What makes a compelling travel photo today?

We speak to three photographers to get their insights into the ethics of travel photography, their personal approaches to imagemaking, plus what makes for a good travel image

If you look on Instagram and type in #travelphotography, more than 152 million results pop up. Pristine, shiny, beautiful photos of faraway places, idylls of sun-drenched sea and sand. Of course they’re captivating, especially after spending over a year at home, but they do all start to look the same. 

For the past few years, anonymous Instagram account @insta_repeat has captured this repetition perfectly by gathering similar travel photos and organising them into multiple grids. Placed side by side, you see how homogeneous these images are, with every element – from the location and composition, to the pose and even the editing – all exactly the same. “There’s a particular aesthetic and feel to a lot of the travel photography I see on Instagram,” says London-based photographer Max Miechowski, who travels both the world and more locally in the UK for his work. “It can be quite a formulaic way to produce an image, making something you know is going to work well on Instagram. It’s a backwards way to approach photography, to be led by the algorithm and what might be successful on a social media platform.”

For Miechowski, Instagram can be a great tool to showcase photography, but photographers shouldn’t get too hung up on only that platform. New York-based photographer Cait Oppermann, who travels the world for an array of clients and her own personal projects, agrees. “I think it can encourage proof of being in a place without the consideration of the place or the culture,” she says. “It’s content over context.”

Top: Alicante’s La Muralla Roja from Cinematica series (ongoing) by Teresa Freitas; Above: From the series Burgess Park by Max Miechowski