travel photography

When people think about travel photographers, they imagine them jet-setting around the world with a camera bag slung over one shoulder. What they don’t realize, however, is that travel photography is as challenging as it is exciting, with hours of planning going into each shoot.

As a travel photographer, whether you’re heading to a location for a few days or a couple of weeks, your time will be limited each day. It’s important to carefully plan your trip in advance to make the most of every hour. Here are a few things you should have in place before you head out on your next travel shoot.

1. Where Are You Going?

You likely already have a general idea of where you want to go, but do you really know the area? If you’re interested in photographing the Colosseum of Rome, you may also want to visit the Forum nearby. If you’re spending time among the icebergs and glaciers of Antarctica, consider the wildlife you’ll want to photograph while you’re there. By learning as much as possible about your destination, you’ll avoid missing great opportunities and regretting it later. But remember, some of the best photographs come from being open to the unexpected.

2. Where Will You Stay?

As you choose your lodging, keep photo opportunities in mind. In some locations, it might be wise to stay in the center of town, where you can truly capture the culture of the area. In others, an inn stationed at the edge of town could give you breathtaking landscape shots in the early-morning hours. While most travelers will prioritize travel time and cost when choosing accommodations, a photographer should primarily consider how many photo opportunities will be just outside the front door.

3. What Will the Lighting Be?

Lighting can vary from location to location, but early-morning light is always a safe bet. Travel photographers should plan to rise early each day to take advantage of the light, then structure the rest of the day to optimize that golden hour just before sunset. Learn the area where you’ll be traveling and research photographs others have taken of that area. Note what time of day the best pictures were taken. Does the early-afternoon sun overwhelm the scenery or enhance it? By structuring your day around an area’s lighting, you’ll always ensure you’re in the right place at the right time. (For tips on getting your settings right, check out these tips from wilderness photographer, Tom Mangelsen.)

4. Do You Need Permission or Permits?

If you plan to photograph on private property or shoot a tourist attraction, make sure you have the proper permissions in place before you leave home. You may find that the permits you need must be obtained online or at a specific location once you arrive. You’ll avoid wasting time backtracking to get permissions if you have them in place when you arrive to take pictures. You may also find there are fees attached to the process and having this information early will allow you to include it in your travel budget.

As fun and thrilling as travel photography can be, it’s important to make the most of every trip. By setting an itinerary and thinking things through in advance, you can make sure you return home with some of the best photos you’ve ever taken. Be sure you also build a little downtime into your itinerary so that you can have fun while you’re there.