You’re probably aware of the fact there are many different types of photography, but as a travel photographer myself, I can tell you that travel photography often incorporates quite a wide range of genres and subjects.
Travel photography can be what you want it to be, but it’s often used as a way to express the feeling of a time and place, thereby allowing us to relive or share our special travel moments. Travel photography is spontaneous and ever-changing, the antithesis of studio photography which can largely be controlled by a photographer.
Travel photography has evolved from being reserved for a select few highly-trained professional photographers and photojournalists working for big-name magazines like National Geographic to now being enjoyed by the masses thanks to easy-to-use DSLRs and exceptional camera phones.
Studio photography on the other hand is still largely done by professionals especially for portraiture, but this too is changing thanks to it being easier than ever for anyone to set up their own studio inside their home with creative and artistic photography backdrops.
How Travel Photography Differs from Studio Photography
The Rise of Travel Photography
Travel Photography has taken off ever since smartphones with quality cameras came on the scene and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram gave people the ability and reason to take more images of their adventures.
Still though, travel photography is largely not seen as a proper career outside of the few famous photojournalists that work for top publications. But there are hoards of influencers making big money these days with travel photography and yet many professional bodies don’t even recognize such a classification as professional travel photographer or travel blogger/influencer.
As the ability to take photos has become easier and cheaper, with endless online tutorials available online on how to take professional looking images, we have seen professional studio photographers decline.
Not only are people opting for selfies and phone snaps of family instead of having professional photo shoots done, companies too are either doing their own photography to cut costs when it comes to marketing their products which would have normally been done by a professional studio.
Companies are also now looking to trade their products or offering small amounts of cash for imagery they can use to market their products whether it’s through their own social media accounts and websites or via influencers’ accounts and sites. They are realizing this method reaches more people for less money than traditional advertising would cost.
It’s never been easier to set up your own studio at home thanks to cheaper and more accessible studio lighting kits, tripods, backdrops, and other gear. You also no longer need to have tons of training to do studio work yourself thanks to online tutorials and today’s easy-to-use cameras.
I should also mention that many travel bloggers/influencers who obviously utilize travel photography as a means to run their businesses often stray into at least a bit of studio photography themselves.
Many travel influencers promote various travel products which of course require product shots which can be accomplished in an at-home, studio-like setting to get quality imagery with ideal lighting that showcases a specific product and its various features.
Travel Photography vs Studio Photography
While travel photography and studio photography may share a few similarities, they are largely quite different. They are similar in that they both can incorporate various subjects or genres, but they often focus on very different subjects or at least different ways of shooting the same subjects.
Travel photographers may focus on specific topics like wildlife, landscapes, events, architecture, monuments, sports, food, or a combination of many of these subjects.
Studio photography is largely about capturing beautiful shots of people but it doesn’t just have to be about people portraits, as many studio photographers shoot still life shots of various products which are often used by companies for advertising. Even when focusing on people portraits, they can specialize in subjects like event portraiture such as weddings, pets and their owners, babies, models, etc.
You have far less control over things with travel photography as opposed to studio photography, and therefore it can present a number of challenges. Studio photography on the other hand may allow you to have more control over your photos but it often involves purchasing a lot more equipment and having a dedicated space to set up a studio.
Shooting in a studio allows you to control almost all aspects of your images. Outcomes are predictable and you are almost always assured of eventually getting the image you are after thanks to having the time and ability to change lighting conditions or adjust your setting easily. This equates to having almost unlimited potential when it comes to your photography.
Meanwhile, travel photographers often face restrictions such as constantly changing light, subjects that don’t stay put, having limited time in a location, and having to make do with the setting available at the time they see an opportunity to capture an image
Because travel photographers most often rely on the sun for light, they must take advantage of when natural lighting conditions are the best or most pleasing to the eye. This often means shooting in the early morning or late afternoon. Midday sun can be harsh and wash out various travel scenes.
Relying on natural light means you cannot be guaranteed of getting an optimally lit shot. Sometimes perfect lighting conditions can be fleeting and other times you need to be skilled at knowing how to best work with the light you have. Shooting in darker conditions may require more expensive lenses with smaller f-stops or using a tripod to reduce the chances of camera-shake blurring.
Studio photographers on the other hand can control their light through the use of equipment like external flash units, umbrella lights, and reflectors. Whereas most travel photographers stick with the flash that’s built into their camera, this is often too restrictive for studio photographers who are looking for more versatility.
Companies utilize studios for product shots so they can be assured of perfect lighting that showcases their products for advertising. Professional studio photographers as well as influencers often use specially designed or DIY photography ligthboxes that aid in highlighting a product from all angles and reducing harsh shadows.
Travel photographers are constantly on the move and therefore the setting for their shots is always changing. Each new photograph requires thinking about composition, new lighting conditions, white balance, and possibly interchanging different lenses to get the most optimal shot.
As a travel photographer, you may be shooting in a city with lots of dark moody colours one moment and then in a lush green jungle with lots of greens the next. You need to be able to constantly adapt to new settings and the shooting conditions that are present at the time.
Meanwhile, a studio photographer’s setting is often pretty consistent. Although they may use a number of different photo backdrops to change the mood or scene, many aspects such as their lighting setup and the lenses they use stay the same.
Studio photography allows you to create whatever setting you wish for whenever you want it, without the fear conditions will suddenly change on you. Backdrops are indispensable to a studio photographer as there are limitless types to suit different purposes.
Whether you’re using microfiber cloth or paper backdrops, many are versatile, lightweight, and economical. They can transform any location whether it be a bedroom or garage into something that makes for a pleasing photograph.
Travel photographers these days can take quality photos with rather limited gear. Even some budget smartphones these days can take stunning images that are more than suitable for social media like Instagram.
Even when splurging on a newer iPhone or decent DSLR, you still don’t need much else in the way of equipment. What you do have, however, are travel costs that can add up quickly. Flights, trains, cruises, hotel rooms, and tours all cost money. It’s not cheap to travel and that correlates to travel photography being an expensive hobby or career.
Studio photography often requires many more setup costs when it comes to equipment such as backdrops, lighting gear, tripod mounts, and the space to shoot in, but you aren’t having to constantly spend on travel costs to get the shots you need.
I’ve already covered some of the equipment requirements for both travel and studio photography but let’s dive deeper into some of the differences.
Travel photographers may not require a lot of camera gear, but they do need to be concerned with weight, portability, protection, and possibly insuring their equipment. Lightweight cameras and tripods are needed to avoid going over baggage allowances and because it simply isn’t convenient carrying around heavy gear from place to place.
Travel photographers are also forced to invest in a quality backpack and travel case to protect their gear during transit. It’s also wise to obtain travel insurance that will cover your equipment in the event of theft, loss, or damage.
Travel photographers may also have to think about getting travel adapters to be able to charge camera batteries when travelling internationally.
Studio photographers may have more equipment but if they have their own studio then they don’t need to be as concerned with weight and portability since they can keep their gear in place. They aren’t constantly on the go and therefore don’t need to worry as much about protecting their gear.
They will have more gear though and that equates to needing more space to store gear and more work maintaining their equipment.
Photo Editing Differences
Because shooting in a studio allows you to have more control over your shots, there is often much less editing needed to finalise your images. Some of the most common edits with photography relate to composition and the need to crop, lighting issues, and correcting colours. Because this can all be controlled easily in a studio, you shouldn’t have to edit your images all that much, if at all.
Travel photography is a whole different ballgame. You most often are not allowed the luxury of being at the right place at the right time in terms of having perfect lighting conditions and a subject that remains perfectly composed for an extended period of time.
Because travel photographers are often forced to shoot in whatever conditions they find themselves and their subjects in, there is often the need to darken or lighten shadows and highlights, adjust brightness and contrast, and maybe play with saturation or colours to achieve more true-to-life or more pleasing colours.
Because travel photography is often rushed, you may also have to play around with sharpness and remove unwanted distractions you didn’t have time or the ability to notice or remove from your shots.
It’s also worth mentioning that reviewing your digital travel photos in the field under direct sunlight can make it challenging to see just exactly how a shot turned out so you may have misjudged whether a shot was acceptable or not. This can lead to needing your photo editing software later.
Travel photography usually requires far more preparation and being able to think quickly on your feet. It means always having your camera on you to catch the unexpected and keeping your gear organised. You often use more than one lens such as a telephoto, macro, and wide angle to catch various shots so you’ll need to learn how each works and what the best situations are for using each.
You also need to ensure you always have your batteries charged and pack extra batteries in the case of a DSLR. If you’re simply relying on a smartphone for your travel shots, then maybe ensuring you have a power bank in case your phone’s battery dies.
It’s not as easy to simply plug in your phone or DSLR batteries as you would in a studio and simply returning to a location the next day to get a shot you missed because of a dead battery may not be an option for a travel photographer with a set itinerary.
There is also a lot more planning that goes into travel photography in terms of finding places to capture images and what the best times are for catching certain events or for avoiding crowds which can interfere with your images. Whereas studio photography is all about bringing your subjects to you, travel photography is getting you to your subjects and that takes research and planning.
As a travel photographer, you may also need to be aware of whether it’s appropriate or even allowed to take certain images and whether a photo release form will be required to use your images commercially using social media, websites, or in print.
As you can see, travel photography and studio photography have a lot of differences. Travel photography is more about capturing a moment in time or conveying a sense of place, whereas studio photography is more about focusing on a subject and showing it in its most appealing form using an artistic eye.
Travel photography is best when it’s candid, allowing you to catch real life and emotion. Studio photography is knowing how to manage various poses or staging techniques to create an image that although may be staged but still captures the essence of your subject and highlights its most pleasing aspects.
Both forms of photography can produce beautiful images and each has their place. It’s about deciding which style works for you, what subjects you like to shoot, and what the purpose of your photography is. And you don’t necessarily have to chose between the two, as I myself tend to do a fair amount of studio photography as a travel blogger and journalist.