Travel photography is a genre that can be very demanding and presents numerous challenges to its practitioners. Issue of money, time, distance, safety and others need to be dealt with, if one wants to see and photograph foreign locations.
I have asked some of the foremost travel photography experts and former guests of the podcast to tell us what are the greatest challenges they face in their job and how they overcome them. If you are facing some of these challenges yourself, I am sure you will be able to find solutions in the answers below.
I am planning to make expert roundups a regular feature of the site, first on a monthly basis, that I hope readers will appreciate greatly, so stay tuned for further episodes.
A tireless, prolific and inspirational image-maker, Rick Sammon, called by some “The Godfather of Photography,” is one of the most active photographers on the planet – dividing his time between creating images, leading photo workshops, and making personal appearances.
“Traveling – airport security, carry-on limitations, jet lag, travel meds – is actually my greatest challenge. I overcome it by getting Global Entry and TSA project, packing wisely and seeing a travel doctor way in advance of my trip.”
Rick was our guest in TTIM 6 – Rick Sammon.
Ralph Velasco is a travel photographer, author, speaker & international guide. President and CEO (Chief Experience Officer) at PhotoEnrichment Adventures.
“As a travel photographer I’m on the road internationally over 9 months per year and I’m lucky because I get to return to some of my favorite destinations over and over again. The challenge is seeing these same places with new eyes and sharing that feeling in my photography. I overcome this by giving myself personal challenges and assignments, such as shooting with only a 50 mm lens on certain days, only photographing vertically, or focusing on a certain theme, such as people reading newspapers, hands of people at work, or the color red.”
Ralph was our guest in TTIM 13 – Giving Back with Ralph Velasco.
Robin Yong is a travel photographer from Singapore and a doctor specialising in travel medicine. He spends most of his time in Australia and Singapore, with frequent travels to Cambodia, Japan, Ethiopia, France and Italy. He particularly likes to do portraits, especially of people in their traditional costumes.
“Finding my models for each destinations – because I do mainly portraits, so models do have to be locals and ideally do have their national costumes. How I overcome this? Be open, talk to people and send them back their photographs – trust me, they will all bring their friends next time.”
Robin was our guest in TTIM 2 – Robin Yong and the Carnival of Venice.
Gary Arndt has been three times North American Travel Photographer of the Year.
“The biggest struggle I face is balancing travel and work. When you are out in the field, you often have to put everything else on hold as you may not have internet access, or your time is just filled because you are out shooting. Finding that balance between traveling and working is something I’ve been working on for years and still haven’t figured out.”
Gary was our guest in TTIM 10 – Gary Arndt.
Flemming Bo Jensen is a Music and Travel Photographer, nomad, jedi and time traveler.
“The obvious answer is: to make great images, that is always a challenge, never gets easier. For me, my challenge is also being shy by nature. I used to try and force myself to get those close-up “travel” portraits that are now a cliche – but now I just realise it is much better to shoot my work, my images, my way, with my soul and style and never try and force it nor emulate anyone else.”
Flemming Bo was our guest in TTIM 27 – Living The Nomadic Life with Flemming Bo Jensen.
When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside – she walked away from 36 years of corporate life and set out to see the world. Nearly ten years later, she is still traveling full-time with no home base. She shares photographs and stories about the places she visits and the people she meets on her blog, Hole in the Donut Cultural Travels.
“The light. Photographers who are paid to take a particular shot often stay around for hours or even days until the light is perfect. As a travel writer and photographer, I don’t have that luxury. If I’m on a day tour and we arrive at the most spectacular sight on the tour at high noon, when the light is flattest, I have to make it work. Because I often have limited time in the places I visit, I have to shoot regardless of the weather. Recently, for instance, I had a day tour of the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland. A persistent drizzle followed us all day, and when we got to the Giant’s Causeway, the skies turned grey and threatening. Rather than gripe about it, I took advantage of the thunderheads and muted light to convey a moodiness that captured the essence of the place even better than if it had been a sunny day. Frankly, I think that utilizing a variety of light conditions makes photos more “real.” I also think that having to produce quality work in all conditions and types of weather has made me a better photographer.”
Barbara was our guest in TTIM 11 – Pursuing Your Dreams With Barbara Weibel.
Doug Kaye teaches photography locally in San Francisco and online, and was chosen as an Inception Master in Trey Ratcliff’s “Arcanum.” He leads street-photography workshops locally and in Cuba, which he has visited five times. Doug is the co-host of the All About the Gear podcast on the TWiP network.
“Street portraits are an important part of my travel photography. I’ve become comfortable approaching strangers and asking them for permission. But once they agree, I tend to hurry. It’s important to make a good and respectful photograph, and that means taking the time to do it right. It helps if you begin with a conversation rather than capturing a candid photo from a distance. Yes, it’s more difficult when you don’t speak a common language, but the camera makes it clear what you’re up to.”
Doug was our guest in TTIM 24 – Cuba With Doug Kaye.
Sean Bagshaw is an outdoor photographer, digital image developing enthusiast and photography educator based in Ashland, Oregon, where he resides with his wife and two sons.
“As a husband and father my biggest challenge as a travel photographer is finding the balance between traveling for work and family. I have overcome this by not traveling nearly as much as many single photographers I know. I have diversified my business so I am also able to sell photographs I take locally as well as produce and sell video tutorials through the internet.”
Sean was our guest in TTIM 26 – Patagonia with Sean Bagshaw.
Taylor Jackson is the host of the Travel and Photography Show, “A Photographer In”.
“My greatest challenge as a travel photographer is finding and documenting scenes that both myself and others care about. There are so many photographers around the world, and so many photographs of beaches/sunsets/landscapes/old buildings. So, how do you make anyone care? I find that the more I can show the process of creating a photo, the more people care about it, and remember it. Seeing the process gives them a different feeling when they look at it, and showing the process has always been something I’ve been passionate about.”
Taylor was our guest in TTIM 9 – Taylor Jackson, A Photographer In.
Lauren Bath is a chef turned photographer thanks to her early success on top photo sharing site Instagram. Quitting her job in early 2013, Lauren launched full force into a career in the tourism industry, effectively becoming Australia’s first professional “instagrammer”!
“The greatest challenge that I face as a travel photographer is exhaustion! Working in travel photography means that you’re constantly flying, always in new time zones, frequently jet lagged and always shooting sunrise, sunset and the night skies. To overcome this I am very strict on how much sleep I get and maintain 8 hours a night 90% of the time. Exceptions could include a particularly epic shooting day or a social night out. When I am in a new time zone I resist the urge to nap and get onto the new schedule immediately.”
Lauren was our guest in TTIM 22 – Becoming a Professional Instagrammer with Lauren Bath.
Valérie Jardin is a street photographer whose work has hung in galleries in the United States and in Europe. She is a writer for dPs magazine, the host of her very own street photography weekly podcast, Street Focus, and an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA.
“Balancing family life and travel is one of the biggest challenges for me. I stayed home and worked around my children’s schedule for many years before living my dream of traveling for my photography. Today, my children are older and more independent but the mom in me always feels a big guilty to travel so much. I used to teach two workshops back to back, which meant that I’d be away from home for up to three weeks. It was too long. Now I prefer to fly more and make shorter trips. For example I can be in Paris for 10 days, come back home for two or three weeks before flying to Rome or Amsterdam to teach another workshop. It’s more wear and tear on me and also more expensive, but I feel more at peace that way. It’s all about finding a balance. I also teach a lot of weekend workshops, they are more manageable and only take me away from home for about 4 days. I try to alternate week-long and weekend workshops. Since I need to plan my workshops for up to two years in advance, I block family times well in advance. I make a point to be home for birthdays and other important events. I always take a month off during the summer to travel as a family, I do the same during spring break. When I’m home, I make the time to spend some quality time with my boys, working on the go if necessary. Running a business means that you can never disconnect. My iPhone is my office and my family is very understanding of the demands of my work. Vacation time is also when the camera takes a back seat. It’s with me all the time but I don’t take time away from family for photography, I grab shots along the way instead. It’s only fair, after all, I’m lucky to spend the rest of the year doing what I love most: Making pictures!”
Valérie was our guest in TTIM 8 – Urban Travel Photography With Valérie Jardin.
Karen Hutton is an International Landscape and Travel Photographer, Artist, Speaker, Author, Educator, and Voice. As well as being a Professional Fujifilm X-Photographer, Karen and her photography have been featured at Google, Photo Plus Expo, Stuck in Customs, TWiP, Macphun Software, Forbes.com, The Grid and Landscape Photography Magazine. She was one of the Inception Masters of The Arcanum and a guest instructor in Trey Ratcliff’s “Becoming an Artist” workshop series. She lives in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
“As much as I’d like to say it’s something about photography itself, for me it’s making sure I take care of myself properly. Everything else flows out of that. Eating right, sleeping enough, staying strong (physically & mentally), staying focused and on my game. Nowadays more than ever, you have be be alert and aware at all times. If I slip up on self-care part, I open myself to injuries, illness – and miss opportunities (both photographic and potential dangers) that I simply cannot afford to. I AM the #1 tool of my trade! Consequently, I always do my best to find the right foods for me (only eating out a little bit), make sure I get enough sleep as much as possible, exercise, find calm and focus.”
Karen was our guest in TTIM 34 – Finding Your Artist’s Voice with Karen Hutton.
Jim Zuckerman left his medical studies in 1970 to pursue his love of photography and turn it into a career. He has taught creative photography at many universities and private schools, including UCLA and Kent State University. He also leads many international photo tours to exotic destinations such as Kenya, Namibia, Patagonia, Indonesia, China, India, Ethiopia, Iceland, Peru, Italy, and Turkey.
“The biggest challenge I face as a travel photographer is the prohibition against using a tripod in low light environments such as in cathedrals, palaces, museums, etc. I deal with this constant problem in one of three ways. (1) I raise the ISO until my shutter speed is fast enough for sharp pictures. This is the least desirable solution due to the introduction of digital noise. (2) I use the ball head from my tripod and place it on the floor, on a railing, or against the wall. No one ever says I can’t use a ball head. With a continuous pressure against the head for stability, and with the use of the 2-second self-timer, I can take long exposures and get sharp results with a low ISO. (3) I rest the camera on my photo backpack on the floor and nestle it into the contours of the pack to take the composition I want. Alternatively, I will rest the camera on a hard surface like a table, display case or railing and use my wallet placed beneath to angle the camera appropriately.”
Jim was our guest in TTIM 16 – Jim Zuckerman.
Travel Photographer specialising in landscape and nature photography. For over a decade, Clint Burkinshaw has made life on the road his home, drifting from one place to another. Having visited over 70 countries, he’s bared witness to much of the world’s greatest scenery and had his fair share of magical moments. Now he brings them to you one photo at time.
“I really wanted to mention the security and logistical issues here. However, there isn’t too much proactive advise here (it is what it is)… So I decided instead to mention the need for reactive photography. I am a photographer who loves to plan my compositions to encompass the optimal light. But, this just isn’t feasible in many of the situations. The more likely scenario involves being presented with a split second opportunity for a winner shot. This means one constantly needs to be ready, know their gear like the back of their hand, be prepared to shoot in harsh midday light conditions, or out the window of a moving bus (or the odd helicopter), to make sure you make the most of every opportunity.”
Clint was our guest in TTIM 31 – Cycling Across Europe with Clint Burkinshaw.
After spending over ten years in the corporate sector, Cherie McKay ventured into photography, quickly realising that the world didn’t need another backyard photographer – instead the world needed beautiful camera bags specifically designed for women. Cherie designed her own range of camera bags and founded the company SHUTTER|bag. Cherie sold SHUTTER|bag in 2013 and has been a freelance photographer/writer since.
“Adjusting to Daylight Savings.
After getting caught out a couple of times and missing a shot because the sunset, had to rely on weather apps to remind me how much natural sunlight I had left in the day.”
Cherie was our guest in TTIM 23 – Across America in a Campervan with Cherie McKay.
Cody Duncan is an internationally published travel and landscape photographer, as well as a photography guide author, enthusiastic adventurer, and hiker. Obsessed with the north, Cody travels as frequently as possible to arctic Scandinavia, with Norway’s Lofoten Islands being his favorite destination over the last decade.
“I think my greatest challenge as a travel/outdoor photographer is the fear that I’m not in the right place at the right time. Perhaps I hiked up the wrong mountain or maybe I should have stayed a few days longer? For me, the solution was simple and yet logistically difficult that it took several years to achieve; move to the place I love to shoot the most, Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Now living on the islands full time, I don’t have to worry about missing out on a particularly brilliant sunrise or northern lights. I can look out my office window and go! And while I might not always choose the correct mountain on the right day, I’ll hopefully have plenty of second chances.”
Cody was our guest in TTIM 3 – Lofoten With Cody Duncan.
Viktor Elizarov is a travel, landscape photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada. For years Viktor has worked as a designer in a range of areas, but in the last decade, he made a transition to photography. He runs the popular travel photography blog, Photo Traces, where he shares his experiences as a travel photographer and also teaches the different aspects of travel photography.
“For a long period of time, I was having a hard time to strike a perfect the balance between shooting and editing photos while traveling. I remember I had an exhausting routine when after a hard day of shooting I would spend half of the night importing, culling and even editing my photos. It was unsustainable.
So how I overcome the challenge? I simply stopped editing photos while traveling. Instead, I began concentrating all my efforts on finding interesting locations and capturing them – nothing else. This new focus makes my trips more enjoyable, reduces stress, and improves my photography in general.
Now, when I want to check if a shot is successful, I can do it while shooting, simply by wirelessly connecting my camera with my tablet. And, if it is absolutely necessary to post a couple of new photos to social media, I can edit them in seconds using Snapseed on my tablet, then easily post them online.”
Viktor was our guest in TTIM 35 – Finding Simplicity with Viktor Elizarov.
Natalia Stone is a travel photographer based in New York City. Her passion for adventure and photography has taken her to over 40 counties and some of the most remote corners of the world. Whether standing on a rim of an active volcano in Ethiopia, photographing the northern lights in Norway or navigating through glacial waters of Greenland, her goal is tell visual stories of the incredible treasures our planet holds.
“Life on the road is unpredictable, nothing ever goes perfectly as planned: luggage gets lost, cars break down, weather prevents you from getting good shots. Pushing myself beyond my own boundaries, while physically and mentally exhausted is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. What I learned from years of travel is that what makes the biggest difference is the only thing you can control – your mindset. When a problem arises – embrace it, appreciate it and deal with it best you can. Take every challenge as a valuable lesson that you will learn a lot from and that will make you grow as a person and a photographer. Nothing good ever came out of being in the comfort zone.”
Natalia was our guest in TTIM 20 – Heart of Africa with Natalia Stone.
Deborah Sandidge is known for her creative approach to travel photography. She is a professional photographer specializing in world travel and artistic imagery. Her passion and skill with creative techniques such as long exposure, time-lapse, and blue hour photography has earned the respect and admiration of both corporate clients and peers.
“The real challenge is to photograph a location showing my work as unique, memorable, and a little different than what’s been done before. I solve this by researching the location in advance, pre-visualizing creative concepts, and by using multiple shooting techniques. For me, the goal is to create the best visual narrative possible. When I find myself having fun with an idea, I know I’ve met the challenge.”
Deborah was our guest in TTIM 18 – Being Creative with Deborah Sandidge.
6 thoughts on “Expert Roundup – Travel Photography Challenges”
Pingback:Challenges of the Travel Photographer... - Deborah Sandidge
This expert roundup is fantastic. It gives me a view of the different perspectives approaching travel photography, inspired me to dive in, and gave me tips on how I can get better pictures. Cool beans!
Glad my guests could be of help!
I love the fact that Deborah is so giving with her time for other photographers. I feel like she takes me along as a guest allowing me to share her beautiful images and her love for the medium. I have not had the pleasure of meeting her in person, but I can tell it would be fun and educational. I look forward to reading each of her e-mails and seeing more of her enchanting images.
Thanks Tim, I am sure Deborah will appreciate reading this.
very interesting articles! I will pin it and read it thoroughly when I have more time !!!! thank you so much