Photo Tip: Capturing ordinary moments in travel photography

Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
A fishing village in Lagos, Nigeria

People often feel that to be taken seriously as a travel photographer, they need to scale Mount Everest, camp out in tents hanging off sheer rock faces, deep sea dive with sharks, and go to the extreme in every way to get noticed. Sure, putting yourself in front of interesting situations can help you get some amazing photos if you’ve got a solid compositional eye but truly, there are many ways of being a successful travel photographer and building a niche for yourself without having to camp out for months tracking elusive animals.

This is the visual stereotype most people have of travel photographers. More so people who would one day love to be published in publications like National Geographic which sets the standard for travel and place-based photography.

People reach for the extreme to stand out instead of looking around them, observing everyday lifestyles and telling those stories too. Doing that and doing it well is even enough to get you noticed by the likes of Nat Geo.

You don’t have to go looking for the most remote tribes on earth to create visually-jarring photos of people that are different from you. In fact, what can be equally challenging is capturing and communicating a sense of place, culture, and personality in photos of people created in the most urban of places.

Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Ferries at sunrise in Luxor, Egypt

I’ve written about how you can capture a sense of place within your photos and this has to do with interacting as well as observing interactions all around you.

While I do have soft “adventure” photographs from activities like husky sledding and tracking Northern Lights as well as trekking and other expedition-style photos, I love photographing people in their everyday environment.

I love culture, lifestyle, food, and tradition. Both simple and complex.

And one of the things I love capturing are those quiet moments of solitude and reflection as well. Some shots require interaction, some don’t. Beyond just having an eye for composition and observing interactions around you in terms of people, light, and environment, travel photography also requires patience.

Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Along the promenade in Nice, France on a rainy day.

I’m not a naturally patient person but over the years, I’ve learned to become more patient by listening, observing, and interacting which are base elements for the type of travel photography I’m drawn to – environmental and lifestyle portraits.

I often say that one of the best compliments I ever got from a colleague within the travel industry was that he liked how I could take the most mundane of scenes and make it interesting.

That in itself is a challenge I love taking over and over again. Making something so ordinary seem worth pausing to take a closer look at. That’s how untold stories hidden beneath our everyday lives are told.

Travel photography by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Strolling in Visby, Götland on a cloudy day.

So for those of you who would love to take your travel photography to the next level, before looking at the latest post-editing techniques and always being on the go, why not try challenging yourself to make an everyday seemly mundane scene seem interesting?