When I was 20, I was dissatisfied with my photography. I felt like I was being limited by where I lived. I thought if I wanted to become a better street photographer, I needed to live in Europe—to photograph the romantic streets of Paris, the back-alleys of Prague, and the bustling streets of London.
But the sad reality check was that, after backpacking in Europe for a month, I didn’t become a better photographer. I saw some unique things, met some interesting people, and ate some different food… but I didn’t become a better photographer.
So… why travel?
I think the beauty of traveling is it gives you a chance to explore the world. To broaden your horizons. To become less narrow-minded and ethnocentric to your own culture. Traveling helps you have novel experiences, which can lead to moments of self-discovery.
I think traveling is one of the best bang-for-the-bucks you can get in terms of excitement in life (for your money). But it won’t necessarily make you a better photographer.
How do you become a better photographer?
If you want to become a better photographer, you need to train yourself—you need to shoot more, push yourself, challenge yourself, experiment with different compositions, attend photography workshops, invest in photography books (instructional and art books), and learn from your mistakes.
After traveling abroad a lot the last few years, I’ve made many “exotic” photos, but none of them are good photos. They are certainly aesthetically unique, different, and foreign, but that’s all they are. They don’t evoke a deeper mood, emotion, or sense of humanity (compared to some of the photos I shot at home).
Once again, I don’t want to discourage you from traveling. But if you’re going to travel, be realistic with yourself. You’re not going to create an amazing body of work in just one week, one month, or one year of traveling.
Travel for personal growth and experiences. But know that you can be a great photographer regardless of where you live, and regardless if you travel or not.