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An expert’s view: travel photography tips from Jordan Banks

Expert advice on how to get the most out of your landscape photography.

Jordan Banks is an award-winning London-based photographer, with over 20 years’ experience in travel and commercial content for clients like British Airways and Panasonic. His work appears regularly in travel publications, from National Geographic Traveller to Wanderlust.

Nori Jemil, author of photography handbook, The Travel Photographer’s Way, chats to Jordan about his advice for planning a shoot, the best equipment for landscape photography and how much research to do before taking a trip.

How do you organise your schedule if you only have limited time in a destination?

As much as I’d love it not to be, there is always a deadline just around the corner so making the best use of my time on location is extremely important. I will put together a detailed shoot schedule and route plan that ties locations together to avoid any unnecessary time spent travelling.

How much time I spend at a location varies from assignment to assignment, but as a general rule I will allow for a hero shot at sunset and sunrise in roughly the same area. I use the times either side of these periods to capture some variant images and scout locations when required.

What kind of research do you undertake before embarking on a landscape shoot?

I am a big believer that 70–90% of a great photograph is created in the research/planning stage. Before an image is ever taken, I will have spent hours researching locations in search of the best views, angles and, most importantly, timings. I use apps to research, and reference images from the web, magazines and social media for the ideal time of day and year to shoot certain locations.

Bryce Canyon National Park Jordan Banks
Thor’s Hammer, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA © Jordan Banks
Camera details: DSLR, 16MM, 0.8 SEC, F16, ISO 100 

Do you ever previsualise the shots you want to get?

I fully previsualise the shots I want to get. The atmosphere, the light, the feeling and the emotional connection with the viewer are all playing a part in my process.

In recent years I have found myself using Google Earth in 3D to allow me to compose certain shots from my studio. Even if it is a very rudimentary method of visualisation, I have found this process to be a helpful addition to my workflow.

What’s the most important equipment for you when out and about photographing landscapes?

Aside from the obvious camera and lens, my most important tools are my LEE filters. Ninety per cent of my landscape images will have some form of filter applied.

I don’t believe in adjusting the image to be something it’s not, but filters give me the power to control and direct the light which is very important in my workflow.

Have you even taken a great landscape shot without a great deal of pre-planning?

It doesn’t happen often but yes. Every so often everything comes together, and a perfect scene just appears in front of you. I often find these are some of my personal favourite images from a shoot. There is something about capturing that fleeting moment in time, unexpected and often gone as quickly as it arrived.

Aurora borealis Kirkjufell Iceland Jordan Banks
Aurora borealis at Kirkjufell on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland © Jordan Banks
Camera details: DSLR, 16MM, 25 SEC, F4, ISO 3200

Do you have a preferred style for landscape photography?

While there is not one particular aspect, I am a big fan of landscapes that include some life or reference points. This may be breaking away from traditional landscape photography, but I feel including relatable aspects within the landscape helps entice viewers and make the scene appear more realistic.

What advice would you give to someone keen to improve their landscape photography?

Get out, shoot and practise. Landscape photography is all about trial and error so the more you practise, the quicker you will improve. There is also an element of luck involved, so the more you put yourself out there, the better. Amazing scenes appear every day – it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

About Jordan Banks

A brand ambassador for LEE filters and f-stop gear, Jordan is the 2020 National Geographic Traveller (UK) Cities photographer of the year. Jordan gives talks and teaches for photographic training company, That Wild Idea. He’s recently become the picture editor of travel magazine, JRNY. To see more of his work, you can head to his website.

Jordan Banks

More photography tips

For more on getting the best out of your travel photography, check out Nori Jemil’s new book: