Travel Photography: Planning & Documenting

Travel photography is quite different from other photographic endeavors, especially if you plan to make a living from it. Most successful travel photographers are writers as well. Actually in the print world, you can’t separate words from pictures. They complement each other.


photo by Giuseppe Milo

What the picture can’t show, the words explain in greater detail. So it’s no surprise that some travel articles are sometimes from husband and wife teams. That’s the perfect job for couples. Think exotic locations, the love of your life with you and endless adventures together.

My biggest problem with travel photography is that a lot of the imagery you see has been so photographed that they’re the equivalent of visual clichés. What comes to mind when you think of China? Great Wall of China or the Forbidden City in Beijing? Egypt? The Great Pyramids. India… the Taj Mahal. Indonesia…Borobodur. Cambodia…Angkor Wat.

As in most printed media, the pictures tend to be more important than the words. A visually striking image will draw a casual browser of publication into reading an article even if the headline is not well-written. A great selection of pictures of one destination can save a article with mediocre writing. But the same can’t be said if the pictures are of poor quality.

No matter how good and compelling the writing, if the pictures are just mediocre, readers will not be drawn to the story. Poorly composed images, especially ones with lots of technical flaws like low resolution, artifacting and digital noise cannot be rescued. As powerful as Photoshop is, it simply can’t fix or add something that isn’t in a picture.

Even if it can, there is the ethical question of whether you are allowed to. Most magazines have strict guidelines against such manipulation of images, especially in their editorial content. But poorly written articles can be “massaged” and fine-tuned by editors into something quite readable.

Tips for a successful trip:

1. Careful planning and research of your destination

This seems obvious, yet a lot of people don’t consider this when making their plans. Festivities like Oktoberfest in Germany or the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California take place annually at the same time.

And by planning, I don’t just mean planning for the length of time you’re going to be at your destination. If you’re a digital photographer, you’ll need power to charge your batteries and a way to download and clear off your memory cards or you will be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

If you’re headed abroad where electrical power is different from home, you’ll also a voltage converter. I recommend the Kensington 3317 International All-in-one Travel Plug Adapter.

2. Precise note-taking

Whether you use a laptop or pen and paper, having good habits like keeping receipts and other bills incurred during the trip is important.

Even if you’re not writing the article, precise notes on how to get from town A to town B, how much the fare was, and the duration of the drive are all details which add value to your pitch to magazines or collaborative effort with a writer.

Remember, your recall will not be so good once you’re home. Foreign names have a way of sounding the same when you get home, so good note-taking is critical.

thailand beach photography

photo by melenama

Your article will have more credibility if you provide details since a travel article is part “how-to” and part narrative. Another reason for those notes is documentation when you claim the trip as a business expense.

3. Digital SLR with wide and telephoto zoom lens

Think “light.” If you’re lugging around a lot of gear, you’ll be too beat to use your camera. Traveling light doesn’t mean you leave essentials like a healthy supply of extra memory cards, batteries and flash units at home.

If you’re bringing along a laptop, then a way to back up your images is important.

safari photography

photo by Feans

Even if you don’t have a chance to edit your images after you download them to your computer, you should burn those images as a backup and mail them to yourself.

That way if all your gear is stolen, you’ll still have images to show when you get home.

About the Author:
Prior to his arrival in the US, before attending college, Riverside portrait photographer Peter Phun traveled extensively, documenting his travels through photography. He specializes in location portraits, weddings, and editorial work. He writes about photography, Macs & the Internet. He also designs websites and is a stay-at-home dad. Previously, Peter worked as a staff photographer for 18 years at The Press-Enterprise, Southern California’s 4th largest daily newspaper. He is the webmaster for the Mac user group in the Inland Empire.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

One response to “Travel Photography: Planning & Documenting”

  1. Luke says:

    The travel photography article is misleading when it discusses non-U.S. Power sources. The Kensington 3317 does not convert voltage. It is an adapter that allows US style plugs to fit into foreign power sources. Fortunately, most photo equipment, such as battery chargers and laptop computers, operates on a range of voltages – from 110 to 240 volts. But don’t try to run your hair dryer through it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever