8 Tips to help you up your game as a travel filmmaker
Becoming a travel photographer or filmmaker has had a resurgence in the last few years. It’s one of those markets of photography that took a little dip for a while as cameras got into the hands of more people. Suddenly, companies didn’t need to send photographers to far flung corners of the globe any more. It became easy to license photos at microstock sites from those who had already been there on holiday and taken a few good quality snaps.
Now, companies are starting to realise there’s more to it than just showing people what these locations look like. They need to have images that look different to everybody else’s. They need to tell stories to draw prospects in and turn them into clients. This is why Gregg Bleakney founded travel filmmaking agency WhereNext.
To use his own words, Gregg got his start in this “almost by accident”. He had to invent his job, and prove his worth to potential clients. WhereNext now also hires other filmmakers to go out and create films for clients. Gregg believes that this sort of work is going the way of the one-man-band. It used to be you’d need a big crew to make travel films. Now, one person can do it all. Planning, logistics, shooting, editing, everything.
In this short series of videos, Gregg offers some advice for those thinking about pursuing this type of career. It does come with the caveat that the advice isn’t foolproof and is all based on his own experience, but he makes a lot of sense.
This first video offers three specific tips, which form the basic fundamental principle of being a travel filmmaker or photographer.
- Go travel
- Tell stories about your travels
- Find an outlet for your stories
The first one is pretty obvious. You can’t be a travel filmmaker or photographer if you don’t go out and travel. You don’t need to be going to crazy destinations around the world, though. It’s just as easy to tell stories about locations closer to home.
Telling those stories is the second tip, and again, it seems quite obvious. Without a story, there’s nothing to grab the viewer’s interest. It needs to have something beyond visual appeal. Many travel photographers and videographers produce stunning work, and your story is what will make your work stand out.
You also need to find a way to get these stories out to the world. Initially, it might be just telling friends, a YouTube channel or an online portfolio. Put the stories out that you want to be hired to do.
- Surrender yourself to the job
- Learn how to #feelsomething
- Become fit and active
- Look to other professions for inspiration
- Be a salesman
Travel photography more than most genres really requires that you complete give in to the work. It’s not something you can just do for a couple of months when the wedding season goes quiet, for example. It’s something you have to absolutely live and breath. You could be sent off to the middle of nowhere for a couple of weeks at a moment’s notice. You could be bouncing from country to country for weeks on end. Can you handle this? can your family?
Empathy is a big part of storytelling. This is true of most genres of photography and videography. Some struggle with this, but Gregg offers some tips to help connect with your feelings. This allows you to connect with others and anticipate what’s coming next so you can prepare and better tell your story.
Being fit and active is vital for many location photographers, but especially so for travel. I know just from my own location shooting, that it’s a lot of hard work. If I don’t ache all over when I get home from a day’s location shoot, I’ve probably not had a great day. I’m relatively fit, but I know I couldn’t stand up to being a travel photographer or videographer full time.
You’re a one man band. You have to be a writer, a photographer, a videographer, a director, an editor, and more. You need to study these professions and figure out what applies to what you need to do, and become good at it.
Selling isn’t a dirty word. If you want this to be your job, your full time income, you need to become a salesman. Even if the only thing you’re trying to sell is yourself. Talk to salespeople in other fields, and find a mentor. Once you separate the selling from the work, the process becomes a lot simpler to understand.
Finally, Gregg talks about some of the gear used for travel videography. This really says a lot about becoming fit. If you’re walking for miles each day with this lot on your back, it’ll start to take its toll very quickly.
A big important tip with this video is about packing. If you’re flying off to another country and you need to check luggage, but stuff in that bag that isn’t absolutely vital to the shoot. Sure, it may be gear that helps the shoot go a little easier, but not having it isn’t going to stop things going ahead. Even if a bag doesn’t completely disappear, things go to the wrong airport or otherwise delayed all the time. So, anything vital to the job, keep it with you.
These three videos won’t tell you everything you need to know about travel photography or filmmaking. But they hold lots of great information to get you going.
If you’ve still not quite satisfied your travel photography fix, check out our recent video with Asher Svidensky. Asher has shot travel photography all over the world and been published by the likes of National Geographic and the BBC.
Do you agree with Gregg’s tips? What other ideas or suggestions can you offer? Are you a travel photographer? Have you had to take on the responsibility of other crew in recent years and be able to do more yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.