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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

In partnership with
Joel Sartore
National Geographic Photographer
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Course No. 7912
Video Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • Discover the three most important rules of photography - all while exploring famous photogenic locations.
  • Get tips on taking dynamic portraits of individuals and groups.
  • Explore how your photographs can tell a story - and why weddings are a great place to practice storytelling skills.

Course Overview

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.

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6 lectures
 |  27 minutes each
Year Released: 2013
  • 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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Video DVD
Video Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 6 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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DVD Includes:
  • 6 lectures on 1 DVD
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

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Your professor

Joel Sartore

About Your Professor

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...
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Also By This Professor


Rated 4.1 out of 5 by 42 reviewers.
Rated 2 out of 5 by The Art of Travel Photography I was hoping this would help me to take better pictures when I travel, but it was quite disappointing. The pictures illustrated were wonderful pictures, but they definitely were not "point and shoot" photos. Some of them looked like they took many hours to set up. If you are at a location and can wait for that EXACT moment for a sunrise, or sunset - great! But, not everyone has an assistant who can walk through their photo with a red umbrella (to add that touch of color), at just the right moment. Or arrange for a group of people on horseback to come riding along the beach so you can get that "interesting" shot. This really didn't help me to take better travel photographs. Yes, they were "National Geographic" type photos and would be good for the magazine, but when I travel I'm usually on a tour and have 15 minutes off the bus to get "that perfect" photo, and I really would have liked some hints on how to use what was available to get better photographs. September 27, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Great travel course This is a great set of videos that is easy to watch one at a time or binge watch as though "Joel Sartore is the New Black"! Good for great composition ideas as well as ways to problem solve tough situations tourists will find themselves in. As someone with advanced photography experience, I would have liked more technical lessons, but I received so much value from the other aspects of the videos that was not a big issue in the end. Joel is a great on camera presenter and personable and the production value of the videos are top rate. July 4, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by the Fundamentals of Photography" & "The Art of Tra I watched both Joel Sartore’s “the Fundamentals of Photography" & "The Art of Travel Photography” prior to an Alaska trip. Mr. Sartore provided many good tips. As I was in Alaska during mostly daylight, Mr. Sartore’s tips were very useful. It must have helped because my family wanted to use my photos instead of theirs when showing trip photos. I do think he has improved my photo taking! Thank you. June 2, 2015
Rated 4 out of 5 by Some good tips but some things only a pro could do Plenty of good tips and a few oddball ones. Unfortunately when most of us travel, it is to a tour schedule either by the tour operator or imposed by ourselves, So we cannot choose to be in a certain place when the dawn light or evening light is just right. Also most of us cannot afford to hire a helicopter to shoot Christ the Redeemer in Rio or Hire a boat to photograph the Pitons in St. Lucia. Another example, kids playing in red dirt - so you know it is the Southwest Desert - it could be anywhere in the world because there is no landmark reference. Get rid of distracting portrait background elements outside the Lincoln Memorial - so you end up with a portrait that could have been taken in your backyard! Never mind, I got this course at a discount offer and the content will help me improve my travel photography. May 19, 2015
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