On the picture: Focus on the lady helps portray the scene of people waking up in the morning in a small village in Nepal.
On the face of it, travel photography seems simple enough: go somewhere you’ve never been and take photos of the things you see and do. While this is certainly one way to do it, many people find themselves wishing they could more accurately convey the experience of travel in their photographs – which is easier said than done.
A good starting point would be to ask yourself: what is the difference between a photograph that simply documents an experience and a photograph that inspires and captivates? There’s no single way to answer this question, BUT one thing that almost all successful travel photographs have in common is that they convey a “sense of place.”
Admittedly, “sense of place” is a bit tricky to define, partly because it’s so subjective, and partly because there are so many elements of traveling that define a place. Most would agree, however, that it’s the combination of these elements that define both the experience and the place while traveling.
Perhaps the best definition you can give to “sense of place” is the intersection between a destination and the experience. In essence, a photograph that conveys a “sense of place” bridges the gap between the experience of traveling, and the destination itself; and that’s what makes them so captivating.
Capturing the “destination” easy. Most people reading this, for example, came to Krabi for the beaches and mountains. If you want to simply capture the “destination” of Krabi, it’s easy enough to walk out onto the beach and take some photographs at sunset. But the “experience” of Krabi is so much more than just beaches and mountains.
If you want to convey the “experience” of Krabi, it helps to know a bit about the culture and traditions here – a little research can go a long way with travel photography. For starters, Krabi is somewhat unique for having both Muslims and Buddhists living in harmony together; it’s a defining characteristic of this area that few people know about until they arrive. Find compositions that display this unique aspect of Krabi, as well as the surrounding environment, and you’ll be well on your way to creating an image with a strong “sense of place.”
The next time you’re out taking photographs, try finding that intersection between where you’re at, what you’re doing, and what is going on around you. Pay attention to things like the culture, the people, and the history, and integrate these elements into your photographs. If you can’t do it with one shot, do it with many. The body of these photographs will help to tell the story, and will help to convey the “experience” of traveling that gives you and others the important “sense of place.”
If you found this article to be helpful, I’d love to see and give you feedback on what you came up with. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even print your work! Send submissions to:
Next month: When taking candid travel portraits, should you ask the subject if you can take his/her picture or not? Tune in next month for Alexander Stephan’s take on the matter, as well as advice on how to take photographs of people in their “element.”
Alexander Stephan is an internationally acclaimed travel photographer. Though his work has taken him around the world, he is based right here in Krabi. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about the services he provides, contact him through his website at: