Travel photography is perhaps one of, if not the most diverse genre of photography. It’s a genre that can often be misinterpreted, mislabelled, misunderstood, or most of the time, wrongly defined. This is because of the multitude of subjects, themes, styles, and artistic intentions that can be done by any photographer when traveling.
Travel photography comprises so many sub-genres that often intersect with many other genres. Portraits are often very compelling forms of travel photography especially when it illustrates cultural icons and introduces a place’s people through a single member of their society. Stories about a certain place and its people are often very well illustrated through travel photography that is shot in the discipline of street photography and photojournalism. A place and its people have so many stories to tell and this can be illustrated brilliantly by meticulous compositions and capturing candid moments.
Another style of photography that can very well illustrate and represent a culture is food photography. Many places are very well characterized by the food and delicacies that are made popular by their people. A well-photographed dish might not tell any story but it can attract the curiosity of the viewers who might want to visit a place because of the food, or it can remind someone of a place they have been to and all the memories that they fondly recall while visiting the place. This also involves items that are not edible. Still, life photography of various items that characterize a place can trigger a lot of curiosity and ultimately attract the viewer to learn more about the place.
Of course, the most popular sub-form of travel photography is the one that illustrates the beautiful places at a destination. These can be natural wonders that make the place popular, a cultural heritage site or structure that beautifully blends with the environment, or even towering structures in an urban destination. Landscape photography is perhaps one of the most popular and most characteristic forms of travel photography as it literally illustrates the place, the geography, and attracts people to go the distance to see the places for themselves.
The Aim of Travel Photography
Travel photography is the kind of genre that has many different approaches to one universal goal. This goal is simply to illustrate and tell the story of a place. Many stories emerge from a place throughout its history. Whether it’s a newly established city or town, or a home to ancient cultural heritage, every single life, every single vista, and every single activity develops a unique story that is worth telling through photographs and words.
Travel photography illustrates things that mere verbal stories simply can not describe. The emergence of photography allowed for photographers to share to people from thousands of miles away from the scenery and the experience of a place that they have never been to in their entire lives. Travel photography can be considered as something that bridges peoples of different walks of life, different races, from different corners of the globe.
Travel photography provokes curiosity. It can be said that 99.99% of people in the world have not been able to see even just a quarter of the wondrous places there are to see in the world. With the ease of sharing photographs thanks to the increasingly instantaneous process of taking a photograph and transmitting it to the other side of the world, a beautiful photograph that represents a place and the culture living around it can be enough to fuel someone to travel thousands of miles to see it.
Travel photography evokes emotion. Through effective travel photography in the discipline of documenting specific events, phenomena, or experiences of people at a place, one can cause a series of positive or negative events. Potentially, a good travel photograph and documentary can fuel a movement that might benefit a place, its people, and the environment around it. Through countless photographs that illustrate human experiences, struggles, crises, war, and suffering, a photographer can shed light on important issues that the world might be able to intervene on.
Tips for Effective Travel Photography
Taking portraits of the people you meet when traveling can be a very good way to illustrate and tell the stories of a place. Any place you visit no matter how “normal” it may seem has a characteristic persona that is unique to it and that also reflects in the people. Travel portraits may seem so normal and arbitrary but good photographs take a bit more effort to execute. As a travel photographer, it is by default a fact that you are an automatic stranger to a place and its people. Many places we visit have very hospitable people especially if their livelihood revolves around greeting and catering to travelers. However, there are places that are extremely wonderful to visit where tourism is just secondary to their culture.
This is where a photographer’s people skills and ability to communicate and relate with others come into play. To take a good organic travel portrait, it is important to connect with your subject in a level that is as personal as possible for them to be able to infuse their personality and open up themselves through their poses and facial expressions. Travel portraits that were taken with the subjects not at ease and ultimately uncomfortable can negatively misrepresent their people and their culture simply because of the photographer’s uncomfortable approach.
Candid Travel Scenes
Another approach to telling stories about a place and your travels can be through candid travel scenes. These photos taken in a journalistic sense or through a street photographer’s vision can be both aesthetically and contextually compelling. Through this approach, a photographer can document and immortalize moments that define and characterize a place and the life in and around it. By capturing such moments in their most organic sense, one can illustrate the people’s way of life and how they relate with one another.
Food is often one of the most characteristic non-living subjects that you can photograph at a certain place. A lot of travelers remember a place from the experiences that they had while visiting and for a lot of people, food can be extremely memorable. Most places have a characteristic dish or version of a dish that is unique to the place. This can be simply a different way of cooking a common dish, a reputable variant from a local restaurant that can not be found anywhere else, or an entirely original and even unusual recipe.
Photographing food can seem so simple but properly executing it might be challenging. Add to that the fact that when you are traveling, even if you’re a professional food photographer, you might not have all the materials that you are used to. An approach that is often taken is by simply keeping the photograph in context. A delicacy from a tropical island can best be photographed organically with nature, a remarkable food truck burrito can best be illustrated right by the sidewalks, and even the most unusual street food ( such as insects or bugs) can effectively be photographed right from where they are made or sold. This also applies to other material products that are produced uniquely at the place.
Of course, some of the most iconic subjects to photograph when traveling are iconic architectural structures. You know that a place has rich history and culture when you can see remnants of its past still standing after decades or even centuries of modernization. On the other hand, rapidly growing cities also speak volumes of the growing culture and industry of a place. From ancient ruins of olden civilizations to simple uniquely designed homes of an old small town, to the grand cityscape of a large metropolis, these structures can definitely be impactful ways of illustrating and representing the place.
Photographing architecture is one of the most common photographic activities that tourists and travelers do the moment they get to a place. Sometimes, even the airport through which they enter becomes a characteristic image. However, to effectively capture the architecture and what it represents, there are a few techniques that might be of help. The first is to make use of human elements for scale. Specifically, to show how big or how small a structure is, it is advisable to photograph it with a human element organically interacting with the structure.
The second is to make use of motion. Architectural structures are elements that remain still while everything else moves and lives in and around them. With the use of slow shutter and long exposure, you can illustrate this dynamism by letting elements move across your frame and around the subject for the duration of your shot. This not only illustrates the activities around it but also gives a notion that the structure stands literally and figuratively through the passing of time.
Of course, natural landscapes are no exception. In fact, most people are confused over labeling an image as a landscape photograph or a travel photograph. In some instances, it’s one over the other but most of the time, both are correct. Natural scenes that are picturesque are often the most attractive part of any given location and being able to illustrate such a place in the most enticing way can often be the most compelling reason for people to pack their bags and travel to be able to see and experience the place for themselves. Through the use of various landscape photography techniques such as long exposure, HDR, and time-lapse, one can be able to illustrate the place in the most unique and compelling way.
The MIOPS Smart+ camera remote trigger is a very handy on-the-go tool that can be very beneficial to various travel photography workflows. The built-in HDR mode can help you overcome lighting hindrances and extract more detail out of a scene. The intuitive long exposure modes allow you to take amazing long exposure landscape photographs with ease and comfort and the built-in time-lapse functions, as well as light and sound sensors can be ultimately helpful for achieving the most creative ideas even when in transit.
Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!
Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!
Blog Credit: Nicco Valenzuela
Nicco started his photographic journey in 2007 practicing the craft as a hobby. Currently, he shoots for various local and international architectural firms and construction companies. Out of his love for sharing his knowledge, Nicco began writing about photography and various pieces of gear.