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The secret ingredient for amazing travel photos

Bhutanese man portrait in black and white

The secret ingredient for amazing travel photos

Connectivity: The Secret Ingredient for Amazing Travel, Amazing Portraits


Andy Faulk


There is a never-ending stream of articles about travel photography online. Some will warn you of the complexity of travel portraiture while other sources will offer tip after tip about how to get the perfect travel portrait. Sure, these articles, tip lists, and blog posts might offer a snippet of advice that will, perhaps, help you improve your travel photography skills. But, there are few sources that highlight the secret ingredient to both travel and photography. Connectivity, above all else, will elevate your images and heighten your travel experience.


Connectivity isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. It has nothing to do with f-stops, shutter speeds, or advanced lighting techniques. Connectivity isn’t a concept reserved for professional photographers. In fact, connectivity isn’t a technique but a state of being. Being connected means that you are engaged in the present moment, highly attentive and in-tune with your subject (whatever subject it may be).

young boy playing outside in Bhuhtan 


On a recent trip to Bhutan, I had the chance to ponder connectivity as it relates to travel portraiture. I thought about how, as a photographer, I am bound to every portrait subject that steps in front of my lens. I thought about how fortunate I am to have someone allow me to take their photo. I also thought about how when I am connected with a subject, I create images that are more emotive and personally satisfying.


When you are solely focused on making images, you will inevitably come home with memory cards full of mediocrity. If you are producing sub-par images while you’re surrounded by amazing faces and beautiful environments, it’s likely that you are lacking connection with your subjects.


All too often, photographers place all of their energy on creating stunning images and forget about the essence of travel photography, the experience of travel. Finding a balance between your inner-photographer and inner-traveller is necessary. When that balance is upheld and you connect with your subjects, your travel portraiture will be anything but hollow.

Old woman in her house in Bhutan 


How can we form connections to maximize our travel experience and elevate our portrait photography?


Stunning travel portraits can only be made after we genuinely connect and establish rapport with a subject. We can take small actions to establish the connection. But, these tiny efforts have a tremendous effect on both your travel experience and the portraits you make. Depending on the situation, here are four simple actions you can explore that will begin to establish a connection with others:


  • Smile – A simple smile goes a long way with anyone. No matter where you are in the world, a smile conveys the language of love and relates that you have positive intentions.


  • Be Curious – One of the pillars of experiential travel is learning. If your subject is actively engaged in a process that is unfamiliar to you, learn all you can about it. Your curiosity will not only lead to new knowledge, it will relate your desire to know more about your subject and their life.


  • Help – Few things establish a connection better than lending a helping hand. If you are able, put down your camera and get to work. Helping your subject with their task will build empathy for your subject and show that you are not just “a taker.”


  • Relax – Just being with another human establishes a connection. Sit and chat, share a beverage, or lean back and watch the clouds go by.

Shop keeper in his shop in Bhutan

It is important to remember that we don’t establish rapport for the sake of getting a good image.  We establish rapport and connect with others because that is what being human is all about, it is what travel is all about. The amazing photos you make after establishing a connection are secondary to the experience you have with the person in front of your lens.


We all want to come home from a trip or photography tour with gigabytes of great images. But instead of quantity, focus on quality. Considering portraiture, it is essential to slow down and get to know your subjects by entering their world. Remember, establishing a personal connection is not only what portrait photography is about, it is the essence of travel itself.

portrait of a smiling man in Bhutan


Andy Faulk is running the 5-day Central Vietnam photography workshop from June 11th to 15th 2018.


Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.

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