Getting paid to travel the world and capture incredible images of people, animals and landscapes is many people’s dream job, but it’s also one of the most competitive and challenging. Travel photographer Graeme Green gives his practical advice and insider knowledge for improving your photos and getting ahead.
1. Go the extra mile
Life as a travel photographer often means getting out of bed (if there is a bed) when it’s dark and cold. I’ve gone out taking photos while wiped out by illness or after getting no sleep on the wooden floor of a hut. There have been long trudges through snow, sand and swamp, and exhausting journeys on dusty tracks. The unexpected or disastrous often happens. Life on the road is hard to predict, but you still have to get the photos you need.
A big part of the lifestyle’s appeal is getting to travel to remote, often wild and fascinating locations, meeting new people and having experiences you just can’t get at home – but it takes effort and time. Early starts, tough journeys, and long, hard days in difficult environments are all part of the job. There might be times when you don’t feel like taking photos, when you just want to rest, but missed opportunities always come back to haunt you. You never know what you might miss.
2. Make a plan
One of my favourite ways to photograph is just to walk, to explore a city or a location without an idea of what I’m looking for or where I’m heading to. You never know what scenes wait just around the next corner for spontaneous photographs.
But sometimes it really pays to plan, especially if you need to get specific shots for an assignment. Think about what you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s a close-up or a wider picture of a whole scene. If you’re photographing a festival or event, you need to take into account what time it will all kick off. If you have one, ask your guide or fixer for details on where exactly things will happen, then plan ahead to make sure you’re in the best possible location.
It’s especially worth looking around at where the light is coming from. It’d be frustrating to be present at a dramatic moment only to realise you should be on the other side of the room.