Travel Photography: Covering Your Subject

  • Reading time:6 mins read
  • Post category:Travel

My husband and I love to go to the local Arts Center to see travelogues of all the places we dream of visiting someday (soon). If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing a travelogue, they are a short video or slide presentation by a person (usually a senior) who has visited another country and gives a voice-over while showing their pictures. Now that description doesn’t do the description justice. They are very interesting and the people who give the talk really know how to turn a phrase.
I’ve always thought that it would be fun to have a little party with ethnic foods and drinks from the place I just visited and offer a travelogue of my own for family and friends. If you think this is something you’d like to do, let’s chat with Mark Eden from Expanse Photography on how to focus on our travel photography so we can come home and make a celebration of it all.

Many different elements go into making up the character of a particular destination or location, whether it be a far flung exotic city or your home town. It is the travel photographer’s job to cover these elements in order to present that character to the viewer. This article looks into what goes into bringing the character of a subject to the audience.

Essential Elements

There are many separate “parts” that make a location what it is, but these generally boil down to landscape, people and culture. Let’s look at these in a little more depth.


Every city, mountain range or coastal area has its own unique look and feel. This might be created by architecture exclusive to that part of the world, such as Gaudi’s designs that are so prominent in Barcelona. Or well known landmarks (Eiffel Tower anyone?) or rough seas and steep cliffs like those so characteristic of the northern coasts of Scotland and Ireland. What does it look like in the morning? At night? The location might take on several personalities through the day so it is essential to try to capture as many of these as you can to give a broader picture.


Possibly the most influential factor in the character of a location is the people who live there. The way they look and dress, the way they carry themselves, the lifestyle they live and the customs they observe. Is there a particular piece of clothing that defines them? Or maybe a certain characteristic. For example, if they are known to be happy and smiling people, show them as such. If they are known to be hardworking, try to include some shots of workers.


This can encompass subjects such as food and drink. Local dishes give an immediate insight into the way of life lived by people of that area. Freshly caught seafood may be a specialty of the area, or it may be famous for a particular dessert or drink. Culture can also be shown in the festivals and events held in the particular region. This might be an annual parade where locals dress in the traditional costumes of their ancestors, or a huge street party that captures the energy and vibrancy of a population.

Putting It Together

To put these elements in photographic terms, I like to think of the process as zooming in on a subject. Starting with the landscape element described above, you essentially form an overview, or wide angle view of the subject, capturing surroundings. Distinctive buildings and landmarks give a feel and sometimes instant recognition to the location. Zoom in to form a collective portrait of the people, their way of life and daily activities. It is a good idea to use both posed portraits and candid shots to show personalities as well as customs and way of life. Finally zooming in further to capture details such as local food and dishes and detailed studies of buildings. Text such as in shop signs shows languages spoken. Also any products that are traditional or well known in the area. For example, leather goods from Morocco, or electronics from Japan.

Travel photography is in a sense a very broad specialization. Possibly not a specialization at all. A travel photographer needs to be a landscape photographer, portrait photographer, still life photographer and nature photographer often all in the space of a single shooting session. Learn to cover all these elements within the broader subject and you are well on your way to becoming a more accomplished photographer.

About the Author

Mark Eden is a freelance travel photographer and writer, and the founder and director of Expanse Photography, a photographic services company offering fine art, limited edition prints as well as stock and assignment photography and publishing services. Mark can be contacted through the Expanse Photography website

Article Source: Photography: Covering Your Subject
Photo Source:
Cloud photo by Elwynn,
Everest photo by Andre Wroblewski,
Sunglasses photo by TheSupe87,
Fountain photo by Forester Forest,


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