What Makes a Good Travel Photographer?

The travel photographer should be well rounded, comfortable shooting different things, and, of course, competent at camera handling. You should know how to use lenses to your best advantage, from extreme wide-angles to long telephotos or zooms. A fine sense of composition—the ability to make interesting and powerful arrangements of subject elements on a flat “film plane”—is a paramount travel skill, too.

The good travel photographer must be able to “see” and use natural and existing light to its best advantage, whether it be bright daylight, sunrise or sunset, twilight, or even rain or snow, as well as know how to work under existing artificial indoor or outdoor lighting. 

The excellent travel photographer should have all of the above skills plus an ability to work fast under pressure, and to add and control flash and other photographic lighting sources to a scene or subject when needed. A professional travel photographer must know how to light a scene or subject from scratch on occasion, even if he/she prefers a natural light “look.” Most importantly, good travel photographers should contribute a personal style or point of view to both individual images and travel stories.

The great travel photographer will have a passion for whatever he/she is shooting at that particular moment, whether it is a once-in-a-lifetime event or a fairly routine experience. You need this concentration to make the best possible pictures of any subject. Without it, you won’t search high and low for that one perfect angle, you won’t go back and re-shoot when the light starts to look magical—more than once if necessary— and you won’t suddenly be inspired to completely rethink a picture story. 

An excellent travel photographer who is sharp from plenty of recent shooting will have all of the above skills and attributes plus excellent reflexes. He/she should try to be fully aware of what’s going on in the vicinity of the shoot as well. This can enable him/her to anticipate action before it happens and occasionally capture those unplanned “magic moments.” 

All these attributes sound formidable, but all can be enormously improved by shooting often, being critical but not destructive of your own work, editing carefully, and re-shooting when you have the opportunity to improve something.

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