.

    For social doc work your only issue is…is it legal to shoot. And even then you may have to skirt around local legalities if you want to get the shot. Such as in my book project on De Wallen.

  • Rochet

    Thanks for your advice but the title of this article suggests it is aimed at “people in the industry” which usually means “money based”. I shoot because I enjoy it and keep trying to improve and do not do it simply for the money but the examples in the article which show people would require model releases if they were for sale. I am asking the author for his comment.

  • Semyon Lorberg

    Great article but still there is a big question. People should not be recognizable according to stock agencies rules. How do you handle this issue, especially in locations where English isn’t the language of the land or kids playing in the water etc.?

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Rochet, the issues around model release is one of the most frequently asked questions that I get. Basically if you plan to sell an image with a person in it you require a model release ONLY if it is for a commercial purpose. By this I mean if the photo will be used to sell a product or service. For example if you take a photo of someone and the photo is going to be used to advertise face cream then you would need a model release.

    But if the intended use of the photo is editorial i.e. illustrating a newspaper/magazine article relevant to that person then you would not need a model release. For example if you take a photo of someone and the photo will be used to accompany an article about that destination then you don’t need a model release.

    So, basically any photo that doesn’t have a model release can only be used for editorial purposes. Hope that explains it…

    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    No worries. Glad you liked it

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Semyon

    See below, the answer I have given another post…

    Basically if you plan to sell an image with a person in it you require a model release ONLY if it is for a commercial purpose. By this I mean if the photo will be used to sell a product or service. For example if you take a photo of someone and the photo is going to be used to advertise face cream then you would need a model release.

    But if the intended use of the photo is editorial i.e. illustrating a newspaper/magazine article relevant to that person then you would not need a model release. For example if you take a photo of someone and the photo will be used to accompany an article about that destination then you don’t need a model release.

    So, basically any photo that doesn’t have a model release can only be used for editorial purposes.

    In regards to your question about English being a problem. You usually know if there is a possibility or not. Obviously if language will be problem you will just need to accept that you won’t have a release and so the image can only be used for editorial purposes.

    The majority of travel photos out there don’t have releases…

    Hope this helps
    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    Definitely. That’s always a good one!

  • Suzette Barnett

    Hi Kav 🙂 I think you did a good job of including things that people may not realize—I’m sure it will be helpful to many, myself included. For me, it’s all summed up in, “The key is to look beyond the obvious shot and look for a moment or composition that can convey an emotion.” Cheers

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