Being a Travel Photographer - More Than Just Taking Photos
Travel photography is not about just taking photos and showing places. A traveling photographer brings home more than amazing photos. Stories. That’s what it’s all about when you’re a traveling photographer. What’s the story behind the photo, the context. Who are we looking at and what’s their story in case of a travel portrait.
A lot of travel photography doesn’t tell you those stories. When I travel, I come back with tons of stories and anecdotes of what happened before and after the photo. Even the most mundane experience when shooting a photo, creates an extra layer. It’s not just about the image.
Travel to tell stories
You’ve probably heard people say:
“A photo says more than a thousand words.”
Well, that’s not true. There’s so much that happens before and after taking a photo. Even the context of a photo often needs explaining. A short caption or an entire article; especially when practicing travel photography or photojournalism. At National Geographic, they have full-time staff to write photo captions. It’s one of the important things to learn when you want to be a traveling photographer.
Travel photographers don’t just take photos. They tell stories and that’s what traveling and photographing is all about. I enjoy traveling because I learn from people and explore a country while taking photos. People tell me their story and even the smallest and seemingly meaningless anecdote from someone could be of great importance to explain a photo.
When I see travel photography and of course photojournalism, I want to know everything that’s behind the photo. Even what the photographer was thinking when he took that shot is important.
Travel photography portraits
One aspect of travel photography where the story is important, is portraits. A photo of someone is only just that. True, sometimes you don’t have the time to ask the person about their lives and it’s just a quick portrait. But even then, there’s information you can add about where the photo was taken and when. Also, how you met that person and why you wanted to take a photo. Even a little description of the surroundings and what’s behind can add value to the portrait.
When traveling, I’m often triggered to ask someone for a portrait after I’ve met them a few times and learned about their lives. Someone you see every day when you’re staying in the same place for a few days is a great subject for an interesting photo. There’s already a connection which also makes it easier for both subject and photographer.
Two of my favorite portraits and stories
My favorite travel photography portraits are not necessarily the best photos either. Of course, I always try to create the best portrait possible but often it’s also the story behind the photo that lifts it to another level. For me, a great potrait photo must have both a visual impact and a great story. For the visual aspect, the expression is more important than the aesthetics but still, I always try to create a visually pleasing image too.
These are two of my favorite travel photography portraits I took in the past year of traveling around the world. Not because of the photo but because of the person in the photo and their story. One from my travels in India and one from Thailand.
Raju. Jaisalmer, India.
Meet Raju. He was born in the north east of India but decided to head west to look for a job and more opportunities in life. He’s now working as a chef in a cafe in Jaisalmer. He tries to fit in but it’s hard. He’s different. He’s open-minded. Because of his culture, religion and place of birth, he’s often a victim of the Indian caste system. He’s been treated as being lesser of a person a lot of times but he still keeps an open mind and tries to be the best person he can be. He’s one of the most interesting people I’ve met in India.
Lek. Koh Lanta, Thailand.
Lek and his family own a beach. That’s right, a whole beach. And it’s one of the nicest beaches in Koh Lanta often referred to as ‘Secret Beach’. He has a little beach bar where they serve food and drinks and lives life as it comes. People suggested him to ask for an entry fee to access the beach but he doesn’t even think of doing that. The beach is free to access for everyone.
He was once married to a Scandinavian girl with whom he has a daughter. The marriage didn’t last and Lek moved back to Thailand. He told me he’s waiting for the day his daughter comes to visit him. I took this photo when he was cleaning the washed up trash on their little beach. If you ever visit Koh Lanta, make sure to have a beer with Lek and his family at ‘Secret Beach’.
Tell me your favourite travel story in the comments!