Steve McCurry's 5 top tips for travel photography

What advice does legendary photographer Steve McCurry have to boost your travel photography skills? Read on for his expert tips...

6 mins
When it comes to my famous Afghan girl shot, I actually knew there was something really extraordinary about it; I could see that it was something really special. She was an incredible person with an amazing face. This shot (above) was taken in Kuwait. There were 600-plus oil wells on fire – an environmental catastrophe; oil was spewing into the gulf and wells were ablaze.

These camels were probably throwing caution to the wind, looking for something to eat or simply a way out of this dreadful place. I was trying to juxtapose these camels with the fires and the billowing smoke to demonstrate how catastrophic the situation in the region was. I was sitting on the hood of my jeep trying to keep up with the animals as they moved through the desert. I wasn’t using any special equipment, but I’m happy with the shot I managed to capture.

1. Put in the effort

Good photography has a lot to do with trial and error; there is no silver bullet. Most things in life require this, unfortunately, though we all desperately try to escape it. Effort, discipline and struggle are unavoidable if you want to accomplish something.

2. Keep your eyes open

You need to find that iconic shot on your own – it won’t just come to you. To do this, you need to know what’s happening in the world; it’s good to try and do a variety of things, to see different parts of the world, to experience different cultures, to see how people relate to each other.

3. Remember to have fun

Take photographs for your own pleasure. It’s a way to record things – your birthday party, friends having a dinner; it’s very important to have this document of your life. You don’t need to get an expensive camera. Relax and have fun.

4. You don’t have to go far

How far do you have to travel to take a ‘travel’ photograph? If I walk out of the front door of my apartment, does that count as a journey? Yes – you can practise taking photos anywhere.

5. Enter competitions

I think photography competitions are useful. You may as well give it a try… We'll be revealing the winners of the Wanderlust Photo of the Year competition at Destinations Show 2015 (30 January). Can't wait til then? Have a sneaky peek at the Wildlife, Icon, Landscape and People finalists and choose your favourites...

Steve will be hosting a talk about his photography and experiences in association with the Nikon School, London, in spring 2015. Register your interest for more information.

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