Ok so you want to be a travel photographer? First, you must develop a travel philosophy--a set of rules to follow on your quest. This will help you decide where to go, how to get there, and what to photograph. Your own philosophy will almost certainly differ from mine, based on your preferences, experiences, and goals. But I hope that by sharing my own, you can more effectively develop your own. So without further ado, here are 6 rules for traveling.
- Figure out what you like to shoot most, and chase that thing around the world.
You can't be the best photographer in every category. Specialize in the one subject you love shooting the most. Whether it's portraits, landscapes, food, wildlife, shoes, rocks, I don't care. But strive to the best photographer in the world at one thing specifically. This will allow you to more effectively select a destination, plan activities, and develop your style. If you try to be a jack-of-all-trades, you work won't be noticed.
- Ask yourself "why should someone care about this image?"
If you are photographing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel from directly beneath, nobody will ever care about your photo. If a quick google search reveals exactly the same vantage point as your photo but exceeds your photo in quality, your photo isn't worth taking. This leaves you two options: either offer a new point of view or photograph something nobody else is shooting. If there is a long line of people to access the perfect viewpoint for your subject, you should reconsider--they're all taking the exact same photo you will take.
- Go where others will not.
The gigantic herds of tourists at some sites can be daunting. But I've noticed something amazing: a twenty minute uphill walk will deter at least 80% of the crowd. If you can find a slightly more difficult-to-access viewpoint, you will almost always get a more unique shot and save yourself from having to photoshop out a dozen selfie sticks.
- You don't need 1,000 photos of a place. You need one good photo.
Think about what photo could convey the essence of a place most effectively and chase that photo all day. If you are lucky, you will end up with a handful of nice photos.
- Don't forget to actually experience a place.
It's easy to view a place solely through your viewfinder if you aren't careful. It is so important to stop, turn off your camera, and enjoy yourself. When I can spare it, I will always schedule a no-cameras-allowed day at each destination. This forces me to think about how a place feels, smells, and sounds. Often, my best photos come after this time, as I've allowed myself to think more carefully about my location and what details stand out most strongly.
- If you ever have the opportunity for a boat ride, take it.
Ok so this rule isn't as firm as the others, but it's important to have a couple of things that you do at every location. For me, it's finding a boat to ride and trying a local beer. I can't stress how fun it is to be able to compare locations based on something so specific. I've been to more cities than I can remember--their skylines begin to fade together in my head. I may not remember what Warsaw, Copenhagen, or Buenos Aires look like exactly, but I can definitely remember my boat ride at each place and I can still taste each place's beer.
Application of the Boat Rule below.