As one of our most prolific and versatile photographers, Gavin Hellier consistently provides robertharding.com with stunning, in-demand stills and footage from the far corners of the world – from neon in Vegas to blue cities in India, old world plazas in Belgium to sparkling skyscrapers in Shanghai. We asked him to share his philosophy on travel stock industry success, and this is what he told us:
Robert Harding: To what do you owe your success in travel photography?
Gavin Hellier: Success in travel photography is largely down to patience and perseverance. After finding the location you have to be prepared to wait as long as it takes for the optimum lighting conditions. Usually a location will have to be revisited multiple times before actually shooting any images. Not much time is spent actually taking pictures but incessantly watching, waiting, standing around, being patient.
Research is crucial in advance of the trip, having a comprehensive shoot list and knowing which are the sunset and sunrise shots. Wandering around during the day is fine and often results in finding new locations to shoot later on but you should always know where you are going to be during the best light times of the day. It requires discipline, lots of preplanning and the ability to find and capture much photographed subjects with a fresh and unusual perspective.
RH: What qualities and skills do you need as a photographer in the travel stock industry?
GH: There are a multitude of skills required to be successful as a photographer in the travel stock industry. Organisation is the key. Managing your time between being on location, managing the business side and working on the images post shoot and getting them out to the clients. The best travel photographers are able to portray familiar places in a unique way, capturing people with dignity and unique moments in time that surprise and intrigue the viewer. The ultimate aim is to inspire other people to want to see the world for themselves.
RH: How do you decide where and what to shoot?
GH: Deciding what to shoot, in what order, when arriving in a new place can be challenging. If working in a city, the skyline shots are essential. The best light will be at dawn or dusk, maybe also after nightfall. I’ll scout the possible locations during the day, obtain any necessary permissions and return an hour before dusk to set up. Rooftop bars can be a great place to work providing a welcome refreshment when finished.
RH: How do you juggle shooting stills and footage?
GH: Juggling between the two can be tricky. I quickly realised doing both at the same time did not provide the best results. If shooting from a secure location I do set up multiple tripods but usually I will concentrate on one or the other. When deciding on where to travel I will decide whether it will be predominantly a stills or a footage trip.
RH: What type of images do you find are most successful and in demand?
GH: It is difficult to know which images will be the most successful. Usually not the ones you would expect. A fairly ordinary shot of slippers taken spontaneously in a souk has far outsold the subject I intended to shoot. Keep options open and shoot as many different things as possible, landscape, wildlife, people, the urban environment, festivals – images that can be used by a multitude of commercial publications.
RH: Any last tips for wannabe travel photographers?
GH: One tip is to never put your camera away when it is threatening to pour with rain. Often the most spectacular light will occur during unsettled weather, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, as soon as the camera has been put away!