How to Choose Your Next Travel Photography Destination

How to Choose Your Next Travel Photography Destination

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If you’re anything like me, your love for photography is matched only by your love for travel. Your days consist of dreaming of epic landscapes, amazing cities, and unlimited air miles. Unfortunately, my friend, you have the travel photography bug, and I’m sorry to tell you that it’s incurable.

beach with chairs and umbrella - how to choose your next travel photography destination

It’s easy to get down about your inability to see and photograph everything right now. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and for most of us, not enough money in the bank. The thing that keeps me from getting down is planning my next trip.

Planning is the easy part, the hard part is choosing where to go. You might get overwhelmed by the options, so here are a few things to consider which may help you choose your next travel photography destination.

Look in Your Own Backyard

First up, your next trip doesn’t need to be an epic destination across oceans to places like Iceland or Patagonia. I’m always trying to find ways to get to big bucket-list locations that I know I would love, but sometimes looking closer to home may be a better option.

Unless you live on an island in the middle of the ocean, there’s likely somewhere nearby that you’ll be able to get to sooner to satisfy your wanderlust.

Is there anywhere within driving distance that you’ve always wanted to visit or a place that people have been saying you should check out? Somewhere in your own backyard that others spend thousands of dollars and countless hours traveling to see? It may be somewhere you’ve been before but could revisit to try to photograph better. The benefits of looking in your own backyard are many.

lake with rocks and mountains - how to choose your next travel photography destination

Make a Bucket List

You likely already have an idea of some of the places that you would like to visit and photograph. If you ask me, I can rattle off a long list of dream destinations. If you haven’t already done so, make a list and write it down. You could even make more than one list – local and international.

My bucket list has nested sub-locations within each item because I keep seeing new locations within a given country that I want to see.

I also encourage you to try and get past the big-name travel destinations. Add them for sure, I certainly have, but there’s more to the world than Iceland, New Zealand, and Yosemite. These places are insanely popular, which makes them expensive to get to and you’ll often be competing with huge crowds.

Instagram is a great place to find inspiration, but again, try to look for more than the uber-popular locations. Also, try asking people who love to travel for their recommendations. I’m always happy to make suggestions if you’re stuck for ideas.

egypt - how to choose your next travel photography destination

Talk to Your Travel Buddy

Who will you be traveling with? Do you have a buddy that you go everywhere with? Share ideas with them and come up with a shared list. Do you usually travel alone? Great, that gives you some freedom to do whatever and go wherever you want. It might be worth considering a travel buddy for a change. There are many benefits to traveling with somebody else or even a group.

If your travels usually come in the form of family vacations, then your plans will need to work for them too. Maybe try asking your kids where they would like to go for your next family trip? They might suggest something you have not considered. Is there somewhere your partner has always wanted to go but never mentioned?

Multi-Task

Is there a way that you can kill two birds with one stone? Sometimes there are ways to justify travel that you may not have considered. Do you have family somewhere that you could visit? Maybe an old friend that you haven’t seen for years?

Not everyone has the ability to travel for work, but if you do – is there a way you could tack on some personal travel to the end of a work trip? If you’re crafty you might be able to get your boss to pay for you to go to a conference somewhere. If you don’t ask the answer is always “No”.

cathedral how to choose your next travel photography destination

It’s worth considering photography workshops also. Although it will still be all about the photography, you’ll be investing in your craft. They can be expensive, but if you find one close to home you can keep the travel costs down. Your photography will benefit from a workshop far more than it would just by taking a trip.

Budget

The biggest barrier for most of us is cost. If money were no object, I’m sure many photographers would spend more time traveling than they do at home. Unfortunately, travel costs a lot so it needs to come into consideration.

Depending on where you live, you can use seasonal fluctuations to help you choose your next destination. Virtually everywhere in the world will have a high and a low season. These seasons affect travel costs significantly, so it’s worth doing some research into where’s the best place to visit at a given time of year. Either side of high season (shoulder season) is often cheaper, while the weather is still okay.

It’s also worth considering exchange rates as they can fluctuate a lot. If your home currency is performing well against another country’s currency, it could be worth considering traveling there while you’re able to get more for your money. I’ve planned travel at short notice a few times due to an unusually good exchange rate, and it’s saved me hundreds of dollars.

Expand Your Portfolio

It’s worth taking a look at your travel photos and asking yourself if there’s a subject or medium that you really want to add. Maybe you have loads of images of beaches and the ocean and could diversify by getting into the mountains?

Do you primarily photograph nature and could stretch yourself by spending a weekend photographing cityscapes? Always wanted to try out some astrophotography? Go spend a few moonless nights as far away from light pollution as possible.

I’ve always wanted to take my camera underwater, so next month I’m spending a few weeks in Queensland, Australia exploring the Great Barrier Reef.

cityscape how to choose your next travel photography destination

As photographers, we naturally seek out subjects that we’re drawn to and are comfortable with, but it’s worth trying something different from time to time. Choosing your next destination based on the subject or medium you want to photograph is a great way to learn something new and maybe go somewhere you wouldn’t usually choose.

Available Time

I’m a big advocate of slow travel. You can see and experience a place in a completely different way when you spend a few months there rather than a couple of days or weeks. That said, not everyone wants to or can quit their job and go live somewhere new for a few months.

It’s worth considering how much time you have available for your next trip. If you only have a weekend, you’re not going to want to spend 20 hours flying in each direction. If you have a month, you probably don’t want to spend the whole time in a small town down the road. Use your time wisely.

spices how to choose your next travel photography destination

There are places that I want to visit that I wouldn’t really enjoy if I rushed it. So I’m leaving them for when I can explore it at my own pace. There are also many places that would happily spend a couple of nights and be satisfied.

Make it a Road Trip

It’s pretty hard to beat a good road trip. You have the freedom to go where you want when you want. You’re not dependent on public transport or an itinerary.

You can even sleep in your vehicle if you like and get to obscure locations away from the crowds. Drive as far as time allows.

mountains how to choose your next travel photography destination

A road trip opens up many possibilities for travel photography destinations. It can turn one location into many. I always wanted to visit Yosemite National Park in California, so I did an epic road trip on the entire west coast of the USA.

Next, I wanted to see the Canadian Rockies, so I drove all the way from Vancouver through British Columbia, into Alberta and the Rockies, then down through northern Washington. I saw so much more on those road trips than I ever would have flying or busing between locations. Maybe a road trip should be next on your list?

Where to Next?

You probably can’t pack your bags and get on the road tomorrow, but choosing and planning your next travel photography destination can give you something to look forward to and prepare for. I hope this has helped you to consider new possibilities and narrow down your options.

If it’s helped your next trip come around sooner, even better. What’s on your travel photography bucket list? I would love to hear what you’re thinking or planning, please share in the comments area below.

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Rowan Sims is a landscape and travel photographer from New Zealand. He loves to combine his passion for photography and travel while teaching people how to take awesome travel photos. Follow him on Instagram or over on his travel photography blog.

  • pam

    Here is a really great place to get ideas. https://photomagx.com/travel-photography/ It shows a lot of locations to get great photography results.

  • drdroad

    I have a friend that I went to school with, we got our degrees together. He’s CONTINUALLY around the world, particularly fond of Paris. And yet, he has never been to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Galveston, Seattle, 9 mile canyon, Moab, the incredible coast of Maine, the French Quarter, Washington DC. I could go on and on!

  • It’s strange, I know, but very common. It’s easy to look past our own back yards in the quest for distant, exotic locations.

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