How to Take Better Travel Photographs

By Nomadic Matt | Published November 18th, 2010

taking a good travel photograph...maybeIn the last 4 years traveling the world, I’ve taken over 10,000 photos. I know compared to some people that isn’t a lot (I have friends who take over 10,000 pictures every few months) but photography has never been my focus. When I first started to travel, I took a lot of photos but then I realized I’d rather take pictures in my mind than always be stuck behind a lens. Yet I mostly don’t take a lot of pictures because I’m not that good at it. I’ve always wanted to take better photos. I’d love to be an expert at photography and, while picture #10,000 is a lot better than picture #1, mostly, my great photos are a product of luck.

On the way to Australia from BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas, I was talking to Darren Rowse from Problogger and, knowing he also runs a photography website, was lamenting to him on my poor photography skills. Coincidently, he was telling me he was just relaunching his travel photography book, Transcending Travels, and emailed me a copy to read. When I opened it, I was blown away.

First, I was blown away by just how amazing this book was laid out and how well it was designed. (I took notes for my own books.) It’s the best looking ebook I’ve ever seen. Secondly, I was blown away by the content of the book, which is what really matters. We don’t buy books to look at them, we buy them to learn something.

And I learned a lot.

The book is 80 pages long and written by Mitchell Kanashkevich, a documentary photographer. In those 80 pages, he covers quite a bit. The book starts off discussing lenses, cameras, and what to look for when you buy a camera. He doesn’t put one type of camera over the others but suggests you pick a camera that suits your needs. Bigger isn’t always better, which I fully believe. You often see a lot of people with gigantic expensive cameras when all they are doing is making scrapbooks. A point and click camera can be fine. Additionally, I learned a lot about lens size, why it matters, and what those numbers around my camera lens actually mean.

taking a good travel photograph...maybeThe meat of this book is not about cameras though, it’s about how to use a camera to take better photographs, which this book does an amazing job of doing. The information in this book is some of the most concise, clear, and easy to understand I’ve read on the subject. The book discusses how to use light and composition, photograph people, action, and much more. No subject seems left untouched.

There’s a lot of good information in there about framing your photographs. Framing is often overlooked by people. They point the camera, take a picture, and that’s it. Yet how you frame a shot can go a long way in making it an amazing picture. But what I really liked best and was most helpful for me was the section on light. Using lighting is one of my weakest skills so it was great to understand that aspect of photography better. I definitely learned how to use light, especially using my shutter at night to get a more lit shot. I also found great value in the section on perspective and negative space (which I didn’t even know about until I read the book). Lastly, the section on taking action shots helped me understand how to take an action shot so I don’t end up with the blurry mess that I typically get. It’s always so disappointing to think “that would make a great photo” and then just see blur on your camera.

Since I am not a photography expert, I don’t know if you will learn new stuff if you already are one. But from the beginner’s stand point, this book is perfect. I found that there was so much information there, it was almost information overload. It’s going to require a few reads to process it all and fully understand what the author talks about.

The book also contains exercise suggestions to put the tips in the book to use. After all, practice makes perfect. The only thing I wish he had included was a glossary of terms. There is a lot of lingo in this book and though it is explained in the text, it would be nice to have a page for reference.

Transcending Travels is only $19.97 USD but if you enter the code “nomadicmatt25″ you’ll get a 25% discount if you buy before Tuesday, November 23rd. After that, it goes back to the normal price. (Just add the code to the shopping cart and hit update!)

You can click here to purchase.

comments 6 Comments

Agree Mat, I have taken advantage of the discount and just “flipped” through the ebook….very practical and there is something in there for both the novice and confident photographer.

I’ve gone quickly through the table of contents of the Transcending Travel e-book, and it looks like it provides pretty basic information.
Of course I am not in the position to criticize as I haven’t read the book, but with that list of topics, you can find the information for free on the internet. There are actually a lot of good videos on YouTube covering composition and lighting and …

NomadicMatt

The same could be said for 99% of the books out there but it’s a time vs. money thing. If it takes you two hours to find all the information, would you rather spend 20 dollars or lose 2 hours. If you value your time as say 30 dollars per hour, then its a winning situation to simply buy the book and save yourself hours on the internet.

For a great product, I’d rather just buy it than try to find the information myself not knowing if what I find is just as good.

Sounds like a great book, I’m really itching to learn more about photography!

Hi

I agree with the framing and more importantly story telling. You want to be able to convey to your audience how you felt when you saw something interesting, and the mood. Try to use Rule of Thirds Composition or better yet Fibonnaci Rules when placing your focal points. Foreground helps to frame a subject as well. This picture of a Tall Ship in San Francisco Bay demonstrates how framing and leading lines draw the viewer into the scene. This would have failed if I had opted for telephoto on the boat itself.

Regards, Erik

Hi, and thanks for sharing this link. Being a travel photographer myself I am always eager to read how others go about nailing those mouth watering travel shots. However, I must admit, that seeing the cover of this book in particular put me off. It may of course be a case of the cover not doing the content justice, and in that case, I don’t want to come across as too critical.

However, most of the magazines and newspapers I write and photograph for will automatically decline a photograph where the subject matter has his back turned to the camera. They want people interest, a look, an expression – something that allows the reader to connect with the people.

Getting the shot on this particular book cover is a question of technique and timing. It totally lacks what I consider to be one of the most important skills for a travel photographer – the ability to gain people’s trust to such a degree that they allow you to bring the reader into their world. For those of you who don’t know Steve McCurry’s work, I strongly recommend his stunning imagery of the world. But then again, who doesn’t know that portrait of the Afghan girl with the emerald green eyes. Now that’s a look which tells a story!

Leave a comment