Do you love to take photos while you’re on vacation? Does that make you a travel photographer? Do you find yourself wondering about them? After all, what does a travel photographer shoot, anyway?
Travel photographers tell stories with their photos. They record moments. And, generally, they are generalists. (Sorry for that…)
Has anyone ever seen you with your camera and asked what you like to shoot?
Now, some people know exactly what they like to capture.
They only shoot wildlife (often referred to as “critters”) or birds. They may even have special camouflage covers for their long lenses. 😉
Or, maybe they bought their camera to stalk their kids and record all of their achievements growing up. So, they only pull out their camera for special family occasions.
Sports photography? You’ll often see these photographers carrying a monopod and a heavy lens.
Some photographers love shooting the night sky and have special equipment just for that.
Then there are landscape photographers. They are a hardy lot, rising long before dawn, hiking long distances and enduring rain and snow, while carrying their camera and tripod and searching for the perfect golden light.
All of these photographers can give a quick and firm answer to the question of what they shoot. They are specialists. They know just what their niche is.
But, what about the rest of us?
What do we like to shoot when we aren’t on vacation?
One day, we’re recording our daughter’s ballet recital, with the longest lens we own. The next, we’re on our hands and knees in the flowers, trying to freeze a hummingbird’s wings. But, wait, this is the perfect chance to grab a close-up of that beautiful flower. Snap.
Dinner in a restaurant (remember those?) requires a quick food shot with our iPhone that we can share online. Deer in the back yard? “Where’s my camera?” Gorgeous sunset? “I’ll be right back… Just have to grab this shot.”
Does this sound like you? Then, you do have a photography niche. You’re a travel photographer. I know what you’re thinking. “I haven’t been on a vacation in ages.”
And, anyway, what does a travel photographer shoot, you may ask?
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to travel from your home town to be a travel photographer.
Some wisdom from travel writers:
Travel writers have an expression that goes like this:
Every place is a destination for someone.
Your neighborhood may feel familiar to you, but to a visitor, everything is new. Travel writers also say that the best articles are written about a place that the writer knows well.
Give this a second to sink in.
Why is it any different for photographers?
Let’s start with the photos you took of the ballet recital. Aren’t they similar to this shot of a procession through our neighborhood of Insadong, during the Buddha’s Birthday celebration in Seoul, South Korea? (This shot actually earns double points. It’s definitely a travel photo, but it was taken in our neighborhood in Seoul.)
What about the close-up of the flower in your garden? You could have been shooting it in the Victoria Embankment garden in London or almost any other garden around the world.
Then, there’s the shot of the hummingbird. It’s sort of like this shot of an African Black-chested Snake Eagle in the Masai Mara, in Kenya. See how his wings are frozen in the air? He’s definitely not staying still. Just look at how his feet are lifting off of the dead branch.
So, what does a travel photographer shoot?
A safari in Africa might result in shots of animals and birds (wildlife and bird photography), plus some vast landscapes and sunrise/sunsets (landscape photography), like the photo at the top. It’s a landscape photo of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, at sunset, with the pool of the Sopa Lodge in the foreground. Let’s not forget the food or drink photos (food photography), or the shots of happy travelers (event photography). Portraits of local people (portrait photography) and action shots of Masai men jumping (sports photography) round out the trip.
A trip to Asia can include night photos of skylines (night photography or architectural photography), evocative shots of gardens (flower photography), and even a shot of the occasional greedy deer trying to eat your spouse’s ice-cream cone in Miyajima, Japan(wildlife or street photography, or just a fun photo to tease your spouse with 😎).
These are just a few examples. See if you can think of more. A quick look through your travel photos or even a travel magazine can give you some great ideas. How can you translate these shots into the ones you normally take at home? Can you see how travel photographers seem to specialize in everything, depending on where they are?
If you have time, Wikipedia has an article about travel photography that even gives its history.