Travel photography has a broad meaning and can encompass many different styles, from portraiture to landscapes. For me, travel photography is capturing the essence and stories of a place.
In order to achieve that, I always ask myself three questions that will help me explore, understand, and photograph each place I visit:
1. Who are the people I meet?
2. How do they live?
3. Where do they live?
It’s my travel photography trinity, and it helps me bring home the photos that capture a sense of place. Here are some examples, with tips on getting your best possible shot in each category:
1. The “Who” (People)
When I first started in photography, I would avoid including people in my images, because I was too shy to approach them. But I soon realized that portraits can tell incredible stories. It’s the people who give an identity to a place.
Before taking my camera out, I first try to establish contact and trust with the locals. Thanks to a few words I learned or with just hand gestures, I make them laugh and feel at ease before asking if I can take photos.
Using a 50mm portrait lens, I stay close, take a few headshots, and show it to them before allowing them to get back to whatever they were doing. And that’s where the magic happens.
Once they lose interest in the camera, it’s the best time to capture shots of your subjects in their environment, doing their own thing. That first connection is crucial to open doors into their world.
2. The “How” (Culture)
Another important aspect of travel photography is capturing the culture of a specific place. How do the people live in the country? What do they eat? What are their customs, rituals, or beliefs?
With these questions, I try to identify and capture everything that represents the local culture. This includes photos of food, festivals, celebrations, and many more.
I usually walk around with my 24-70mm “everyday lens” and observe without getting in the way. In some cases, when I go to the trouble of establishing trust with the people around me, they’ll even welcome me to their homes and share their food and interests.
3. The “Where” (Location)
The third type of images I take are of the location itself. What does this place or country I am visiting look like? What is the defining landscape? How about the architecture in the cities and countryside?
It is usually the most challenging type of photo because you have no control over the light or weather.
Using a wide-angle lens, I aim to capture the surroundings while also trying to include familiar or human elements to give it a sense of scale. I like to keep it simple and not include too many elements cluttering the overall image.
Asking these three questions allows me to capture the images that, together, tell a story of the place.
It requires patience, curiosity, and can eventually lead to building longtime friendships with people all around the world.