How to Plan Your First Travel Photography Trip During a Pandemic

With the world slowly opening up, travel photography will boom again.

Many photographers dream of exploring the world with their cameras. The lure of new cultures, amazing architecture, and different climates greatly excites them. But beyond the romance of it all exists a lot of hard work. It’s not easy planning a travel photography trip, especially if it’s your first time. So in this piece, we offer a step by step guide to executing the perfect trip with your camera!

There’s Way More to Travel Photography Than the Photography!

Most publications write about creating the photographs when they talk about travel photography. Naturally, there’s value in that. But, to get the most out of your trip, there’s lots of admin you have to be on top of. That’s especially true right now, as the world adjusts to travel during the pandemic.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world for five years. Throughout that time, I’ve visited over 40 countries across five continents. Because I’ve chosen the nomadic life, with photography at the heart of it. I know firsthand all the things we need to cover to have a successful trip. Let’s take a look.

For Travel Photography, Make Sure Your Passport Has Six Months on It

Many countries worldwide won’t let you enter if your passport has less than six months before it expires. Airlines won’t always spot it for you when booking your ticket. So there’s a chance you arrive at the airport or border control, and they refuse you entry. If you have less than six months before it expires, order a new one before you travel.

Keep a Copy of Your Passport for Travel Photography

If, for example, you want to visit a national park, staff may ask you to show your passport at the entrance. Most people who travel leave their passport at their accommodation. It’s an important document, so people want to minimize the chance of losing it. To counter this, take a photo of your passport details (or make a photocopy), so you can show it to the staff at the entrance.

You must do this because, without it, they may refuse you entry. The consequence is you won’t be able to create the amazing photos you were looking forward to creating.

Check Your Visa Requirements for Travel Photography

Visa’s are important. And sometimes they take a bit of time (and paperwork) to obtain. Every country has its own visa regulations, and they change depending on the country you’re from. Do your research on the government website of the country you wish to visit. Follow the visa process correctly, and ensure you have a copy of it before you fly.

Check if You Need an Onward Flight

When people dream of the perfect travel photography lifestyle, they imagine booking a one-way ticket. That’s cool and all, but it may spoil your trip. Many nations require proof of a flight that shows you intend to leave the country you’re visiting. This applies to everyone.

In my early days of travel photography, I rocked up to the airport, ready to go to Mexico. I bought a one-way ticket. The airlines refused to let me board the plane without an onward ticket. I purchased a flight at the airport and at a premium cost (due to the last minute booking). Don’t make the same mistake as me.

Learn What Local Ride Apps Work in That Country

If you’re from a developed country, you likely use apps like Uber and Lyft. Don’t take them for granted. In many countries, such companies don’t have the authorization to operate. And many countries have similar apps that are unique to that part of the world. Find out and download what apps work before you visit. They’re going to be super useful when trying to get around an unfamiliar city.

Write Down the Address of Your Accommodation

When you reach border control, they may ask for the address of the accommodation you’re staying at. If there’s no airport WiFi and you don’t have a local sim, you’re going to have a stressful time. So make a note of the address in your phone or journal. Then you can easily present it to border control.

Only Pack the Gear You Need

If you’re someone who has a lot of gear, you may be tempted to take it all. I’ve done the same in the past and then learned I only needed to use around 50-60% of it.

So before you travel, sit down and plan what types of photos you want to make, where you will make them, and what gear you need to make them. Leave any excess gear at home. You don’t want to be weighed down on your trip with kit that’s only going to be redundant.

Insure Your Gear

“I’m sure it will be okay,” are the famous last words of every photographer who had to then spend thousands of dollars replacing their gear. Honestly, assume the worst. On a travel photography trip, you’re at a greater risk of theft and damage. Pay for insurance and have some peace of mind.

Check Public Photography Laws and Cultures

In most countries, you’re free to take photos in public spaces, but there are some legal and cultural exceptions. So do your research and find out the laws before you travel. The last thing you want is a hefty fine! And if the locals don’t respond well to street photography, go about it discreetly and sensitively. It’s their country, and you’re a guest: always be respectful.

Check What Covid Test You Need

There are different types of Covid tests. And most countries will require proof of a negative test upon arrival. Find out what test the country you’re visiting will accept.

For example, when I entered Ecuador, I only needed a negative antigen test result. But other countries require a negative PCR test. Taking the wrong test could mean you have to turn around and go home.

And if you’re test comes back positive, don’t think about Photoshopping it. Firstly, it’s totally unethical. And secondly, countries keep a database of test records. I know one guy who hPotoshopped his result. What happened when he got caught? Two nights in a local jail and a $600 fine.

Check if There Are Any Current Lockdowns or Restrictions

Your country may be opening up, but it doesn’t mean the country you plan to visit is. Sure it may be open in terms of flights and entry, but many things may be closed. A lot of countries currently restrict access to national parks and tourist spots. So you may enter the country, but you may have nothing to do and no travel photography to create.

Download a Map of the Country You Visit

Maps are your best friends when abroad. But if you don’t have a local sim (which I strongly recommend if your phone is unlocked), it becomes difficult to search for things. Thankfully, the map applications allow you to download a copy so that you can use it offline. Do this in advance and have a smooth experience when you arrive.

Travel Photography Shouldn’t be Overwhelming

As you can see, there are many details to think about when planning your trip. Some of you may be thinking, “this is too overwhelming,” but really it isn’t. Every step is easy to do. Travel just takes a little bit of time and planning.

Travel photography isn’t only about the romance you see on the internet. It can be stressful and mundane at times. But if you do all the steps above, I promise you everything will fall into place. And the amazing aspect of travel photography will come to fruition, making all your dreams come true!

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host professional photographers within the industry.