An interview with Finn Beales: Travelling the world with a camera in hand

Finn is an award-winning travel, lifestyle, and commercial photographer. An early adopter of Instagram, where he has over half a million followers, Finn delivers a daily dose of dreamy inspiration to travel lovers around the world. Although his large Instagram presence often takes the headlines, we were actually first attracted to Finn’s work through the photo essays on his website. We love the clean lines, contrast, and narrative woven throughout his 72 hours series and are not surprised to hear they will be published in print as a series of books early next year. 

He has also just returned from Portugal having filmed an online photography workshop where he explains his approach to storytelling using photography. Due for release in October, you can sign up for the class via his website now to receive exclusive access and free episodes.

Photo Credit: Finn Beales @finn

You’ve been in the industry for eight years, so when and where did you actually start learning about photography?

Both my grandparents and my dad were keen amateur photographers so there was certainly some influence growing up. I still remember a lesson in composition from my grandfather on a family holiday in west Wales when I was around 6 years old.

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Can you show us some of your favourite photos?

Sure. I have always been interested in the landscape surrounding us and find the raw power of volcanoes particularly fascinating. I love this image because of the effort that went into making it. A 3 mile journey across open seas in a rubber dingy to reach the island followed by a 8 hour hike in harsh summer sunshine so that I could summit and shoot the eruptions in time for sunset. Thankfully the stars aligned and everything came together.

A commercial shoot for Land Rover and their new Discovery Sport. I like making pictures in inclement weather conditions. Wind, rain and fog all bring atmosphere to a scene. Unfortunately the weather doesn’t always play ball and this was the case on shoot day. One of my core team has a background in movie special FX so we simply brought the fog with us for this image… literally filling the forest!

I love this picture because it came out exactly as I had envisaged… and because we ‘made’ the image as opposed to simply ‘taking’ it.

I love images that leave a little to the imagination… images that intrigue. Inspired by the film Jaws I wanted to create an image underwater that made a viewer look twice, and feel a touch uncomfortable. Deliberately shot using an iPhone in a waterproof case the image is grainy and a little indistinct… much like the experience of swimming underwater; an alien world for humans.

We love your ‘72 hours in…’ series and could honestly scroll through the destinations over and over again and still find new details in the collections. What sparked your interest to start creating the series?

Early in my career I worked as staff photographer for the Hay Festival. Now an internationally recognised festival of ideas, it started in a cattle market 30 years ago in my hometown of Hay-on-Wye. The organisation now runs events in 15 different countries around the world and I travelled to most of them; documenting the festival and the location helping deliver a sense of place to audiences back home.

The Festival’s run over a weekend so my time in each location was pretty much limited to 72 hours – Friday/Saturday/Sunday.

The recent project that you did with Audi fostered some of the best photos taken in Rwanda that we’ve seen on Instagram. What’s it like to share such a close space with the Gorillas?

While in Rwanda on a commission for Audi, we hiked a bamboo forested volcano in search of a family of mountain Gorillas. We eventually found them in a clearing in the jungle… a family of 27 including a Silverback, infants and mothers. It was incredibly peaceful and moving seeing such close relatives to the human race in the wild yet close enough to touch.

Wow, we cannot even imagine being close enough to touch the Gorillas while also trying to snap the perfect photo. Do you find as your experience as a photographer grows the challenges of being a photographer change?

I think the challenge is remaining relevant… especially in this fast-paced world. Adapt or die is my mantra but saying that, I think it’s dangerous to chase trends. Staying true to yourself is as important as responding to changes in society.

A lot of the work I’m making at the moment is stylistically referencing the past – a response or reaction to the overwhelming digitization of everything perhaps?

Totally. Speaking of digitization and being involved in this super-connected, digital world, you have quite a bit of an Instagram following. Given that Instagram is a necessary tool in the photography industry to showcase your work for future projects and clients, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring photographers in today’s digital age?

Don’t get too hung up on platforms and followers etc. The tools used to showcase work may have changed, but the underlying craft in terms of telling stories hasn’t. Pour your energies into creating simple, strong visual elements, fundamentals of good storytelling, and leaving some things up to the viewers’ imagination.


Do you need special equipment to become a photographer?

If you’re starting out you just need to shoot. Buy a 50mm 1.4 prime (a fixed lens will help you hone compositional skills as you’ll be forced to move your feet as opposed to the zoom ring) and shoot anything and everything: music, weddings, street, portraits, landscape etc.

Think of your work as a visual language. Can a viewer understand what you are trying to say? Does it intrigue or trigger emotion? In order to become successful at anything you need to practice…. which means putting the hours in. If you’re not prepared to put the hours in, you’re unlikely to make it… or indeed enjoy life as a photographer!

Where are you headed next?

Fair Isle, a tiny island in Shetland, in northern Scotland for Lonely Planet.

The no. 1 thing you never leave out of your carry-on?


The destinations that you have on this year’s bucket list?

Argentina, Patagonia, New Zealand

What’s your latest in-flight podcast/movie/book that you cannot put down?

I think the BBC’s Desert Island Discs is the single greatest podcast ever. It was also first broadcast on 29 January 1942… long before the word podcast became synonymous with episodic conversational radio shows. Trailblazing.

I love watching trashy action films on planes. Something I can tune in and out of. I watched Black Panther on my flight back from Rwanda. I’m not really into the whole Super Hero Avengers thing, but I really enjoyed that film. Great music, visuals and underlying message.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex is a book by American writer Nathaniel Philbrick about the loss of the whaler Essex in the Pacific Ocean in 1820. A riveting tale of human endurance in the face of extraordinary odds. I literally could not put it down.

Photo Credit: Finn Beales @finn