Travel photography is one of the most fun and sought after professions for travel lovers. Not only do you get to travel the world, but you get paid to do it. While it might not be as glamorous as it initially looks, requiring a lot of hard work, it’s still got to be one of the best and most rewarding jobs out there.
I get asked a lot what it takes to be a travel photographer, and most people seem to get instantly bogged down by kit. The main questions I get are things like ‘What camera do you use?’ ‘What lenses should I buy?’ etc. While kit does have some importance, it really isn’t what you should be worrying about when you are starting to take photos. You should be thinking about composition, light, colour and getting a unique shot. A fancy new camera or lens might improve your sharpness or low light settings, but it’s not going to turn you into a great photographer overnight.
Here are 5 things that you do need to be a travel photographer… let us know if you can think of anymore!
1. A Camera
So, you want to be a travel photographer? Let’s start with the basics. Get yourself a camera. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive camera on the market to begin with. If you’re new to photography, get yourself a beginners SLR. Something with manual controls and interchangeable lenses so it will allow you to grow. You’re going to learn how to take photos with this camera. You’re going to learn all about aperture (that thing that makes the background blurry) and shutter speed and ISO. You’re going to learn how to compose a shot, how to spot interesting light, find beautiful faces, and what makes a great photo. These things are SO much more important than the gear you carry. Start here, with just a simple camera and an eye.
2. Plane Tickets
Oh! So not a tripod or another lens or a fancy filter? Nope! The next step you’re gonna need in order to be a travel photographer, is a ticket to TRAVEL. Rather than spending your money on fancy equipment, start by spending it on a plane ticket. You don’t even have to go that far, a train ticket will do too. Choose a destination with a culture that inspires and fascinates you. Maybe it’s the coloured cities of Morocco, the dazzling canals of Venice, the smiling faces of Myanmar or the wild empty spaces of the USA. Wherever it is, go there. Shoot there. You’ll learn so much.
3. A Guide Book
The next most useful thing you’re gonna need is a guide book. This is going to tell you where to go, what time to go at, and where the shots are. It’s also going to tell you where the tourists are (and where they are not – look for places hard to reach, or sometimes places not in the guide book at all). Make a rough plan of what you want to photograph, and where you need to be at sunrise and sunset (an alarm clock is also a very important piece of kit for a travel photographer!). But don’t follow it religiously – some of the best photos are going to be the ones in between the sights – the faces on long train rides and the sunrise shots from temples you accidentally stumble across.
So you’ve travelled to your dream country, shot some beautiful pictures, and now what? Well, in order to get your work noticed, you’ll need to share it with the world. The easiest way to do that is through Instagram. This is an app which will allow you to build a following, communicate with other photographers, gain inspiration and grow yourself as a brand. Nowadays, no travel photographer exists without an Instagram presence (maybe except for some of the old greats). Eventually, it can also be a great tool for getting paid work.
5. An eye for a great photo, a desire to tell stories and patience
The most essential thing you need to be a travel photographer is a great eye. So what does that mean? You obviously can’t change your eyes! It means seeing. Seeing the shot before it happens, seeing light, seeing colour. Your ability to capture a moment will improve with time, to some degree it’s a natural gift, but it can be trained, particularly if you have the passion to do so.
You’ll also need a desire to tell stories. Travel photography is not only about capturing one beautiful shot, it’s about telling a story through images, and capturing someone’s heart by doing so. Your aim as a travel photographer is both to inspire someone to travel and teach them about the world. Storytelling can be done only with photographs or you may want to combine your images with words. Blogging is a great way to start and improve your storytelling, as is contributing to websites like Travelettes.
And finally, you’re going to need a lot of patience. You won’t ‘make it’ as a travel photographer over night. It’s going to take years of dedication, practice, improvement and investment in travel and kit. Keep at it, you never know what might happen!