An Interview with Inspirational Travel Photographer Peter Adams

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Thanks for reading! Andrew.

This interview with Peter Adams is the second of a series of interviews with photographers that have either won or placed highly in the Travel Photographer of the Year photography competition. I recommend you check out their website and also their online magazine Travel Shooters, aimed at anyone interested in travel photography or photojournalism.

Photo of the Taj Mahal, India by Peter Adams

Taj Majal, India


How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look/atmosphere/feel do you try and create in your photos?

The pictures that work for me are as simple as possible with a strong graphic element. I try to avoid images that are too busy, with too much extraneous detail. I love pictures that contain a subtle sense of humour, irony or a wow factor that makes you wonder what it would be like to be there.

Name three photographers you like and why. Who inspires you?

I’ve always admired Steve McCurry. Slightly less known, James Ravilious who spent 20 years or so documenting the rural life of N. Devon. As someone who is always on the move I would actually love to explore and spend time taking photographs of a place and community. Whether I would have the discipline to do this is another matter! Another photographer with very much an ‘English eye’ is Martin Parr who approaches travel photography in a totally different & unique way.

How much research do you do before undertaking a trip? How important is preparation to the commercial success of a trip?

How long is a piece of string? With the advent of the internet I could spend days researching. It’s important preparation though. I try and coincide my trips with a colourful festival or an event that gets local people out onto the streets. I look at existing pictures so I get an idea of what sort of locations to visit and to hopefully avoid shooting the clichés. I have a large file of cuttings from magazines and newspapers.

What’s your approach to photography once you’re in the field? How do you maximise the photographic opportunities that you have?

By being totally committed. People make sarcastic remarks about ‘oh off on your holidays again’ but until the end of a trip there isn’t much time for relaxing. I’m often up before sunrise and, if it’s a city location, I’ll still be going after dusk when the city lights have come on.

How do you deal with the people and communities you photograph? How do you gain trust and permission to photograph people?

By getting to know people before taking out a camera. Generally hanging out and showing an interest in their lives complementing people on their lovely homes etc. Often taking pictures of children is a good ice breaker and flattering for the parents, even if you’re not necessarily interested in getting pics of the kids for yourself. If I’m asked for copies, I always make sure I send prints afterwards. If I’m after more reportage type shots it’s important to blend in and I try & be as boring as possible so people eventually ignore that I’m there.

What is the key to making your work different to the work of other travel and stock photographers? What do you do to make sure you come away with photos that are beautiful, sellable and unique?

By bloody hard work and going that extra mile! Looking for unusual view points and unique opportunities; for example if going along to a performance of local dance, I might try getting permission to go backstage to shoot the artists making and dressing up.

You won the Travel Photography of the Year competition in 2003. How did this affect your career? What doors did it open for you?

Well the phone wasn’t ringing off the hook afterwards with assignments to South Pacific Islands. However it did raise my profile with interviews etc across the photographic press. It’s also a very useful handle for people who don’t know you from any other Adam or Adams, it gives them some credentials to latch onto.

In retrospect I should have made more of the opportunity myself, knocking on doors to try and get sponsorship or whatever whilst it was all new. However, with typical English reserve and a laid back attitude, I didn’t do much.

What changes have you seen in the stock industry over the last few years and where do you think it’s headed in the future?

How long have we got, it seems there are changes in the stock industry almost daily! As always if you get a group of stock shooters in a room together there will be plenty of gloom and doom of where it’s all headed. However I remain optimistic, despite the advent of microstock etc. To a large extent this is another case of the market being expanded as was the case with royalty free images. Whether it represents a business opportunity for me is another matter but you have to keep an open mind and keep tabs on it all, in case you miss the boat & regret it later.

What does it take to gain editorial and advertising commissions in travel photography? What’s the best approach for a newcomer to the business?

It’s not something I’ve had too much to do with recently. Though obviously as a newcomer you need to gradually build things up starting say with something like ‘Caravan Weekly’ before hitting on ‘National Geographic’!

I see that you also shoot film footage. Tell us a little about this. Who tends to buy your footage and how big a part is this of your future business plans?

Well it’s early days and I’m waiting for my initial 60 clips to be uploaded onto The Getty website. It may take a couple more years but I’m reasonably confident demand will grow for moving images for web sites etc as broadband connections improve & clients look for something different. If it doesn’t work out I still feel it’s been a rewarding challenge & has added something to the way I look at still images which are still my priority.

Finally – where is your photography going? What future photographic projects are you excited about?

I feel slightly at a photographic cross roads. I’ll be 50 next year and I’ve been thinking about pursuing more personal projects. There are a couple of communities in Europe I’m interested in that will be facing massive changes of modernity in the next few years that I’d like to document. I also have some ideas for the UK. The grass always seems greener somewhere else, but it’s still a beautiful and diverse country to photograph.


Peter Adams’ website:

His work can also be seen at:

Learn more about this talented photographer, his work, and how got started in the business by reading more interviews with Peter Adams on his website.

Photo Gallery

Photo of India by Peter Adams


Photo of a frozen yak by Peter Adams

Frozen Yak

Photo of a boat in Burma on a lake by Peter Adams

Boat, Burma

Photo of a cyclist in Zanzibar by Peter Adams

Cyclist, Zanzibar

All photos Copyright © Peter Adams. Please contact the photographer for permission to use in any way.

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2 Responses to “An Interview with Inspirational Travel Photographer Peter Adams”

  1. […] can also read my interviews with former winners Peter Adams and Jordan […]

  2. Jacob says:


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