5 mistakes you’ll make before you become a professional travel photographer

Our marketing executive Saxon (cool name) loves travel and photography, so it seemed only fair that he be the one to talk to award-winning travel photographer Stuart Beesley (last seen leading free travel photography workshops at our STA Travel stores) about the most common mistakes there are when it comes to photographing your travels. Take it away, Saxon!

So you want to take your travel photography to the next level? Maybe even turn pro? It would be an incredible lifestyle, there’s no doubt, and if you’ve got the eye for a great image and a passion for travel, with a big investment in time and effort, it’s certainly possible to make a living in the field.

Stuart Beesley's award-winning photograph

5 mistakes that every budding travel photographer will make

But before you get to that stage, there are a few classic pitfalls you’ll need to negotiate. We asked award-winning travel photographer Stuart Beesley to share them with us. Be sure to make them now, before you turn pro!

1. Fumbling with camera settings

So you’ve bought a great new expensive camera. It’s got a lot of professional-looking dials and settings and you know there’s just the right combination to get you that shot of a lifetime. In fact, you’re convinced that if you just open the aperture and tweak the white balance a little you’ll capture that roosting bald eagle. Now which button was that? Oh, darn, the eagle’s gone.

Stuart says “Explore your camera settings fully. Allow yourself loads of time with a new camera to work it all out. Adjusting its settings it to the light and conditions should become second nature so you don’t miss the shot when the fleeting magic moment arrives.”

2. Not backing up files

Ok, you know you’re supposed to do this anyway, but it’s pretty easy to get relaxed about it when it’s just so easy these days. But when your reputation and livelihood depends upon delivering the shots, losing all your files to a corrupt hard drive or a dropped laptop is something you’ll only ever do once because it’s just so painful. This kind of mistake is best to make as an amateur photographer so it’s just the pain associated with losing your precious travel memories. It’s perfectly unacceptable as a pro, so back up your files!

Your awesome photos deserve backing up!

3. Not shooting to themes

As an amateur photographer, you’re likely to do lots of experimenting. You’ll probably shoot just about any subject that appeals to you as you travel about. What you’ll end up with might be a great selection of loosely associated images, but what will really tie everything together is a tight selection of images that tell a story. An example might be a series of images shot in a particular niche environment, like world festivals, or of a particular subject, like ‘people rushing’.

“You need to shoot with the viewer in mind” says Stuart. “If the viewer can take away a central message to your work, their impression of you as a photographer will be that much stronger.”

A theme to your work is also really important for a potential client. If your theme is strong enough throughout your work and it fits with what the client is looking for, you’re that much more likely to get the job.

4. Keeping your distance

“Fill the frame with your subject.” Says Stuart. “The viewer should have no doubt what your image is about, and this usually means getting closer”

Being too shy will make you keep your distance from the subject, and ultimately, the person viewing your images will feel this distance too. The whole aim of photography is to connect the subject with the viewer so vary your composition and angles to really feature your subject. Get up close!

Get in there!

5. Feeling disheartened by not yet having clients

Embrace your amateur status! Being an amateur means not having a boss (yet) and that gives you the ultimate freedom to experiment with different themes and discover what you like. Get to know your camera intimately while you don’t have the time pressures of being a professional photographer.

“Photograph what you love,” says Stuart. “This is the best way to develop your own personal style. Sticking to a theme will help your work stand out and will attract the right kind of clients. You’ll be identified by your work.”

Above all, make mistakes now. Don’t be afraid to be daring with your photography and equipment and try a little bit of everything until you find what fits. After you’ve made all the mistakes – and you’ve learned from them all – you’ll be ready to take your travel photography to the next level.

Ready to take your travel photography to the next level? Put it to the ultimate test with our travel photography competition, and you could win the photography assignment of a lifetime to Indonesia!