Member Spotlight: Teal Thomsen's Secrets to Stunning Travel Photography

Member Spotlight: Teal Thomsen's Secrets to Stunning Travel Photography

Member Spotlight: Teal Thomsen's Secrets to Stunning Travel Photography

by Amanda Jaquin

A conversation with Luupe member Teal Thomsen on her approach to travel photography, must-have gear, vulnerability, and more.

Meet Teal Thomsen — a Texas-born, Los Angeles-based visual storyteller and member of The Luupe who has an insatiable wanderlust and a knack for capturing light and life. Teal takes us behind her lens to share how her adventures, from the deserts of Namibia to the streets of India, inspire her work — blending exploration with creativity to capture the real stories of diverse places and people.

We caught up with Teal to hear about the joyful spontaneity of her images, her approach to the multifaceted world of photography, and the importance of community — even when miles away from home.
The Luupe: Your portfolio beautifully showcases a wide range of subject matter, from travel photography and lifestyle to portraiture and food. How do you adapt your approach to different genres of photography?
Teal Thomsen: That’s very true - so many subjects! Because I do photograph many different genres I think it’s important that my style and approach be somewhat consistent throughout - use of natural light, color, and simply following my instinct. Travel photography encompasses many genres - from landscapes and cityscapes, to food, interiors and architecture, wildlife, and of course, people. How all these elements exist and relate to each other and their environment helps to depict a fuller portrait of a place. While I do adapt my approach between genres, I don’t think it’s very drastic as I want to come to each subject with the same curious lens that can capture the essence of why this subject is important to the place or story.
The Luupe: What types of projects bring you the most joy? Share examples, please!
Thomsen: Ones that involve elements of curiosity, spontaneity, and usually a very long flight! Some of my favorite jobs have been assignments with SmartFlyer in Namibia and Botswana where I was able to experience and document luxury safari camps that champion conservation, sustainability, and support local community. They also involved sleeping under the stars in the Kalahari Desert, climbing Namibia’s sand dunes, and having once in a lifetime wildlife encounters.
The Luupe: Your use of light and color is stunning. Are there any techniques or principles you follow when working with natural light to enhance the mood of your images?
Thomsen: Thank you! When working with natural light (which is 90% of the time for me) I don’t stick to one rule. If it’s possible for me to move around the subject and experiment with the different options I usually do that until I find what really sings through the viewfinder. I do find myself saying “look towards the light!” all the time so maybe that’s the key to my technique! Using the sun seeker app and knowing where the sun will be is key if there's an opportunity to plan ahead. When photographing interiors I try to shoot when the light will come through a window and create some dynamic shadows and shapes or if shooting outside I try to stick to early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower for long shadows and golden light.
The Luupe: What travel experiences have had the most significant influence on your photography style and storytelling?
Thomsen: I feel like every travel experience builds on the next. I’m always trying to be present and keep my curiosity brimming so that I notice things. Being a keen observer is vital to travel photography so even when I’m shooting in a place I’ve been many times I try to keep a beginner's eye and hunger for what’s around the next corner! Although many times I do feel that I make my best photographs in new and unfamiliar places. India has been at the top of my travel list for as long as I can remember and I finally made it there last September. Some of the trip was just for fun/travel while other bits were for commissioned projects. The color and chaos was something I was expecting but nothing can truly prepare you for it. The warmth of the people in India gave me a lot more confidence in photographing portraits while traveling. I’m always so tentative and careful not to offend but a smile and asking permission goes a long way.
The Luupe: Are there any specific travel destinations or cultures that you would love to explore further through your photography in the future?
Thomsen: I’m currently on a plane to Morocco to work on a personal project with some of the artisans living and working in remote communities. I’m really looking forward to getting to know them and learning more about their lifestyle and work. Other destinations at the top of my list are Bhutan, Mongolia, Japan, and always back to Italy.
The Luupe: We know that travel photography demands a well-thought-out gear selection. What gear do you bring with you on your trips and how do you manage file storage while traveling?
Thomsen: This is so true. The gear heavily depends on the type of trip - is it a safari, a city, a hotel, etc. If I’m shooting a lot of interiors and portraits I usually stick to a set of prime lenses (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm). If it’s more of an on-the-go shoot, I’ll bring at least one zoom lens if not both a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm. I think my go-to lenses would be my 35 and 50mm. If I’m wandering around a new city that’s what I’ll bring and although it seems limiting I often like the way it forces me to get creative and compose an image without being able to zoom in or out. I bring at least two hard drives with me on my trips. I import the photos at the end of each day to both hard drives and then store them in different luggage.
The Luupe: You've worked with some really incredible brands — what conditions do you believe are crucial for making the collaborations successful?
Thomsen: I think having everyone (client, production, photographer, crew) on the same page about creative vision, shot list, plan and deliverables is crucial but in travel work keeping an open mind and being quick to pivot is equally important. Projects change and adapt as they go so although I have these details ironed out before, I am always game to discuss changes and embrace trying something that wasn’t part of the plan.
The Luupe: As someone who is “fueled by an endless curiosity for this world and the thrill of waking up in an unfamiliar place” (love that!), how important is community and connection when you’re frequently on the go?
Thomsen: Very important! I find community on the go and often forge new friendships while working and traveling with a new team. Travel has a way of forcing vulnerability which often makes it easier to connect. I stay in touch as much as possible with family and friends at home as well but timezones get tricky. It can definitely get lonely to be on the go often and then when you’re home still not have time or energy to put effort towards connecting with a community. Finding a stronger photo community is something I want to work on this year and The Luupe is helping!
The Luupe: Looking ahead, what exciting trends or shifts do you anticipate in the photography industry, and how do you stay ahead of the curve?
Thomsen: ​​I don’t really stress about staying ahead of the curve. It’s important to stay up-to-date and relevant on trends and shifts but it’s equally important to stay true to what’s inspiring you and not allow your creative vision to get cloudy because you’re trying to make sure you’re on top of the next big trend. That said, I have noticed that I’m being asked more and more to do both photo and video on certain shoots so expanding my moving image skills is top of my list! And of course, I can’t ignore AI when talking about shifts in the industry. I’m not worried about it stealing our jobs but I have added an AI clause to my contracts!
The Luupe: Can you share a photography-related book, podcast, or resource that has had a significant impact on your career or creative approach that you’d recommend to fellow photographers?
Thomsen: I’ve been loving the Photo Dump podcast and the latest season is coming out now! A Photo Editor’s “Photographers, How Much Do You Make” series on Instagram has been incredible to follow and learn from. I’m slowly reading The Creative Act by Rick Ross and love the idea that your mindset is like a river - “A river of material flows through us. When we share our works and our ideas, they are replenished. If we block the flow by holding them all inside, the river cannot run and new ideas are slow to appear.”
The Luupe: Finally, what's your #1 piece of creative advice?
Thomsen: Keep your channel open, embrace spontaneity, play, don’t rush, indulge your own whims and ideas, stay curious, and make the work you want to make! That was more than 1 :)
Stay #InTheLuupe 💌 Subscribe to our newsletter to get conversations with today's most inspiring creatives and stories on creative culture sent straight to your inbox.
Amanda Jaquin
Amanda Jaquin is brand experience manager at The Luupe where she brings energy and ✨ to marketing, design, and community engagement. She lives in Kingston, NY, hates pickles, loves solving puzzles, and has a million tabs open right now.
linkedin scriptmeta script