Travel photography is a subcategory of photography involving the documentation of an area’s landscape, people, cultures, customs and history. The Photographic Society of America defines a travel photo as an image that expresses the feeling of a time and place, portrays a land, its people, or a culture in its natural state, and has no geographical limitations.
This genre of photography entails shooting a wide variety of subjects under varied available conditions, e.g. low light photography indoors, available ambient light photography for exteriors of buildings and monuments, shooting on the streets where sometimes conditions may be hostile, capturing moments which rarely recur, capturing the magic of light while shooting landscapes, etc. It is not a “happy-snappy” holiday genre, the idea behind travel photography, is to attract the masses to view the destination you are at.
Some guidelines for good travel photography are:
Get up Early
The best light to capture most kinds of subjects is in the golden hour – one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset (depends off course on where you are on the globe). So, get up early to get those amazing photo opportunities, while all the other tourists are still asleep, or stay up late to shoot the stars.
Do your research
Don’t leave it to chance and learn as much as you can about the place you are about to travel. The more you know, the more “intelligent” your images will be. Wikitravel is a great resource to begin with.
Learn how to say “Hello” and a few other phrases in the local language, and greet the locals when taking their photo; it’s a great ice-breaker and earns you respect, and the right to enter their inner circle and to progress from there.
Be Culturally Sensitive
Shoot from the hip if you must, and hope for the best, I did so in Zanzibar, as woman hide their faces and men generally don’t want to be photographed without permission. Take a guide along on a photo walk, it will cost you money, but you will be guaranteed to get your shots. Dress appropriately, you will not get access to some venues like the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi without the proper dress code.
Watch the portfolio of other photographers in order to get new ideas and get inspiration. There are plenty of amazing groups on Facebook where getting inspiration costs nothing, but shoot your own images.
Feel the Place
Photography is not only about visual inspiration. Excite the senses – try the local food, smell and see the local markets and hear local music, feel the soul of the city, this will help you to better understand the story of the place. I learnt this valuable lesson in Split, Croatia.
Find a Fixer
Talk to locals and seek their advice on great photo opportunities in their own country.
Don’t take your entire house with you. My Nikon 28-300mm is a great all-rounder. If you need wider, 14-24mm will fill that gap. A nifty-fifty is also a great fixed prime, use your feet to zoom – get into the action! This is extremely important if you plan to do some hiking or trekking.
Get off the Beaten Path
Yes, I know that in Cuba they smoke cigars, and in Thailand they have monks. Tell your viewers something fresh and new. Share your own point of view of the place with fresh eyes.
If time allows you, always choose to travel by train or bus over flying. It will allow you to have better interactions with the locals.
Every good travel photo series must have at least one bird’s eye view of the place (Being referred sometimes as the “establish shot”). Find yourself a vantage point overlooking the entire city or town. I make use of a helicopter for mine.
“Exotic” can be found Anywhere
No matter where you live in the world: New York, Cape Town or a small village in France. Try to see the beauty of the place you live in. If you can find the beauty of that place and bring within your images, people will follow.
Shoot it Differently
Table Mountain has been “shot to death” so to speak, yet it remains an international icon. Capture your own exciting story about the moods of the Fairest Cape in a unique, unseen way.
Don’t Worry about the Weather
There is no excuse for not shooting, come rain or shine. You have travelled so far to your destination, planned so much; the weather is your wild card, make the most of it!
Shoot the Architecture
Shooting architecture captures a sense of era, time and place (be that modern or classic). Shooting a building with the country’s flag proves you have been there.
Don’t stop Traveling
A good travel photographer must keep a portfolio alive. Keep on traveling, you don’t have to travel to far and exotic places to do so. Try to bring the beauty of your own local town. Travel to the nearest market or attend the next festival as a way to keep on improving your craft.
You can follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/craig.fouche.photography/ or view more of my work on my Website: www.craigfouche.co.za
All images are © Craig Fouché Photography unless otherwise noted.