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9 Tips for becoming a better travel photographer

Travel photogprahy is one of those sought after niches a lot of people hope to make a living from. It is a beautiful job if you think about it, to go around the world , photographing beautiful places and people and getting paid for it. More often than not however, things are not that easy. Like most of the other photography genres, the supply is significantly higher than the demand. Some travel photographers enjoy successful careers, while others prefer (or are constrained) to keep it as more of a hobby. Following this list will not determine your success or failure, but it could help you get on the right track to making a living from photographing the world.

1. Have a clear view of what traveling means to you

Make a list of everything you enjoy about travel. Get to know yourself in detail. What kind of traveling do you like? Are you a hotel person or do you enjoy camping under a starry sky in a tent? Is it all national travel or international?

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The point to figuring all of these things is for you to know what kind of photographs you should expect from yourself. By having a clear sight on these things you can move up to the next level, which is finding the right people to hire you for your photography and not for something that doesn’t define you.

2. Write

If you are also decent with words, why miss the opportunity of combining these two skills for a more powerful result? Keep a journal everywhere you go. Not all the wonderful things that you can see on adventure can be fully recorded in photographs. People have fantastic stories all over the world. You could meet a fascinating character somewhere on the planet, take their portrait and put a short story of their life next to it. It is the kind of practice that takes you beyond the boundaries of photography and turns you into an explorer.

3. Have exhibitions

Personal exhibitions are one of the best ways to become more visible in the market. Sharing your work online is both good, and necessary, but having an event to show your latest portraits and landscapes from Cuba is a whole different ball game. Not only will you enjoy live feedback of your work, but you will also be seen in a more professional way.

4. Specialize in a region

Travel photography can be about seeing the entire world, or about being an expert in a certain area. In the long run, I’d go for the second. Let’s say you have a thing for Japan. Learn about every region of the country and what is specific about it. The landscapes, the climate the food, the people and their traditions. There can be great diversity within one country and as a travel photographer, you should explore it and photograph to the best of your abilities.

5. Blog

Blogging is a great way for any photographer to get their work out there, but it does a particularly good job for travel photographers. If you go on a one month trip to Argentina for instance, by photographing and posting on a blog every day, your audience goes with you. Sharing is an essential part of travel photography and with the quick help of a blog post, things are a lot easier.

6. Stock photography

Why not make an extra dollar? When you find yourself in a special location, apart from the artistic imagery you initially set out to make, snap a few shots you think might be of interest to stock agencies. For instance, if you go hiking with a friend, once you reach the top of the mountain, have him or her stand in a pose of victory and snap it. You’d be surprised how well this kind of images sell and this is one of many possible cases. Adapt this habit to every place you go and try to see what is “sellable” as a stock photo.

7. Pack lighter

I know you’re worried about not having the right gear to capture the amazing colors of India, but for God’s sake do yourself a favor and don’t drag half a camera store with you! Not only will it be a gigantic drawback that will slow you down and make you feel miserable rather than enjoying the experience, but you will also be the elephant in the room so to speak. Consider using all-in-one zooms. They’re not as bright as your favorite 24-70 f2.8 mid-range zoom, but you can get the job done without switching lenses or camera bodies all the time. It is a space and weight saving solution worth considering.

I’m also in favor of advanced compact cameras. I love those things because you hardly draw any unwanted attention to yourself. My favorite used to be the Fuji X100, but the X100s is now out and the new features look delicious.

8. Do your homework

Before you go to a new place, read as much as you can about what there is to visit, what the locals are like, what will $5 buy you, and so on. Obviously, no amount of theoretical preparation will make you ready for all that a new location has to offer. However, you probably don’t want to land at the airport without having the slightest idea which way you’re going next.

9. Stay away from average tourists

Instead of following what everyone else does, plan your own special route. When you pick a new country to visit, find the less known attractions, the places without the armies of tourists in Hawaiian shirts with D5200s round their necks. Not that there is anything wrong with those people, they’re probably all on vacation trying to have a good time and take it easy. You however are the pro that wants to capture a different aspect of the area. To do so, it takes a lot of hard work and it often means going on the roads less traveled. Good luck happy shooting!

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Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Randy Formaran