What does it take to do travel and lifestyle photography?

Photo by Alif Ngoylung on Unsplash

Many people dream of having a job that allows them to travel to fabulous and exotic destinations. One way to do this is as a travel and lifestyle photographer. Travel and lifestyle photographers are often called on to shoot in exotic destinations and even places not available to the average traveller. Travel photography is not like regular photography, however, so here are some tips and tricks to help you start a career in travel photography.

1. Think portable.

Many professional photographers will have a studio, which means they often invest heavily in large, bulky or heavy equipment. Travel and lifestyle photographers need to think small, light and portable. This is becoming easier and easier in the digital age. Many photographers are even investing in accessories that allow them to turn their smartphone into a fairly close equivalent to an advanced DSLR. Not only do accessories like lenses and lights help, but there are a wide range of apps that allow you to tweak all the settings to take advantage of native features but control them in ways native apps don’t allow for.

The advantage of a smartphone camera is that you almost always have it with you, so you can quickly get a shot you might miss while setting up a DSLR package. In addition to accessories for a smart phone, you may also consider investing in a number of different types of small, light, portable cameras. These can include a GoPro or drones. The broader the range of equipment you have at your disposal, the more prepared you will be to use exactly the right equipment for exactly the right shot.

2. Learn about composition.

Photography is sometimes referred to as “painting with light.” Just like great paintings, great photography relies on the use of elements such as colour, space and light. What elevates good photographers to great photographers is not the equipment they use, but how they compose a photo. An amateur photographer will often not be able to take as great of a shot with a $2,000 camera as a professional photographer can get with their smartphone. The difference is not in the capacity of the camera, its in the skill of the photographer.

Like almost anything else in life, the big difference between good photographers and great photographers is hundreds of hours of practice and study. There are thousands of videos available online to help you learn to take great photos, not to mention a wealth of photography tips to help you develop your skills. Beyond just taking great photos, however, you will also need to learn to enhance your photos with editing. Even the most seasoned and experienced photographers rarely take a photo they don’t significantly increase the aesthetic value of through editing.

3. Learn to use a range of different types of cameras.

Most professional photographers have a specific camera that they prefer to use. This is also convenient because they often have certain settings they like to use for certain types of shots that they can pre-program. While this is very handy, the truth is travel photographers need to be ready for anything. When you are travelling, all kinds of events can occur that can separate you from your favourite equipment. Your equipment can be lost, stolen or broken or may get locked in a car that you don’t have the keys to.

While all of these things can happen to any type of photographer, the farther from home you are, the less access you have to backups and other resources. This is why it is important to know how to work with a range of different types of camera and equipment. When you are being paid to get the shot, you need to be able to get the shot no matter what happens. Even when travelling, you can borrow or rent a camera or other equipment, but you need to be able to get just as good of shots with it as with your own. Have you even seen a camera called the Light camera? It takes the power of SLR cameras into a form factor of a mobile phone.

Photo from light.co

4. Start with where you are.

Like most jobs, becoming a professional photographer presents something of a conundrum. In order to land paying jobs, you need to have a professional portfolio but it can be difficult to build a portfolio without paying jobs. Conversely, however, you most likely know people that need photos. From head-shots to senior pictures to family photos, these can all be a great way to start your portfolio.

From there, moving into lifestyle photography is a fairly east step, which can eventually land you a job in travel photography. While there are a few photography jobs you may be able to get working for a single company, most photography jobs are freelance jobs working for individual clients. Lifestyle photography is a great place to start however, because there are most likely jobs right where you are. As you develop your skills and build your portfolio, you will b more able to get travelling jobs.

5. Be ready to roll with the punches.

Both the joy and the frustration of travelling is that you just never know what to expect – or when travelling you should always expect the unexpected. The best photographers always have a wide range of photography tips and tricks up their sleeves to pull out at a moment’s notice. From using plastic wrap or wax paper as a filter to using tin foil as a bounce board, the best photographers always know how to get a great shot no matter what equipment they might be missing.

If you want to build and develop the skills that will help you get travelling jobs, learn to use what’s around you to enhance whatever equipment you have. If you want to be a travelling photographer, you will need to be able to get great shots using minimal equipment or impromptu equipment you can make do with on the spot.

6. Build a great portfolio.

One of the great things about being a photographer is that it is easier than ever to showcase your work. The truth is, until you can prove that you can get great shots, it’s unlikely anyone is going to pay you to get them. A portfolio is how you can prove to paying clients – or businesses – that you have the skills necessary to deliver the goods. You will definitely want to have your own website where you can send potential clients to view samples of your work. In addition to showing that you can do great work, you also want to show you can handle a wide range of work. Getting your work online and recognized is the simplest thing you can do to build creditability. See right here.

Outdoor or nature photography requires very different skills from architectural photography, which is different from shooting people or stills. While many photographers will eventually reach the point where they can focus solely on one type of photography – such as nature or architectural photography – most photographers will need to be able to handle a wide range of jobs when they are first starting out if they want to pay the bills.

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