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The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons

The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons

Joel Sartore
National Geographic Photographer

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The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons

The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons

Joel Sartore
National Geographic Photographer
In partnership with
Course No.  7912
In partnership with
Course No.  7912
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Course Overview

About This Course

6 lectures  |  32 minutes per lecture

Most of us wouldn’t dream of traveling—or even taking a day trip—without bringing a camera along. Photographs not only let us share our experiences with others, but they preserve once-in-a-lifetime moments, breathtaking sights, and visits with friends and loved ones precisely the way we want to remember them.

Yet all too often, we find that our photos fall short of our expectations. And our lackluster results are made all the more disappointing by the knowledge that we may never return to the pictured locale. From blown-out lighting to the same ho-hum shots that have been done a thousand times before, we’ve all learned how difficult it can be to capture the magic of the moment or do our travels justice with a point-and-click approach.

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Most of us wouldn’t dream of traveling—or even taking a day trip—without bringing a camera along. Photographs not only let us share our experiences with others, but they preserve once-in-a-lifetime moments, breathtaking sights, and visits with friends and loved ones precisely the way we want to remember them.

Yet all too often, we find that our photos fall short of our expectations. And our lackluster results are made all the more disappointing by the knowledge that we may never return to the pictured locale. From blown-out lighting to the same ho-hum shots that have been done a thousand times before, we’ve all learned how difficult it can be to capture the magic of the moment or do our travels justice with a point-and-click approach.

But by understanding some basic photographic principles and best practices, you can develop and refine your photographer’s eye so that you break free from the traps most travelers fall prey to and produce pictures that reach their full potential.

The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons is your ticket to capturing the beauty and awe of any scene, anywhere in the world. Your guide is Joel Sartore, a National Geographic contributing photographer with more than 30 years of experience who has traveled the world shooting photographs in the most challenging of conditions. Filled with practical tips, proven techniques, and field demonstrations, this course helps you learn to see the way professional photographers do so you can take compelling photographs worth framing and sharing—whether you’re traveling to some exotic locale or simply spending a day at the beach.

With Mr. Sartore’s expert guidance, you’ll better understand

  • how to put your own spin on frequently photographed attractions;
  • ways to make your shots appear more professional;
  • how to handle less-than-ideal circumstances and changing sunlight;
  • the importance of planning ahead and doing research; and
  • the capabilities and limitations of your camera.

Leave Your Photographic Signature

Who among us hasn’t taken a photograph of a towering monument or a majestic geological feature, only to feel deflated at the less than awe-inspiring results? Mr. Sartore explains why our attempts pale in comparison to the postcard images we’re familiar with—but he also cautions that postcard images shouldn’t be the goal.

Instead, this course delivers the art and mechanics of taking dynamic, intriguing photographs that you haven’t seen before. In every lesson, you’ll learn how to create shots unique (and maybe even quirky) enough to command attention, whether your destination is a cathedral or a campground. Discover how to get beyond the postcard by

  • giving objects scale;
  • softening chaotic backgrounds and visually isolating people;
  • shooting silhouettes to make the commonplace seem mysterious;
  • using color as a focal point—particularly in clothing;
  • changing your perspective to a bird’s- or worm’s-eye view; and
  • following the rule of thirds, which places subjects in the corner of the frame.

You’ll also learn the dos and don’ts of using flash to achieve a studio-lit look and the fundamentals of building photos from the background forward.

Think before You Shoot

Should you shoot into the sun or away from it? Should you photograph structures with or without people standing in front of them? Is overcast light desirable or detrimental? Mr. Sartore answers these questions and more as he demonstrates why common mistakes occur and how to avoid them.

Throughout the course, he stresses the key ingredients of patience and persistence, as well as the importance of putting yourself in the right place at the right time when a photo op or ideal lighting presents itself—even if that’s before dawn.

But he also teaches you how to react quickly in the moment and what to scout for when you arrive at a location to maximize your time there, whenever that happens to be. After you learn what to look for—whether it’s a higher vantage point or a dramatic backdrop—you’ll never take a shot before considering your options again.

Join an Expert in the Field

Mr. Sartore is a photographer whose work has been featured by major magazines and broadcasts, as well as a gifted teacher with a special ability to explain his craft and make learners feel as if they’re right in the field beside him. In this course, he walks you through his thought process in plainspoken terms and gives an assignment at the end of each lesson that lets you get hands-on practice with the techniques he describes.

One of the most thrilling aspects of The Art of Travel Photography is the opportunity to not only join Mr. Sartore on location, but to crisscross the globe via his impressive portfolio. Traveling from Washington, D.C., to Moscow, you’ll see his principles in action and gain knowledge you can put to use during your very next trip or event.

View Less
6 Lectures
  • 1
    Getting Beyond the Postcard
    Light. Composition. Something interesting. Start the course in the field with Mr. Sartore to learn how important these three rules of photography are, particularly when you’re on the road. Visit Saint Lucia, Moscow’s Red Square, and other famous locales to learn how you can get beyond the typical postcard and create images that are truly your own. x
  • 2
    Light—Early, Late, and in Between
    Now watch as horseback riders are photographed in the surf at sunrise in this lesson that demonstrates how to handle changing light, build pictures from the background forward, react quickly in the moment, and use the reflectivity of water. Move to a beach house setting to learn how to shoot in harsh midday light, then return to the surf late in the day to experiment with slower shutter speeds and panned action. x
  • 3
    Faces and Places
    For memorable photos that provide a sense of time and place, you must add life, be it people or animals. Get tips on taking dynamic individual and group portraits, from directing your subject’s wardrobe to using near/far perspective. You’ll also learn when to reach for a telephoto lens and the advantages and drawbacks of using flash. x
  • 4
    Local Attractions and Unexpected Delights
    How can you capture local flavor in your photographs? What’s the secret to shooting in low light? Get tutorials on tailoring your approach to your surroundings and crafting close-ups in dark light by boosting ISO or using a tripod and cable release. Explore the benefits of changing your vantage point and shooting on overcast days. x
  • 5
    Interiors and Exteriors, High and Low
    How can you capture the beauty of historical buildings and other structures? How can you reveal the majesty of a landscape? Learn techniques for shooting exteriors and interiors such as focusing on architectural details and repeating patterns, changing your angle or perspective, and using framing devices and leading lines. x
  • 6
    Storytelling and Serendipity
    You can do your research, but for a photograph to tell a story, you still need serendipity to intervene. Consider how in-the-moment thought and creativity, combined with compositional techniques such as the rule of thirds, can lead to more intriguing images. Learn what to focus on at weddings and why they’re a great place to practice your skills. x

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Joel Sartore
Joel Sartore
National Geographic Photographer

Joel Sartore is a professional photographer and a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine. His assignments have taken him to some of the world's most beautiful and challenging environments and have brought him face to face with a diversity of wildlife in all 50 U. S. states and all seven continents. He was recently named a National Geographic Fellow for his work on The Photo Ark, a multiyear project to document the world's biodiversity in studio portraits (see www.joelsartore.com and photoark.com). His photograph of a lion in a tree was voted the best picture by National Geographic magazine in 2011, and also won him a 2012 Veolia Environment award for wildlife photography. In addition to his work for National Geographic, Mr. Sartore has contributed to some of the most prestigious and widely read publications, including Audubon Magazine, Time, Life, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. Mr. Sartore and his work have been the subject of national broadcasts such as National Geographic Explorer, NBC Nightly News, NPR's Weekend Edition, and an hour-long PBS documentary, At Close Range. He is also a regular contributor to CBS's Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. A noted author and public lecturer on photography to audiences around the world, Mr. Sartore has written several books that highlight his craft and his work. Among these are RARE: Portraits of America's Endangered Species, Photographing Your Family, and Nebraska: Under a Big Red Sky.

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Reviews

Rated 4.1 out of 5 by 24 reviewers.
Rated 2 out of 5 by This is one to skip. The first problem with this course is the quality of the video. The resolution is low so it is a bit fuzzy. The author supplies quite a few good tips but many of the pictures he takes are not very good. I would delete them if I had taken them. I guess there are two kinds of travel photography: traveling specifically to take pictures and taking pictures while traveling. I do the latter. The author discusses the former with tips like really research your subject, show up when the lighting is prettiest and if it isn't today, come back tomorrow. Use models like colorfully dressed young ladies or kids. When I travel around it will be without models, also without the opportunity to be at every place when the light is prettiest, and to return when it is. I pass by a place once and take pictures while I am there. I make exceptions for really beautiful places like Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons where I linger for several days At one point he has a young, pretty lady in a pink dress going through a maze of evergreen trees in a light rain while holding a red balloon. He goes on to say that you should shoot in the rain as evidenced by the beautiful green colors in his photos. But in fact the green was very drab. The young lady added a lot but the pictures were still not good. All in all I was quite disappointed and I returned this course. December 6, 2014
Rated 1 out of 5 by Not for this travel photographer This course was a huge disappointment. While Joel Sartore is a very interesting speaker and a very reputable professional photographer, his course fell far short of what I had hoped to learn to become a much better travel photographer. Although I've toured 46 different countries in the last ten years, my primary interest is historic sites, art, architecture and archaeology and not people and animals as covered in this course. Traveling as a single and while on group tours, there is no way I can follow much of his advice such as waiting for the right light, revisiting locations and posing people for dramatic effects. In some places, the people have forbidden me to photograph them or photographing them is officially prohibited. Also, inside many historic places and museums, photography is totally prohibited. I also find that I must travel light, especially since airlines have started charging for checked luggage. Also, many places prohibit tripods and other specialized camera equipment. I take only a small point-and-shot camera. By preferring to blend in and not immediately stand out as a tourist with a huge, expensive camera, I feel I often get more candid shots. On the other hand, I need to do more thinking outside the box. I'll still opt for the picture postcard view because that's what I often consider the most characteristic and photogenic. I believe that travel photography should capture a sense of place. I felt that most of Joel's photos taken during the course didn't. December 1, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Great Course on Travel Photography This course contains great information and I found the examples especially useful. I don't have a DLSR but have already greatly benefited from this course. Lighting, composition, storytelling are all important regardless of the complexity of your equipment. I now understand why I've been frustrated with my travel pictures. From now on its quality of the picture over quantity for me! November 19, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by He has a great way of presenting the material. I appreciate the examples he uses/shares. November 17, 2014
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