The World Through Your Lens: A Guide to Travel Photography

The world is a blend of diverse cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant cities that make up the mosaic of life and the human experience. Travel photography is the bridge connecting us to these wonders through art and education, inviting us to celebrate, understand, and preserve the rich tapestry of our global community through visual storytelling.

For decades, the work of passionate travel photographers has closed gaps between stories and reality while giving authentic glimpses into unfamiliar places and the people that make them so special. So whether you're a travel nut looking to better document your adventures, if you're curious about turning travel photography into a living, or simply wish to know more about the topic, this guide tells all.

What is Travel Photography?

At its simplest, travel photography is the profession/hobby of taking photos within the bounds of different places and cultures. It's like a visual diary, journal, or blog where images tell the stories and share accurate information about the world beyond.

When you visit a new country and take photos of the mountains, cities, and people you meet, these pictures aren't just personal keepsakes helping you remember + reflect on your experience; they're first-hand accounts that educate others on life beyond borders, too!

Now, allow us to dive a bit deeper and beyond the simplest definition of "taking photos during a trip".

Travel photography is really about capturing a destination's soul: the streets' heartbeats, the pulse of nightlife, the peoples' struggles and smiles, and everything in between. Travel photography is where landscape, portrait, wildlife, and all other forms of photography meet to tell the tales of the relationship between people and their surroundings.  

As a photographer, it is a careful dance – being both an observer and a participant while respecting a place deeply enough to capture its spirit. And with every picture taken, it's crucial to approach it with kindness and understanding, for these images might be the only way others learn about faraway places and cultures, thus requiring a certain level of responsibility.

10 Ethics of Travel Photography

A travel photograph of a Chinese temple.

For the People and the Place, Always Practice Proper Travel Photography Ethics! (Beautiful Travel Photo From: Belle Co.)

Venturing into the world with a camera comes with an inherent responsibility. Every photograph can be a medium of truth or a potential invasion of someone's privacy.

Whether professionally or just for fun, keep these ethical guidelines in place as a travel photographer:

  1. Ask Permission: Not everyone wants to be photographed. Some may consider it an intrusion or even a violation of their personal or cultural beliefs. Always ask for permission when photographing individuals, especially in close-up settings. A simple gesture or a smile can often be a universal way to ask and receive acknowledgment. Consent is especially critical should you plan to share the photos.

  2. Cultural Sensitivity: Before heading to a new location, educate yourself about local customs and traditions. In some cultures, photographing certain ceremonies or places is considered disrespectful or even illegal! Always be cautious and respectful, and do your due diligence before a trip.

  3. Avoid Stereotypes: Often, photographers gravitate toward images that fit preconceived notions of a place, but authentic travel photography should capture the true essence of a location and its people. Seek to represent a balanced view, showing not just the struggles but the joys, advancements, and everyday lives of people.

  4. Respect Public vs. Private Spaces: While public places are generally acceptable for photography, avoid intruding into someone's private space, such as their home, without explicit permission.

  5. Wildlife Photography: Maintain a safe distance and do not damage natural habitat. Use long lenses and avoid flash so as not to disturb animals.

  6. Photojournalism vs. Artistic Liberties: If your purpose is journalistic, avoid manipulating the image to maintain authenticity.

  7. Educate and Inform: Use captions and descriptions to contextualize your images. This ensures that the story behind each photo is accurate, dispelling myths and creating an informed audience.

  8. Leave No Trace: This typically refers to physical disturbances, but with photography, it also means preserving the spirit and mood of a place. If a site is serene and undisturbed, avoid causing a commotion just for a photo opportunity.

  9. Child Safety: Exercise extra caution when photographing children. Besides getting the necessary permissions, always maintain their safety and dignity. Avoid situations where children are made to look more destitute or pitiable for a more "compelling" shot.

  10. Financial Transactions: Be cautious about offering money for photographs. In some places, this can create a culture of expectation, where individuals or children start seeing themselves as 'subjects' for foreign photographers and may even forgo other activities in hopes of making money from tourists. If you do compensate, consider doing so in non-monetary ways, such as buying local crafts, food, or giving a small gift.

Essential Equipment for Travel Photography

The must-haves and can't-do-without, here's a quick breakdown of basic travel photography equipment and a few things to consider regarding such.

1. The Camera

For travel photography, it's essential to have a versatile and reliable camera- versatility catering to the many styles falling within the umbrella of travel photography while reliability ensures no unforeseen repairs while out and about!

When choosing a camera for travel, consider:

  • Size & Weight: A compact and lightweight camera is ideal for mobility.

  • Sensor Size: A larger sensor can capture more light, essential for varying lighting conditions.

  • Durability: Weather-sealed cameras offer protection against dust and moisture.

  • Battery Life: Longer battery life means fewer interruptions in your shooting.

  • Lens Flexibility: Go for cameras that support interchangeable lenses or have a versatile zoom range to adapt to different shooting scenarios.

The Best Cameras for Travel Photography

  • Mirrorless Cameras: Lightweight and with interchangeable lenses, these mirrorless cameras are a clear travel favorite. Popular choices include the Sony A7 series or Fujifilm X-series. Notably, Fujifilm's recent models, like the X-T30 ii, X-Pro3, and X100V, have garnered widespread attention (you've probably seen them on your FYP!) for their film simulation capabilities. Allowing photographers to emulate the look of classic film photos without the need for post-processing or handling actual film, professional and hobby travel photographers relish this modern approach to vintage style.

  • Compact Cameras: Perfect for casual or beginner photographers, models like the Canon Powershot G7X or Sony RX100 combine quality with ease of use.

  • DSLR Cameras: These are heavier but offer powerful options and shooting customizations. Renowned series include the Canon EOS series or the Nikon D series.

2. Travel Lenses

The lens you use defines the quality and type of your shots. Depending on what you aim to capture, you'll probably need more than one!

  • Zoom Lenses: Cover a range of focal lengths so photographers can zoom in closer to a subject or pull back to capture a wider scene without changing the lens. This versatility makes them ideal for various settings, from expansive landscapes to intimate close-ups, ensuring you won't miss a shot while constantly on the move.

  • Prime Lenses: Unlike zoom lenses, prime lenses have a fixed focal length. What they lack in versatility, they make up for in image clarity and sharpness. Often, prime lenses have wider apertures, which allows for more light and creates beautiful bokeh (blurred background) effects. Prime lenses are a killer option for crisp portraits and low-light conditions.

  • Wide-angle Lenses: As the name suggests, wide-angle lenses have a broad field of view, meaning you can capture much more of a scene within the frame. They're ideal for "big images'' and "big places," as you travel, like expansive landscapes, towering architecture, and bustling cityscapes.

  • Portrait Lenses: Typically falling in the medium telephoto range, these lenses are primarily designed to capture the human face flatteringly, preserving the subject's genuine essence and likeness without distortion. The most common focal lengths for portrait lenses range from 50mm to 135mm.

The Best Lenses for Travel Photography

3. Camera Straps

Your camera's safety and accessibility are paramount when hopping between planes, trains, and taxis. A high-quality camera strap ensures your camera is always at the ready while offering added security against accidental drops. Consider:

  • Comfort: Ensure the strap is padded enough to evenly distribute the camera's weight.

  • Durability: Opt for quality materials able to withstand the wear and tear of travel.

  • Style: Personalize your gear with multiple camera straps featuring unique and artistic designs that enhance your style + branding.

The Best Camera Straps for Travel Photography

At Wildtree, we've curated a collection of the best camera straps for every photographer, inspired by nature and the lust for travel, designed to ensure your camera is safe and comfortable to carry while venturing through National Parks or traveling across borders.

4. Travel Tripods

While many might see it as additional baggage, a tripod's stability is essential for long-exposure shots, landscapes, and cityscapes while traveling. To make the most out of your luggage, consider:

  • Compact Design: Collapsible tripods that fit in your backpack are best.

  • Sturdiness: Ensure it can withstand potential wind and the weight of your camera.

  • Adjustability: Height adjustments are a must, and some travel tripods have single-leg adjustments for uneven ground.

  • Compatibility: Before buying, please ensure the tripod is compatible with your camera type!

The Best Tripods for Travel Photography

  • Manfrotto BeFree: Compact and lightweight, perfect for travelers.

  • GorillaPod: Flexible and versatile, suitable for uneven terrains.

By equipping yourself with the right tools, you're setting yourself up for success in the field of travel photography. Remember, while equipment is vital, your vision, perspective, and respect for the places and people you capture are the core of each shot.

Make a Career (or passive income!) From Travel Photography

Today's digital age has made making money with travel photography highly attainable and alluringly realistic. Whether you want to make it your full-time gig or just a supplementary source of income, there are numerous avenues to explore.

  1. Stock Photography: Websites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Adobe Stock allow photographers to sell their images. By regularly uploading quality photos, you can generate passive income.

  2. Print Sales: Create prints of your best work to sell on platforms like Etsy or at art fairs. Limited edition prints, especially, can sell for a higher price.

  3. Travel Magazines and Blogs: Pitch your photos or photo essays to travel magazines or blogs (or start your own blog!). Many publications pay well for high-quality images that tell compelling stories.

  4. Teach Workshops: Once you've gained enough experience and have a substantial portfolio, consider hosting travel photography workshops in picturesque locales, or even starting an online class.

  5. Sell Your Presets: Post-processing is an art and a skill in itself. Mastering tools like Adobe Lightroom will seriously enhance your photos and allow you to craft and sell your presets, offering others a glimpse into your unique style and editing techniques. You can also teach a course on how to master Adobe Lightroom and other editing tools as an addition to a photography course. Remeber the Fuji film simulation cameras we mentioned? With these, you can sell recipes (essentially the settings) for various film appearances to photos.

  6. Affiliate Marketing: Use your blog or social media to recommend travel photography gear and earn a commission on sales made through your referral links.

Local Travel Photography: Discovering Beauty Nearby

It's imperative to recognize that you don't need big wallets to cross borders or fly thousands of miles for travel photography. There's immense beauty to be discovered right in your backyard, neighboring town, or a road trip away, and anyone can be a travel photographer, even if you're only armed with an iPhone.

  1. Cityscapes and Architecture: Every city or town, no matter its size, has unique buildings, bridges, and public spaces rich in history and awaiting preservation in photo form.

  2. Local Festivals and Events: These are rich with local culture, fun colors, and all sorts of emotion, providing perfect subjects for your lens.

  3. Natural Landscapes: Local parks, forests, rivers, and beaches offer serene settings to capture the beauty of nature nearby.

  4. Street Photography: Daily life, local markets, children playing in parks, vibrant nightlife, or elders sharing stories—there's a narrative everywhere to document with an artistic eye.

Remember, travel photography isn't about how far you go but how deeply you observe, connect, respect, and share the stories of the places and people you encounter. Be creative and open your definition of travel photography to realize opportunity can be just a few footsteps of travel away.

A Few Travel Photography Tips to End With:

Push Your Boundaries:

Engage in photo challenges, collaborate with fellow photographers, and join photography groups to expand your horizons and constantly improve your skills.

Engage with Locals:

More than just landscapes and buildings, the soul of a place lies in its people. Their stories, smiles, and candid moments can be the heart of your photos.


Strive to be different and occasionally (or always!) avoid the popular tourist spots to explore the beauty of less-visited areas. Not only does it offer more unique shots, but it also ensures fewer photo-bombers and a more genuine travel experience.

Harness the Golden Hour:

The soft light during sunrise and sunset can transform an ordinary scene into a magical one.

Plan with Flexibility:

While research can give you direction, the best moments are often unplanned. Embrace spontaneity and let the journey lead you, but also do plenty of research to understand an area and navigate it safely and respectfully.

Experiment with Compositions:

Go beyond the usual. Play with various techniques, from leading lines to unique framing, to create compelling shots.

Master Post-Processing:

Tools like Adobe Lightroom can elevate your raw shots. Learn the basics and experiment with advanced editing techniques to bring out the best in your photos.

Interested in Travel Photography? Let's Connect!

At Wildtree, we're passionate about the stories, images, and connections that travel photography fosters. We'd love to connect with you, share tales from your adventures, and witness the world through your lens, so drop a comment and start a conversation! We're always here for it.