Traveling and Your Photography: Make the Most Out of It

Traveling and Your Photography: Make the Most Out of It

So you've got some upcoming travel plans, maybe to a new destination or maybe to a place you like to visit over and over again. A favorite city maybe, a real home away from home. Obviously you take your camera gear with you with the goal of making the most of your trip. Do you plan ahead of time or will you be flying by the seat of your pants? We're all different, some people want a detailed itinerary while others want to enjoy some spontaneity, but we all want to come home with some great images. Having a plan (even a rough one written on a napkin) can help you to make the most of your travels wherever they may be. 

You want to set yourself up for success, so step one is identifying your goals. Are you looking for epic landscapes that require a day hike or more? Are you wanting to book portrait sessions with people in the city? Do you want to be going full steam everyday or are you wanting to relax a bit too? This is a personal decision that you'll have to decide for yourself. I prefer to be going full steam ahead. I want to be shooting constantly. Whether it's a day hike with my camera and tripod or a portrait shoot in town, I prefer to have photography-related activities going on constantly. Toss in something to unwind with like a dinner at a delicious restaurant and a movie at the theater and I'm about as happy as can be.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying your travel as it happens, spontaneity can lead to some unexpected and great things. However, a basic plan that comes together ahead of time can be your best friend. There is always time to do some common-sense research. Google great hikes and scenic locations or get on Instagram and search for people who live in the area that could be potential clients. Create a basic list of things you'd like to do while you're traveling, it doesn't have to be an ironclad itinerary. The act of creating a list is something that has really helped me to maximize my time and photography-related activities while traveling.

Always think of traveling as an opportunity to network with other people. Whether it's clients or fellow artists, there are always new friends and acquaintances to be made. Don't be afraid to reach out to people (in a friendly and polite way), the worst case scenario is they don't reply; no big deal. If epic landscapes are the goal, reach out to other landscape photographers who have photographed where you're going, and ask if they have any tips or awesome places they would be willing to share. If portrait sessions are the goal, let people know that you'll be in town ahead of time so they have a chance to plan accordingly. Always treat other people with respect; Why make demands if you can make friends instead?

Even the most basic plan or outline will help you to be more successful than trying to make magic happen at the last minute. By all means, go with the flow and embrace some spur of the moment decisions but have an idea outlining your goals too.

If you have travel tips for photographers, videographers, or anyone else it may apply to, let us know in the comments. Do you prefer to do a lot of planning or would you rather embrace a bit of chaos? How about any horror stories (maybe something funny) that could have been easily avoided if you had planned something out?

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Richard Sowell's picture

This article could not have come at a better time because I will be leaving January 4th via my home on wheels "Class A RV, heading west, returning to Florida in early October. My plan is to try and pick up some environmental portraits. Have not figured out the marketing part yet, but since I will be among fellow RVers it may be just sticking a business card on their windshield or possible printing something like a 4X5 card with a few sample images and putting that on their windshield. This is my first trip so any suggestion from other season travelers would be greatly appreciated. I will definitely share my success and or failures when I return.

Evan Kane's picture

That sounds awesome Richard! I love the idea of printing postcards for fellow travelers, it sounds like an industrial strength business card that people can put of the fridge :D

Simon Patterson's picture

I think the main thing in taking photos in travel is to look for stories.

Good travel photos usually seem to show an interesting subject (a person, place, animal or object) in the context of an interesting or unusual location. To achieve this, both the main subject and the location need to be shown in the photo.

Great travel photos often have the interesting subject engaging with the interesting location in an interesting or unusual way. Easier said than done!

user-156929's picture

In a "The Great Courses" tutorial on travel photography, Joel Sartore (National Geographics photographer) emphasized that interesting photos are more important than technically perfect ones. That makes sense to me because, a lot of the photos in NG aren't much better than snapshots, technically, but they're interesting enough to get published.

Evan Kane's picture

Well said Simon :)