This week’s edition of the podcast is a bit special. Unlike our typical episode, where we have a conversation with a guest, what we’ve done this time is to contact some of our previous guests and ask them one question. We’ve already done this three times in the past, when we published our “expert roundups” and this time once again we’ve also asked them to record their answer, so you can hear it in their own voice.
The question we asked was the following:
What makes a great travel photo?
We received and collected answers from 21 of our guests, so there’s a lot of information here for you to consume. They shared some great insights and we hope that listening to them will help everyone to go beyond simple snapshots and take travel photos that tell stories and convey emotions.
We also have a transcript of all the answers, that you can find below the fold, if you’d rather read them than listen.
Stay tuned for more expert roundups coming soon.
Duration 55m 52s.
Music for this episode: “Zanzibar” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside – she walked away from 36 years of corporate life and set out to see the world. Nearly ten years later, she is still traveling full-time with no home base. She shares photographs and stories about the places she visits and the people she meets on her blog, Hole in the Donut Cultural Travels.
“I actually laughed when I read your question, what makes a great travel photograph because it brought back an instant memory for me. I think I’d been on the road for maybe a year, maybe a year and a half. And I got an email from my father, an elderly father who had been following me around the world and he said, where are all the people in your photographs? And it made me stop and not only think but look back at what I’d been shooting. And I realized that I was spending a lot of time waiting for all the people to move out of my photos so I could get that sort of iconic shot of this famous site. What he wanted to see, especially given that I write about cultural travel is the local people. He said, “I want to see what they wear, what they look like, how they act and I’m not seeing any of that in your photos. And from that day forward, it really made a huge difference for me in the way that I shot or, or staged shots, if you will. I no longer wait for the landscape to clear. I take a shot with people in it. I do try and look for shots that have local people in it so that people can get a flavor of the destination where I am, but I don’t wait for everything to be clear anymore. And I think that that has made a huge difference in my photography, in the interest in my photography. People always say they love seeing my shots because they feel like they’re right there with me and anybody can take a pretty shot of an iconic site like the Eiffel Tower or whatever. But what makes it interesting is how people interact with those sites.”
Barbara was our guest in TTIM 11 – Pursuing Your Dreams With Barbara Weibel.
Bryan Peterson has been a successful commercial photographer for over 35 years whose clients include American Express, Kodak, UPS, Phillips and Citibank. In addition he has received awards from the Communication Arts Photography Annual seven times, Print Magazine four times and has also won the prestigious New York Art Directors Gold Award. He has also been a contributing editor at Popular Photography and Outdoor Photographer magazine and he is also the Co-Founder of the world’s number one on-line photography school, BPSOP.com.
“And the question is, what makes a great travel photograph? Well, two things in my opinion. And those two things include, if not limited to just those two things. One, it is a photograph that is not something we’ve seen countless times before. And two, it is a photograph that is not anything remotely involving a composite. So those are my two criteria for a great travel photograph. I honestly asked myself because I’m certainly guilty of this at times, why am I going to a place and photographing what essentially is the same photograph we’ve seen countless times and then trying to suggest that this is somehow fresh, original and should be exciting to others who view it. The only way that’s going to happen and something that’s really familiar to us all is that something quite unique took place in that particular travel photograph’s location. And of course I’m referring now to the proverbial although highly unlikely rainbow or the proverbial or highly unlikely showering down of lightning and thunder or something along those lines. But my point being is that make it fresh, make it somewhat original, if at all possible. And once again this oftentimes involves looking for fresh points of view, lens choice, time of day, different weather, and so on.”
Bryan was our guest in TTIM 83 – Bryan Peterson, You Keep Shooting.
Daniel Kozeniewski is a Miami-based travel photographer whose work has appeared in several publications. He contributes to various stock photography outlets and often leads photography travel tours.
“I am starting to prepare for my upcoming tour to India and I was thinking about your question. What makes a great travel photo? Well, for me, a real travel photo is the one that can tell a story and convey a sense of place, but what is that? Right? I think that in travel photography sense of place is about transmitting the unique characteristic that makes a region and the people that lives there different or unique. It’s about communicating feelings, perception, emotions, the way that people interact among themselves and also within their environment. So I think if you can manage to capture that, then you got a great travel image. And you know what? That’s what I love about travel photography. I think that as photographers the constant search for these images makes us more aware, more observant than the average person or traveler and the end of the day we’d come back home with a better understanding of the people and the culture of the place we have. visited.”
Daniel was our guest in TTIM 77 – Daniel Korzeniewski.
Doug Kaye teaches photography locally in San Francisco and online, and was chosen as an Inception Master in Trey Ratcliff’s “Arcanum.” He leads street-photography workshops locally and in Cuba, which he has visited five times. Doug is the co-host of the Cameralabs podcast.
“I think the first thing you have to ask yourself is what is the purpose of your photograph? How is it going to be used? Is it going to appear in a travel book or a magazine? Is it just for your personal memory or you’re trying to create fine art? Do you plan to license the image or sell prints? Is the audience just for yourself? Is it your family and friends or are you making an image for strangers? Likewise, you need to ask yourself, is the image going to be standalone or is it going to be part of a presentation? What’s the context? Is it going to appear in a magazine with other images of the same location? Is it gonna appear in a gallery with other images or as I say, is it going to be all by itself? Are you trying to make the postcard photo?
You’re trying to just make a record shot so that you’ll have a memory of a location. Normally we criticize that. We say, oh, that’s just a postcard shot, but there is a real place for those. There are times when you want to have images like that. In any case, you want to capture a sense of the place you want to feel the place. Yes, you can take a picture that’s a closeup of some object or some detail, but that really only works best if you combine it with wider angled shots, record shots, as they call them. No matter what you want to make an image that makes me want to go there. That is, unless you’re just creating a memory for yourself. You know there are shots that will work that will just remind you of a place. You’ll remember what it sounded like. You’ll remember the temperature, the humidity, the smells, all the noise, all the people.
If it’s just for you, that’s fine, but if you’re doing an image for other people, remember they’re only going to be able to see primarily what’s inside that frame, that rectangle, whatever is outside the frame doesn’t exist as far as other people are concerned. The only exceptions to that are when an image is in the context of other photos or in the context of an explanation. That’s where you’re giving a presentation. You’re describing a situation or an image or there’s text that goes along with it. In most cases though, the image needs to stand on its own. It needs to be fully self explanatory and it has to capture the complete sense and emotion of what you’re trying to portray. Most of all, a good travel photo has to be a good photograph, and as always, try and create an image that has as much impact as possible.”
Doug was our guest in TTIM 24 – Cuba With Doug Kaye and TTIM 134 – Doug Kaye in Hong Kong.
Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer and producer/host of The Candid Frame podcast, an interview show which features conversations with some of the world’s best established and emerging photographers. The show has featured hundreds of photographers including Mary Ellen Mark, Dan Winters, Eli Reed, Elliott Erwitt and Joel Meyerowitz.
“What makes a great travel photograph? Well, I think it’s an image that captures what it was like to be present in that moment and I think in order to achieve that, the photographer has to slow down. Typically in our normal lives we’re always rushing. We’re always trying to get from point a to point B, trying to take care of all those things that are on our to do list and that really robs us of any opportunity to be fully present and aware of what’s happening and what we’re experiencing in any given moment. And the great thing about traveling and being on vacation is that you have the opportunity to indulge slowing down, of just taking your time to not only experience a moment, but to carefully observe the the small things that make it something special, like the quality of the light or the flow of line and shape of the architecture or the natural world.
And if you slow and you really take your time to observe, you can make much more informed decisions in terms of how you want to photograph a scene. Because when you slow down and you’re really not just making a snapshot and just taking a couple of pictures and then rushing off to another location, you really get to be immersed in the moment and that informs how you want to photograph it. And when you do that, you can make remarkable photographs. Photographs that not only look good, but reflect how you felt at that given moment. So when you share that photograph with someone else, they can look at it and they can get a glimpse of what you felt like being in that spot. Making the photograph and just fully embracing that sliver of time that you had in that special place.”
Ibarionex was our guest in TTIM 64 – Ibarionex Perello.
James Maher is a photographer whose business is split between running a fine-art business, a portrait photography business working with companies and people around New York, and a photography tour and street photography workshop business, helping photographers from all over the world capture the best of New York.
“I think great travel photography is very different for each photographer. I love taking photographs when I travel, but to be honest, I feel uncomfortable with it. I feel very comfortable at home capturing images because I know the area so well and I can create interesting nuanced photos that capture the spirit of the area over a long period of time waiting for the right moments to occur. With travel photography, I always struggled with the idea that I don’t know the area well enough. If I can barely photograph where I’m from in a way that I like, how can I tell the story of another place unless I spend a long period of time there or multiple trips learning the place, but that’s just my own insecurities and I think photography can be done well when one travels, so for me the key is to learn as much as possible about where you’re traveling and photographing and to do your best to give your own spin on it.
The advantage that you have is that you bring a fresh eye to a place. You can see things that other people who live there might take for granted. It’s similar to when I show travelers around New York, I really benefit from watching other eyes see a places that I have been to a million times. It helps me a lot to keep fresh. I’ll leave this with two quotes from two of my favorite photographers who have a completely different philosophy. Alex Webb and Trent Parke.
The first one is from Trent Parke: Whenever I travel overseas or have to shoot for Magnum in another country, I find I just make very graphic pictures. They occasionally might be visually interesting, but they sit on the surface. I’m not really interested in any other country. Most of my projects last for years, I don’t feel I can achieve anything worth saying in a few weeks in a place I’ve always been interested in why I’m drawn to something and why I eventually push the camera button. Most of it comes from memory, the subconscious and events I experienced growing up, the beach, the outback, the suburbs. I could never leave any of it, so much to do here in Australia. There is just no time for anywhere else anyway.
The next quote is from Alex Webb: My most basic processes as a photographer is to wander, allowing the camera and my experiences to lead me where they will. I try to arrive initially in a situation or with as few rational preconceptions as possible.
Both are incredible photographers who capture unbelievable images when they travel, but they have completely different philosophies and that’s what I find most fascinating.”
James was our guest in TTIM 72 – James Maher in New York.
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Juan Pons is a nature and wildlife photographer, whose passion is photographing our world’s magnificent wildlife and natural features. Juan is a strong supporter of wildlife and natural habitat conservation and is a member of several conservation organizations.
“For me, what makes a great travel photograph It’s not just an image that captures the essence of a place, although that is very important, but that it also captures the experience and connection I personally had with that place. These types of images are certainly challenging to make, but when you do make them, they will not only transport you back, the maker, with that place, but will also transport the viewer and connect that viewer with you and your experience.”
Juan was our guest in TTIM 106 – Juan Pons and Photographing Wildlife.
Karthika Gupta is a lifestyle, wedding, and travel photographer based in the Chicago area. She also leads travel and culture tours to India as well as has a free Video E-Course ‘Travel Photography Demystified’ where she has taught over 400 students on how to plan and execute their own travel photography excursions.
“A good travel photograph, in my opinion, is one that really forces you to stop and think about what you’re photographing. It’s not just, Oh, let’s find a cool place, photograph it and move on, but really spend some time to understand what’s so special about the place or the person or the thing that you’re trying to photograph so that you can accurately communicate the story behind the image.”
Karthika was our guest in TTIM 121 – Karthika Gupta on Cultural Sensitivity.
Ken Kaminesky is a veteran commercial travel photographer, Fujifilm Global Ambassador, writer, consultant, and entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience in the photography industry. His work has been featured worldwide in numerous commercial and editorial publications, including the New York Times and on the cover of National Geographic.
“Well, to me there’s three things that really make it a. and that’s number one. Does the photo move you in some way? The second one is, does this photograph that you’re looking at tell the story. And the third factor, and I think that’s pretty much the most important one in any judgment of any photograph, is do you personally like the photograph? So let’s start with number one, does it move you? Do you have some kind of emotional reaction to the photograph? Is there something in it that compels you to keep looking at it and explore the possibilities to lead you to the number two, which is does it tell a story?
But let’s stick with number one. Um, so for example, um, as you guys know, I run photography safaris in Tanzania every year and this is somewhere where we get a lot of images that all of our guests take a that can be quite emotional because we’re seeing these beautiful animals in front of us. And for many people, this is the first time that they’re getting a chance to see everything from lions and leopards and hyenas and giraffes and elephants and antelope and crocodiles and rhinos. And the list just goes on and on A. and oftentimes they’re put into situations where there is an emotional reaction that takes place, whether it’s baby cubs that lione are nursing, and there’s a half dozen of them crawling around and it’s the cute kitty factor. Or it could be something as vicious as the crocodiles attacking the wildebeest as they cross the Mara river.
Again, each one of these gives you that kind of emotional reaction, but in a very different way. You know, others can tell a story. And, you know, to me, one of my favorite photos from this year’s safaris was actually, uh, during one of the big river crossings where thousands and thousands of wildebeests and zebras were crossing the river and the dust was flying. The water was splashing and there’s just this haze of dust in the air and we can barely see the zebra in the foreground and the wildebeest even less in the background, but you can tell that there’s some kind of fury and chaos but beauty behind it as well. And that to me really moved me and it also told the story of the crossing and you know, all of what goes on in terms of that craziness that, you know, we’re used to seeing in National Geographic specials or in the magazine or any kind of wildlife photography that we’ve seen from the great migration.
And yet to see it personally, uh, whether it was myself for the guests I took this year, everyone was just absolutely touched and had a very strong emotional reaction to what was going on. And this lasted about 20 plus minutes in terms of the intensity of the amount of animals that were just going through this crazy phase of splashing through the river, avoiding the crocodiles and you know, creating this dust storm around them and as well it was just absolutely fascinating. And then the third one, I think really the do you like it is going to be something that again applies to all images that we’re judging on a personal level and whether it’s something that shot by professional that you’re going to see in a magazine or on a website or in a book, or whether it’s by you, it could be you know you’re an advanced amateur, a beginner, it doesn’t matter. Do you like the image, and that to me is very important. So take the time to explore what you like, enjoy it, and just realize that if you’d like it, if it has some connection to you. If it’s a personal image to you that brings back a story that you can relive in your head as you look at those images years later, then that makes a great travel photo.”
Ken was our guest in TTIM 56 – The Business Of Photography with Ken Kaminesky and TTIM 125 – Ken Kaminesky on Safari.
Lauren Bath is a chef turned photographer thanks to her early success on top photo sharing site Instagram. Quitting her job in early 2013, Lauren launched full force into a career in the tourism industry, effectively becoming Australia’s first professional “instagrammer”!
“To me a great travel photograph is one that has layers to it. Anyone can travel to a great spot and take a photo of it, but not everyone has the ability, skills, and patience to take that average photo and turn it into something exceptional and I’m actually not the best at it myself, but I am pretty aware of the shots that I take and I’m always working to improve them. So the first trick to a good travel photograph is a great location. Once you’ve got a great location, it’s time to start thinking about your composition for the shot. Do you want to follow the rule of thirds? Do you want to use the natural lines in the environment as leading lines in the shot? Can you clear up the corners and minimize any distracting elements?
Once you’ve got that solid composition and you’re really happy with it, then the next layer or the next element is usually great light. So I love to shoot at sunrise and sunset for great colors, soft light and long shadows. So you’ve got your scene, you’ve picked a composition and you’re shooting in an interesting light. So sometimes the only thing left to do is to wait for the unexpected, uh, like a fisherman walking past with his day’s catch in Oman or a girl in a red jacket strolling into your shot when you’re in Switzerland or happy dog running on the beach in Australia and that’s when you shoot. So you’ve got the great composition, that great light and an interesting element added to that as well.”
Lauren was our guest in TTIM 22 – Becoming a Professional Instagrammer with Lauren Bath.
Luca Bracali has travelled to 141 countries, is author of 13 books and winner of 12 prizes in International photo contests. Since 2008 he is a member of Apecs (Association of Polar Early Career Scientists) for his contributions about environment published in the media. In 2009 he was the only reporter to reach the geographic North Pole on skis. In 2010 Bracali debuted in the world of fine-art photography and his pictures have been on show, as solo exhibitions, in 50 museums and galleries in Rome, Sofia, Kiev, Odessa, Copenaghen, Montreal and New York. Tv director of Rai 1 since 2011 and documentary-maker for Rai 2 and Rai 3, Bracali published 14 reportages on National Geographic. From 2017 he became ambassador of the non-profit organization “Save the Planet”. The Minor Planet Center in Cambridge has entitled in his name the 198.616th asteroid discovered.
“A great travel photo is something that really goes far beyond a classic, beautiful picture. We are so used to see so many beautiful images posted in Facebook and Instagram by many photographers, sometimes also pro. Images that are able to catch so many likes and comments on social media, but those images very rarely will be seen in magazines such as National Geographic or Lens Culture. The reason is because they are simply pretty shots, but without a soul. A great photo must be able to communicate a story, to transfer an emotion, to catch a moment that no longer will be seen. And a great travel photograph must have these qualities: Featuring an impressive subject, a strong light and the perfect composition. The less post-processing, the better it is. Unfortunately, or luckily, in the digital era everyone can take a picture quite easily, but these won’t be a great photo. It remains just a click.”
Luca was our guest in TTIM 40 – Loving the Earth with Luca Bracali.
Marco Larousse is an international analog and digital fine art, street and documentary photographer based in Hamburg, Germany. He has a background in photography of 30+ years. In the 1990’s he developed his passion for classic street and documentary photograph. Marco is also an accredited journalist and a member at FREELENS. He has also been producing photography related podcasts since 2015. In 2017 he co-founded PPN Photo Podcast Network where he works as editor, host, and producer.
“I guess that is always the question what makes a great photo, but let me share with you how I approached this whole thing. I think when I travel, the camera is my companion and I enjoy to take it as an excuse to go out to explore a city or country or how people live. It is a tool that helps me connect with people. I remember in my early days of photography that I was in Tokyo at a time when there was not so many foreigners there really and I really stuck out and I had my old analog Leica camera and that camera was always a good point of starting a conversation with locals as good as they could at the time.
Not so many people spoke English in Japan and it helped me to connect to people and also sometimes they took me along, showed me special places that I would have not found by myself. So first of all the camera is. really my motivation to go out and capture pictures. Next thing I think is very important to really reduce the gear so it doesn’t drag you down, doesn’t make you stick out too much. So small camera, maybe one lens, maximum two, not a huge bag so you don’t feel like the weight is really dragging you down or that people will look at you funny you and you run around with too big of a camera. Whether you’re in a country where people don’t have a lot of money and the camera like that will be worth a whole year of their income or if you just don’t feel good in the back alleys where you want to explore.
So small cameras will certainly help. And then I really like to go with the flow, try to explore a place and see what is unique to you. What do you see? Where the stories were, the moments where you think, wow, I would not have expected that, or this is beautiful or maybe not so beautiful, but as a documentary photographer, really I look for ways to show the whole picture and I know it’s difficult to think of everything when you want to take a good picture and not miss the moment, but think about if your image that you’re capturing also gives the viewer an idea of place and time. Keep that in mind to capture in your images and I guess it’s not so much about the technical side, it’s really about a vision to cut down on gear and focus on the essential and stories that surround you and that make a place unique to you and that’s really I think the starting point for any good travel photography.”
Marco was our guest in TTIM 120 – Marco Larousse and Preserving Memories.
Maria Vazquez is the creative mind behind Maria Marie. She’s a photographer and stylist from Monterrey, Mexico, currently living in London, and her main interest is photographing and styling interiors, still life, food and lifestyle. Her work is known for its unique use of color and whimsical styling. Textures, patterns and playful elements are used consistently in her work. Maria is known throughout Mexico for her collaborations with creatives in many different fields, and from her numerous exhibitions, and she’s worked with a variety of A-list clients and a number of advertising agencies.
“For me a great travel photography is one that tells a story and captures the essence of a place through composition, light, and elements. It makes people connect to the scene and engage their imagination.”
Maria was our guest in TTIM 143 – Maria Vazquez and Pastel Moods.
Ollie Dale started his photographic career aboard a cruise ship in 2001. When he returned to New Zealand in 2003 he set himself up as a freelance photographer, and in 2005 started his company, PhotoNZ Ltd. In 2008 he joined the NZ Institute of Professional Photography, was the Chairman of the Auckland region from 2009-10, and a part of the Honours Council from 2010-15.
“In my very humble opinion, what makes a great travel photograph is also what makes any photograph good and that is the ability to take the viewer on a journey. Pardon the pun, of course. The viewer sees your image for the first time and stops. They stop thinking about Facebook. They stop thinking about what they were doing. They stop thinking about anything else and they see your image and it takes them somewhere. It takes them out of where they are. It takes them to an idea or to an emotion or to a place literally. Sometimes a great photo can be quite simple, but it has that ability to transport the viewer through a range of emotions and out of where they currently are and the more that your image can allow that viewer to just immerse themselves in the color palette or the composition or the construct or the story that’s going on between characters in your image, the more that image will be powerful and successful as an image because people will remember it as an experience rather than just something they flicked past on their social media stream or as wandering through a website somewhere. So to me it really is all about the journey and about the success of how the image can transport the viewer to somewhere else.”
Ollie was our guest in TTIM 111 – Ollie Dale and the Lost Clipper.
Joseph “PhotoJoseph” Linaschke, a content creator, educator and YouTuber. He’s been shooting since the age of seven, teaching and presenting on stage to audiences around the globe for over 20 years, and runs an online resource for photo and video education at photojoseph.com.
“What makes a great travel photographer is someone who is not afraid to get into the unexpected. There is so much that we’re not accustomed to when we’re traveling. At least there is if we’re traveling somewhere interesting and that’s the whole the whole point after all, and if you are afraid of the unexpected, afraid of the unusual, afraid to get close to something that you’re not comfortable with, then you’re never going to come away with great photos, at least not photos that you consider great, and at the end of the day it’s got to start with you. So if you’re not willing to get close to your subject to get into uncomfortable situations, and that doesn’t mean dangerous, but just places where you’re not used to being, into environments where you’re out of your norm, out of your comfort zone. If you’re not able to do that instead, you’re probably not going to come away with great photos, but as soon as you remove that fear and just allow yourself to get immersed into the environment, into the scenario, walk up close to something and just be unafraid. Then you can start getting great travel photos.”
Joseph was our guest in TTIM 144 – PhotoJoseph on Travel Videography and India.
Born and raised in Italy, Pia Parolin studied biology in Germany and in Brazilian Amazonia. A passionate tropical ecologist with PhD, she always carries her camera with her since the day her father gave her the first Minolta at the age of 9. Living on the French Riviera since 2005, she loves to capture light, colours and movements.
“I’m an amateur photographer. I travel a lot all over the world for my work as a tropical biologist and I find myself very often to stop and look at a picture because it has this whole effect. Mostly. It’s a big landscape. It is something that really just makes you want to stop everything and pack your suitcase and just go to that very spot on the planet. But what makes it to have this whole effect and this wanting to just grab your suitcase and leave. I think mostly this happens to me with pictures of wide landscapes with infinity, with beautiful colors, warm colors, very bright colors and representing something known or not known that just is amazing from the point of view of the landscape, maybe the architecture of the houses that are represented. And I think that it’s the whole composition that is really important together with this infinity feeling and this feeling of a very remote place that was caught in a special moment with special light. So I think the important thing is to call the emotions that you want to go there right away and possibly try to take the same picture, but not necessarily. Just a travel photograph that goes right into your heart and into your brain to calculate how you could possibly go there.”
Pia was our guest in TTIM 140 – Pia Parolin and Promenade Moments.
Susan Onysko is a travel photographer who has devoted the last decade to the art of capturing evocative stories from some of the most remote and extreme locations of our world — from Bhutan to Death Valley to Romania to Vietnam. Because Susan has an eye for both the unexpected images that evoke a locale’s purest essence and the relatable moments that unite us in our similarities, her well-rounded, professional work has garnered numerous international awards and exhibits.
“A photograph can be technically perfect. Composition, exposure, sharpness is all spot on, but something’s missing, its impact. How do you get a photo with impact? You can probably ask 10 different photographers and get 10 different answers, but here are some of the ways I personally try to create a photo with impact. For animals or people I look and wait patiently for moments or interactions between my subjects. It could happen on your first photo of two lines sitting in the shade and as lean in Africa or the 500th photo of the same two lions. Patience pays off.
Perspective. Try to photograph something from an unusual or different perspective. The viewpoint most often photographed is the viewpoint we see everyday, eye level. I’m always photographing something from above or low, laying on the ground. Laying in penguin poo in Antarctica is a moment that I will never forget. No one around me will ever forget it either as I smelled pretty bad afterward, but it was totally worth it to pin penguin interactions on a clean ha, ha, pun intended background. By holding a camera above my head. I may look like a madwoman to onlookers, but seeing a basket of eggs photographed from above is a lot more graphic and interesting to the eye than they would be at eye level.
Know how to use natural light, but learn how to use flash for people and nature photography. When you use flash, you create contrast and add sparkle and life to the eyes. Another benefit is that with high speed sync, you can shoot during hours in the day that you normally wouldn’t.
But seriously sometimes that impact from the photo is simply luck, you’re in the right place at the right time. You know the photos, the breaching whale mid arc, the perfect sunrise creating the perfect reflection. Luck definitely plays a part of this. I recently merged my old Aperture library into my current Lightroom one and found out that I have today taken over 650,000 photographs since I started in digital photography. How many of those would I consider a great travel photograph? I will not share that number, but what I will share is the more you shoot, the more opportunities you will have to create great travel photos.”
Susan was our guest in TTIM 44 – What Makes Great Travel Photography with Susan Onysko.
Susan Portnoy is the creator of The Insatiable Traveler, a blog celebrating world travel and her adventures at home in New York City. Her work includes award-winning photography and original storytelling, in addition to photography and travel advice. Her images and tales transport, immerse and excite readers, inspiring them to seek adventure and connect with the people and places they visit.
“A good travel photo to me is one that stops me in my tracks. It has to have something that makes me want to know more. It could be a specific element that originally attracts me. Maybe it’s the composition, it’s the light, perhaps the subject itself, but there’s got to be something that makes me want to know more, to look at it longer to to really absorb it. Realistically, if it’s a good photo, it’s probably the result of using all those elements together successfully. I also think a good travel photo has a strong sense of place and some kind of a story to tell. It makes you think about the image after it’s gone. When I look at photos, it has to evoke more emotion in me than just a pretty picture. Those are a dime a dozen and a truly great travel photo will make you wish you’d taken it yourself. I have a whole collection of images from other photographers that I love and that make me envious. I learned so much by looking through them. They inspire me to experiment, try different angles, break some rules. In short a good travel photo will make me want to grab my camera, run outside and shoot.”
Susan was our guest in TTIM 65 – Susan Portnoy in Mongolia.
Taylor Jackson is the host of the Travel and Photography Show, “A Photographer In”.
“I guess there’s two ways you can kind of take this question. The first way is what makes a great travel photograph for you. And I think that that is something that brings you back to the exact spot that you were, or the experience and as a photographer, I guess a little bit more can go into that experience where if you bring your tripod and you set it up in Venice, on one of the bridges and you spend a couple hours there that, that will bring you back to that moment. And it is something that means something specifically to you. Um, the other way that you can kind of take this question that is a little bit more important if you want to make photography you career is what makes a great travel photograph and also a photograph that sells.
Um, this was a bit of a surprise for me because we did this trip to Antarctica and I took all of pretty much my favorite images up until that point of my life. on that trip and. It turns out that not a whole lot of them actually sell because it is so, um, it’s something that not a lot of people have experienced, whereas when we do a gallery show from photographs in Italy, people had been to Italy, um, people have experienced those, um, those plazas and I don’t know, bridges in Venice and it’s just something that can actually bring them back to their spot. So they’re essentially purchasing, um, I guess like a better version of what they probably took on vacation. Um, and I think that that is what makes a photograph of a great travel photograph that sells is if you can kind of blend those two elements, if you can make something that’s incredibly visually appealing, um, and also include elements that are, um, almost like borderline cliche. Um, and I found that those are what sell the absolute best for me.”
Taylor was our guest in TTIM 9 – Taylor Jackson, A Photographer In.
Valérie Jardin is a street photographer whose work has hung in galleries in the United States and in Europe. She is a writer for dPs magazine, the host of her very own street photography weekly podcast, Hit The Streets With Valérie Jardin, and an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA.
“So what makes a great travel photograph, in my opinion, it will not be a postcard shot. That’s about the last thing I want to capture when I’m traveling is a similar shot to what I see on the postcards at the airport because then what’s the point? I might as well just pick up the postcard. It’s already been done. You want to do something differently. You want to think outside that postcard shot and capture something truly unique. Make your own iconic photographs of a place. And so what makes a truly unique picture? Well, first of all, if you start including people in your shot, you will have a unique photograph of a place, or of a landmark, and then think like the travel editor of a magazine, you know, think of a of a series of photographs to tell a visual story.
So you’ll have establishing shots which are the big picture. Then you’ll have some shots and then lots of detail shots. It’s those detail shots that really are important. And those can be as simple as fruits and vegetable, a market. People exchanging money, people shaking hands, some beautiful smiles, some signage in the language of the place you’re visiting for a sense of place. And then people walking their dogs, a close-up on the menu when you were sitting at the restaurant. Those are the unique shots. And if you are traveling with your family and you want to photograph your family, try to stay away from the corny shot of the family standing in front of the Colosseum where the Eiffel Tower or whatever.
Try to get shots of your family doing things that locals do, whether it’s sitting at a cafe or a playing a game of petanque, or bocce ball or interacting with locals. Those are going to be much more memorable photographs and they will really tell the story of the place. So try to stay outside of the postcard shots and try to stay away from the cheesy shots. I mean, get those if you really have to, but you can do much better than that and you’ll have a much better travel album.”
Valérie was our guest in TTIM 8 – Urban Travel Photography With Valérie Jardin and TTIM 92 – Valérie Jardin and Tips for Street Photography.
For over a decade, Jordana Wright has had the opportunity to shoot professionally, travel, and share her love of photography with clients, workshops, and aspiring photographers around the world. She has presented two TEDx Talks, led dozens of photowalks across the United States, been published in a variety of media outlets including The New York Times, and has developed and executed a variety of exciting personal photographic projects.
“That seems like a pretty straightforward question, but it’s actually not because there are so many ways to achieve amazing travel photography. It’s one of the most complex kinds of things you can do. As with most types of photography, beauty is always going to be in the eye of the beholder, so you’re never going to take one picture that pleases everyone. The number one thing I try to do when I’m shooting and when I’m teaching people travel photography is to create, um, a sense of place through visual storytelling. And those are two huge concepts that can really be unpacked individually over hours and hours of discussion. But basically what you’re trying to achieve is putting the viewer in your shoes at that moment.
And I think the quickest and easiest way to do that is to search out clues in the environment. So things like language in the background, written language, cultural visuals that kind of help you pinpoint where exactly in the world you are. Specific colors that might be clues as to the location, things like the color red in Japan, you’re going to see the color red everywhere. The blue and white of Santorini, like those colors really help bring you into the shoes of the photographer because we’ve seen these images time and time again. So we recognize what these colors represents. I’m looking for those little subtleties to try to kind of bring the viewer into the image with you. One of the things that I teach in my travel photography workshops and classes specifically is how you can kind of hone an image by adding those subtleties and creating those clues and basically turning the viewer into somewhat of a detective.
So what I typically do is I’ll show two images side by side, and one is a picture of a coffee cup. It’s a latte, it’s very attractive latte, but there are absolutely no context clues. You have a cup, you have a saucer, you have a teeny bit of latte art, maybe a little cute swirly at the top. That’s it. Then I show another image next to it that is this beautiful image of a latte and you get so much context information because it’s on a slightly reflective table. So what you can tell is you’re in open shade. There is a sugar packet on the saucer of the cup that is one of the European style sugar packets, so you can tell that you’re overseas, you’re not in America. It has one language written on the cup. I think it says something in English, and then the sugar packet, I believe there is Italian writing on it. So you have that context. There are so many little details that the longer you look at it, the more you can kind of piece together where you are. So if you can learn from that kind of a situation and try to help the viewer suss out all of these details, it’s really gonna help them engage with your image more and create more of an impactful photograph. So that’s the long and the short of it.”
Jordana was our guest in TTIM 104 – Jordana Wright and The Enthusiast’s Guide to Travel Photography.
2 thoughts on “TTIM 153 – Expert Roundup #4: What Makes a Great Travel Photo?”
This was a super awesome podcast, one of my favorites.
Glad you liked it and thanks for your comment.