Seven Virtues a Travel Photographer must have

Seven Virtues a Travel Photographer must have

Published on 2015/09/24 - Text and Pictures by Alberto Mateo, Travel Photographer for The Last Footprint.

OK, I might be entering muddy waters… not every photographer will agree with me in which are the virtues you have to have to live on Travel Photography, but these are my personal thoughts. I will share in this post the most common virtues I find in the colleagues I personally know.

Bouddha Sculpture, Unique Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam.

This post is about a personal opinion. Anyone can disagree on different points. You can add at the end of the post others you may find relevant… or you can tell me to eliminate some of them… I will be happy to know about your opinions...

1. Travel Photographers are hard-working people. Although good light (always desirable) is not always a must in a photograph (sometimes a smile, an expression or an action can be enough to produce a memorable picture) it is a fact that if you get the routine to go working early in the morning (usually before sunrise) and late in the afternoon, having some rest at noon, your pictures will have revealing light and your reportages will stand out from the rest. That is something that will be visible in your photographs one by one, and in your work as a whole.

All photographers I know try to get the best possible light, and that light is only available in the hours reserved for sleeping and having dinner. For the good and the bad, that is our fate.

In addition, I can assure you that you will spend long hours in front of your computer preparing your pictures and spending time to learn how computer software work…

2. Travel Photographers are PATIENT. You will find some of your pictures easily. You just arrive to a location, see something interesting, raise your camera, move your dials and press the button… that is it… ok that is true for ONLY a few of your pictures.

Most of them will come after a long period of work. You have to document yourself about the place you are in, scout locations, go back there to get good light, wait for something specific to happen…

Be sure that sooner or later you will have to be patient…

3. Travel photographers have good eye, some people would say “photographic eye”… at this moment, I do not have a very clear opinion if that is something you are born with, or something you train and develop though the years… or maybe a mixture or both. However there is one thing that is sure: “Train free kicks and you will score goals; train your eye and you will see pictures.”

4. Travel photographers are flexible. Think like a local. If you want to be a Travel Photographer for the good and the bad you are going to travel to remote locations, sometimes more often than you would like to.

If you read in your travel guide that the trip by bus from city A to city B can last something between three and nine hours, just do not get angry with the world… Just take it easy.

In different parts of the world people behave different than in your country, and those differences sometimes will be funny (as yours will appear to them), sometimes unimportant and a few times will be annoying. So if you read in your travel guide that the trip by bus from city A to city B can last something between three and nine hours (yes one day last 3 days, and the day after nine and no one gives you a reason), and you’ve already spent twelve hours in that bus and as the driver when will the bus arrive, and he just shrug his shoulders, just do not get angry with the world… just watch how the locals do not ask (they know it is useless), they just smile and wait patiently to arrive to the destination. Just take it easy.

5. Travel photographers are relatively rootless persons. If you are a home-loving person who is always thinking about your favorite food at home, about your bed (ok we all miss it!), about how things are in your country you might have a bad time travelling for long periods of time. Sooner or later you will have to travel for long trips, get used from one place to another without having time to know the people, and the places and find the motivation to continue travelling in the experiences that are waiting for you somewhere else.

6. Travel photographers do not worry too much about money, it is not the engine of their lives. Most of the travel photographers I know value more the possibilities to go abroad to shoot nice portraits than for the possibility of earning money selling that portrait. As a Nature photographer told me some time ago:

"This is not a profession to be rich, it is a profession to be happy.”

7. Travel Photographer have a sense of psychology… ok you do not have to deal with depressed patients, but you have to learn how people is going to act in a specific situation… this ability could help you try to locate yourself in a specific position to shoot from a position that will produce better pictures.

Unique Pillar Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam. Source: Google Maps.

For sure I do not have all this virtues, but if you performed an statistical analysis on travel photographers, you would find them very often.

What is your take? Would you add another virtue to my list?

Would you eliminate any of them?

Am I being too lavish with myself and my profession mates?



I liked this small Budda sculpture in the  Unique Pillar Pagoda and also the cute garden around it. I wanted to show all this beauty in the picture. In addition there was plenty of lights that would allow me to close my lens without having to use a higher ISO. I closed my lens to f11 to get as much depth of field as possible, which gave me a speed of 1/30. 


To get a good amount of depth of field.

 ISO: 100

Did not want to get a noisy picture, so kept the ISO as low as possible. 

MODE: A - Aperture Priority

A (Aperture Priority) Mode is the most comfortable one to use under most of the cirumstances. In this case my preference was to get good depth of field, so closed down fo f11, checked shutter speed in the finder, 1/30th - enough to use with my 24mm (a 35mm in the DX camera sensor of my Nikon D7000), and pressed the shutter.

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