Travel Photographer: Day in the Life


For some people, nothing beats that feeling of excitement and exploration whilst travelling. It's a chance to immerse themselves in foreign cultures, experience the energy of unfamiliar places, or feel a connection when meeting new people. With so many fresh subjects to photograph many people relish at the opportunity to take their camera, allowing them to not only re-live the moment but also practice their craft.

But what is Photography really like while travelling? What equipment do you need? And what kind of career would allow you to travel and take photographs at the same time?

We wanted to hear it first hand from a Travel Photographer. You may have seen some of Teagan Cunniffe's work before here on Academy Blog. But when she's not at her computer writing articles with The Preset Factory, Teagan is exploring new landscapes and capturing her travels. We caught up with Teagan to find out more about her work as a Travel Photographer:


Image by Teagan Cunniffe

Image by Teagan Cunniffe


What's your full name and where are you from?

My name is Teagan Cunniffe. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa.


Tell us a little about yourself?

I have an insatiable thirst for travel and the environment, initially fostered by family trips in an overheating land rover, jostling for space amidst fishing rods, and navigating sand roads in search of the next empty coastline. I’ve since made travel a critical component to both my happiness and career by incorporating it into photography. I love being in the outdoors, whether it’s hiking, horseriding or camping. 



Image by Teagan Cunniffe

Images by Teagan Cunniffe


"I started on the commercial side initially. This was invaluable experience for learning about pricing, networking and the competitive nature of photography."


When/how did you get into photography?

While studying through UNISA, a distance-learning university in South Africa, I had plenty of time to explore the photographic field. I started on the commercial side initially. This was invaluable experience for learning about pricing, networking and the competitive nature of photography. It took me a year to realize that if I was to do photography, it had to be within the travel sphere.


When/how did you get into travel photography?

About four years ago I was referred to a job posting for a travel photographer, working for one of SA’s leading travel and adventure magazines. I applied and shortly found myself out in the field in search of off-the-grid locations across South Africa.


Image by Teagan Cunniffe

Image by Teagan Cunniffe


What does a typical day look like for a travel photographer?

A typical day varies in terms of excitement levels. Some days I’ll be back home, working on edits, uploading, writing or organising upcoming travel. Other days, the ones I love, I’ll be on the back of taxi-motos in Kigali in search of hot milk bars and stuck in heavy rain downpour, or in a small town in South Africa asking locals for their recommendations on things to do and people to meet, or hiking up a mountain laden with heavy gear, cursing and grateful within the same breath.


Image by Teagan Cunniffe

Image by Teagan Cunniffe


Tell us about your equipment. What do you use, how do you transport it?

When I first started I tried to take everything with me, and frustration and achy backs ensued. Now I mainly use a Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L, Canon 24-105mm f/4 and a set of LEE filters. I try to keep things light. So far, my favourite bag to transport gear in is an F-Stop Kashmir. It’s lightweight, tough and comfortable to wear over long periods of time.  While hiking or riding, I use a Peak Design Capture Pro. It’s an invaluable hands-free device.


Teagan Cunniffe's Equipment

Teagan Cunniffe Shooting on Location

On Location with Teagan Cunniffe


"For landscapes, I’ll head to Google and research popular photographic spots so I know what is available in an area."


How do you research and arrange locations and subjects?

For people, I’ll organize a few connections such as local guides in advance. I’ll combine this with a ‘go with the flow’ mentality once I get there, chatting to people that I meet, listening to their stories and hearing their recommendations. Most are open and helpful, especially when you tell them what the story is about and what you hope to achieve. For landscapes, I’ll head to Google and research popular photographic spots so I know what is available in an area. When I arrive I’ll take a few ‘safe’ shots, and then start exploring and finding less known areas, depending on how much time I have.


Image by Teagan Cunniffe

Image by Teagan Cunniffe


Tell us about the editing process?

For the majority, I try to keep my edits simple as I need to produce a lot of images. I run an automatic batch process on all my images, which pulls highlights, pushes shadows and contrast and ups saturation slightly. I’ll then make my selections, narrowing down the list of images to edit. These are opening up in Camera Raw and individual attention is given to images where needed before the batch is renamed and saved.  If I want to edit more creatively or work on multiple layers I go into Photoshop.


Image by Teagan Cunniffe

Image by Teagan Cunniffe


"You find your feet over time."


Any difficulties of Travel Photography?

Travel takes it out of you- in my first year, I was constantly tired, sick and stressed. You meet people and situations that drain you emotionally and physically. You learn a lot from challenges and have many failures. Almost imperceptibly, improvement happens. You find your feet over time. Now my major difficulties centre around workflow management, balancing rest and personal well-being with travel.


How do you manage your workload and projects?

I’ve realized that  if I don’t do things as soon as possible then the opportunity or inspiration passes by, leaving you swamped or forgetful or out of time. With editing, it’s really helped to automate minor edits and use occassional presets.  


Behind the Scenes with Teagan Cunniffe

Behind the Scenes with Teagan Cunniffe


Tell us about transporting your equipment between different countries.

Yes, I do. When travelling overseas I’ll pack non-essential and less expensive equipment into my checked-in luggage. I will never separate from my camera, lenses, memory cards and hard drives- those travel on my person at all times in a camera backpack. I arrive early to airports- a habit formed by too many missed flights- and use that extra time to declare my equipment. It’s a bit of a drag filling out forms and serial numbers, but you won’t regret it should you be stopped and searched later on.


Image by Teagan Cunniffe

Image by Teagan Cunniffe


"Spend time getting images that are a niche to add to your portfolio."


Any tips for someone interesting in starting to shoot stock photography?

Start with your local area and shoot the attractions nearest to you. Shoot those well. Next, go in a bit deeper. Are there any cultural or environmental stories that you can document? Spend time getting images that are a niche to add to your portfolio. Once you have the contact, either work with one stock agency or do it yourself, uploading your work to relevant areas of the net and networking with photographers, competitions and companies in your field.


Image by Teagan Cunniffe

Image by Teagan Cunniffe


Teagan Cunniffe

Discover more of Teagan's Work:


Send us your travel images edited with The Preset Factory presets, and we'll showcase to our community!


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