Early travel photographers were surgeons, school teachers and even Anglican clerics who decided to pursue their passion for travel. Nowadays, people can be professional travel photographers, doing for a living what many of us dream of doing on our days off.
Of course, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Travel photographers can be employed full-time by international magazines, or work freelance and sell their photos to magazines and websites. But, to attract interest their work needs to stand out from your average family holiday photos.
Useful Skills to learn
According to successful travel photographers like Rick Sammon and Andrew Gibson, these are some skills aspiring travel photographers should work on developing (photo.net):
- Communication Skills
Wildlife photographers and travel photographers both require similar skillsets, as they’re both looking to journey around the world capturing great natural moments. But there is one key skill that travel photographers need more than their fellow professionals, and that’s people skills.
You ever tried negotiating with a tiger? It wouldn’t work out. Wildlife photographers simply accept their lack of control over their subjects, but on the plus side, their subjects are unlikely to object to being photographed (though if they do it’s hopefully from a safe distance).
Travel photographers deal with people as well as locations, so communication skills are helpful for getting the best out of photographs, and that includes ascertaining whether or not your subjects are okay with having a camera pointed at them.
Not only will researching a location aid in the search for images, it also helps to know the cultural etiquette of the region you’re operating in. In India people generally welcome being photographed, whereas in Bolivia they do not.
Researching the laws is important, as well. UK photographers got arrested in Greece a few years ago because they didn’t know it was illegal to photograph airfields.
All travel photographers are aware that there’ll be no shortage of other people taking photos in the places they visit. Many simply choose to avoid the popular tourist attractions and find great stories to tell elsewhere. The places where people engage in their usual everyday activities can often produce far more powerful and unique images.
But, if it is necessary to capture an oft-seen historical landmark, finding a creative way to frame the photo, such as an unexpected angle no one’s thought to use, can also encourage audiences to view it from a different perspective, both visually and contextually.
It’s not just the story that’s important, but also the manner in which it’s told. Photographers learn how to harness light and color in the construction of an image that will draw the eye.
- Early morning and early evening are considered the best times to operate because of the nature of the light, though night photographs can be extremely effective in the right circumstances.
- Concentrate on capturing one or two colors in the image. Make strong primary colors serve the purpose of the photograph, as they can have the most dramatic effect. Red is the most stimulating color, blue is considered the tranquil color while green is best associated with nature.
- Polarizing filters are highly recommended due to their ability to sharpen the image by removing reflections of light.
Pursuing a Career in Travel Photography
Many travel photographers begin by pursuing the profession as a hobby while involved in full-time work elsewhere, which is why many educational institutions cater to this by providing part-time and distance learning courses.
Those with an interest in the profession need to be aware of the work involved, and the dangers, as they’ll often be venturing away from the safe tourist areas. Of course, anyone with a passion for the work won’t be put off by the idea of constant travel, and for some the danger is part of the appeal. The money is good if you can sell your photos, and you get to travel the world, learn about the people in it and tell share your experiences in the form of powerful images.
Written by Matthew Flax on behalf of Now Learning, an Australian tertiary education portal that promotes a variety of online courses, including short courses in travel photography and writing.
(Professional Videography here.)