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So you want to be a travel photographer? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been a travel photographer for 20 years, ever since I left my suit-and-tie/shined shoes job as a VP/Group Supervisor at a NYC advertising agency.
Since then, I have traveled to almost 100 countries documenting fascinating cultures, incredible wildlife and exotic locations. What fun, even though on some trips I had to take malaria medicine (which gives you strange dreams), get shots for typhoid and yellow fever, and get hepatitis A and B booster shots. In addition, on most trips I had to take Imodium. The worst deal was being seasick.
Speaking of being seasick, do you know that there are two stages to being seasick? In stage one, you feel as though you are going to die. In stage two, you wish you were dead.
Been there, thought that.
All things considered, being a travel photographer is a great job. I would not trade it for the world. (If you see me on a trip, remind me that I said that when I am in stage two of being seasick.)
Okay, onto some serious stuff.
In this article, I’d like to share with you some of my best tips for travel photography. I’ll also share with you some of my favorite photographs, includes the initial photograph for this article that I took of some Mongolian soldiers during a festival in that fascinating country in 2007.
Here goes. Have fun!
Dress for Success
What’s wrong with this picture (Image 1) that I took in Exeter National Park, South Africa? As I am sure you noticed that the woman in pink is not dressed for a photo safari, where green, tan and brown colored clothes are recommend to provide some camouflage from wildlife. What’s more, the woman is wearing sneakers, which don’t protect your feet from sharp thorns that can poke through the soles of soft shoes. (Our safari guide is trying to remove a thorn from her sneaker.)
If you go on a safari, dress for success and for protection from the animals. Photo vests and jackets not only make us look like professional travel photographers, but they are practical. All those pockets are great for giving us fast access to photo accessories, such as filters, memory cards, a flash unit and even lenses.
Sign ‘em Up
A signed model release is required if you plan to use a photograph of a person for commercial purposes. The release has to say that the person gives you the right to use the picture for commercial purposes. It should have space for the person to print his or her name, be signed by the person and include the date.
Someday I hope to sell this picture of a woman (Image 2) who I photographed in Marrow Bone, Texas. Good thing I have a release.
Get a Good Guide
Guides and translators are most helpful when traveling into foreign counties. Not only can they actually save you time in searching for a particular photograph, but they also may be able to help you see places and people you normally would not have the opportunity to see. If you don’t arrange a guide through a travel agent, you can usually get one through your lodge or hotel.
Without a guide, this picture of a Huli Wigman (Image 3) would have been hard to get, and the location would have been hard to find.
A good guide is worth what is often the least expensive part of a trip.
Field Setup—Digital Photos on the Go
I travel with a laptop, a card reader and a backup drive or drives (Image 4). Image processing programs (Photoshop and/or Aperture/Lightroom) are loaded on the laptop, complete with the latest RAW Plug-in or application update so that RAW files can be opened. That’s an important point. If you have a new camera and don’t have the latest RAW Plug-in or application update, you may not be able to open your RAW files. That has happened to a few of my workshop participants, who were not happy campers as a result.
When traveling, pack an AC power strip so that you can charge your computer and camera battery at the same time. When visiting a foreign country, make sure you have the correct power adapter plug, which you can find at electronic stores.