What is Wanderlust Photography?


According to Miriam Websters Dictionary, the definition of Wanderlust is simply “a strong desire to travel”. It comes from the German language and is spelled Wanderlust. It is a relatively new word, dating back to the beginning of this millennium.

Andrew Delaney (2016), Director of Creative Content at Getty Images explains Wonderlust (sic.) Imagery as: “Images that inspires a sense of awe. They are images that are looking at connecting us with our surroundings. Images that elicit a reaction of wonder when you see them.”

Delaney was recently featured in a video by Skillshare, where he pedagogically talked about what Wonderlust Imagery is and where its power lies. The complete video of six chapters add up to nothing more than 20 minutes of brilliant talk and example images of what Wonderlust Imagery may look like. For anyone interested, here is a link to the video.

Source: Skillshare, Exploring Photographic Style: The Power of “Wonderlust” Imagery, 2016

Here are some of the key points I took away from Delaneys talk:

  • Work with depth.
  • Play with color and texture.
  • Give a sense of the unknown.
  • Don’t worry about showing “bad weather”.
  • Mother Nature is often the “hero” in the image.
  • Be very aware of scale and effective composition.
  • Catch the particles in the air to diffuse the light e. g. smoke or dust.
  • Experiment with a wider crop. Embrace the 16:9 format to illustrate the scale of nature.
  • Dare doing a non-extreme sports shoot. A contemplating feel is often more welcomed.
  • Make pictures that are inclusive, that makes you wish you were there. Sometimes cliché works.
  • You don’t always have to show the entire object to get other to understand what you are saying. Don’t be afraid of cropping.
  • Use a subtle approach to color rendering. Color pallets are becoming more subtle. Man and nature are becoming more blended.

Delaney further makes a very clear statement based on his many years of experience working with hundreds and sometimes thousands of pictures a day:

“All pictures today live or die on the basis of how they look as a thumbnail – which means you absolutely got to get your composition right”. If your picture doesn’t read as a thumbnail, it’s going to die. It is not going to get clicked on. The client of ours is not going to go to the next step of investigating an image if it fails the test of what it looks like as a thumbnail. It’s got to look good”.

To go back to the bullets, Delaney makes some interesting points when talking about authenticity. The concept of Point of View (POV) photography can sometimes do the trick when trying to evoke a feeling with the viewer, because it is about enjoying what that person behind the camera is enjoying. Take the classic “own feet dangling over a cliff in Grand Canyon-POV”, as an example of that.

“Be prepared to either discover it, or create a set of circumstances where the moment happens and you are there to photograph it.”

Another tip is to try to be present and do your best to catch the decisive moment. It is not about controlling a shoot, but to create a shooting window, where as a period of actions of happen and you step out of it to record what happens (Delaney, 2016). Below is an example of just that, showing one of the most selling Wonderlust pictures on Getty Images:


People playing football at Ipanema Beach in Rio, by Alexander Spatari

To do further quote Delaney with another one of his brilliant analyses: “When the editors at Getty first look at a picture, they first see if it works emotionally. Technical qualities are secondary and can sometimes add authenticity. Flare, backlight, a crooked horizon, blown highlights, or excessive grain/noise can all evoke emotions and helps with nostalgia. This must however be done delicately.” – Delaney refers to them as “Apparent Mistakes” and below you will find some of his own examples of what this can look like:

Source: Skillshare, Exploring Photographic Style: The Power of “Wonderlust” Imagery, 2016

To round up with some interesting statistics, Delaney proves that Wonderlust Imagery is to be counted on and should not be underestimated when it comes to creating content aimed towards the masses.

The word selfie as a search word has increased by 42 000 % on Getty Images within the past 12 months. The word Group Selfie has seen a 12 000 % increase within the last 12 months. – Clients are looking for this kind of images to promote their  business.

Some companies that has adopted Wonderlust Imagery to their Lifestyle Branding is Land Rover, Fjällräven, Patagonia and Apple, with their “Shot on Iphone 6 campaign”.

For some final words of advice, Delaney wraps ups his talk with:

Break the rules, Ignore them, make your own path and show your work.



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