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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
Share This Course
4 out of 5
77 Reviews
72% of reviewers would recommend this series
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
  • 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

Lecture Titles

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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...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 77.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The History of India - worst purchase ever Oh my, I wasted a ton of money on A History of India. Wish I had not bought it as your courses are not cheap and I have bought many - I have not been able to get through more than about 15 minutes without nodding off..too few other visuals to break up the droning. .the guy is so hard to watch. He almost never blinks so is very hard to watch his face - which occupies the screen 98% of the time. And he just paces from one corner of the carpet to the other. Probably a really nice guy but your typical lecture format, tolerable but not enlivening much of the time, is painful in this case. (One person who did it super well with the static same room format was John Hale - he should be your model for how to satisfy customers).
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Could Have Been Great Mr. Sartore is an accomplished NatGeo photographer but this course is lacking. He discusses travel photography in general terms but the specific examples he shows usually involve models. How many of us, while traveling, can book and photograph with models. The course would have been much better had it shown how to approach locations as a simple tourist with limited time.
Date published: 2016-10-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A bit slow Not a lot to add to his original Photography course, which was much better. Too much time was spent taking the photos rather than enhancing my photography knowledge.
Date published: 2016-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2016-10-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Value I learned a lot. It appears that my D750 and 28x300 Nikon lens are a good choice. Could have been a little more technical though
Date published: 2016-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Exceptional Series This DVD is so informative and helpful. I was not planning a trip, but have enjoyed the other DVD sets by Joel Sartore. I read of this one in a photography magazine, and wanted to learn more about taking pictures in various places. I was not disappointed. What I appreciate about Mr. Sartore is he doesn't just tell you what to do to take great pictures, he shows you how by demonstrating in different settings. He's fun to listen to, as well. There is just the right mix of humor within the teaching itself. Much of what he shares can be implemented whether you have a point and shoot or a DSLR. I found this DVD very helpful for everyday shooting, not just for if I was traveling. I highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2016-10-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Quick Guide to Better Travel Photography This is a brief (one disc) guide to better photographs while traveling. It's fun and instructional, but as I said, brief. For someone who's not done a fair amount of photography, or has never studied composition or art, I would highly recommend.
Date published: 2016-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I take better pictures because of this course I take much better pictures because of this course. The off camera flash really helped my photography. Layering was a big help to make an interesting pictures.
Date published: 2016-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Travel Photography I have one complaint. When I bought the DVD on Travel Photography, I was not made aware it was not compatible with Windows 10. I can't imagine why a company hasn't upgraded to Windows 10, but so be it. I tried the DVD on all four of my computers and it would not play. I will say I called the company and was told what program to download in order to play the DVD. But this fact should be made upfront on your website. And, please, get updated.
Date published: 2016-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just buy it I learned things in this course that have already helped me create better images. I viewed this before traveling to Hawaii & it has made such a difference in my photos in comparison to my last visit. I am a beginner, w very little experience, but some of my photos don't show that lack due to my new understanding. Do your memories a favor & buy this course.
Date published: 2016-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceeded my expectations again The course material inspires one to think before shooting and consider outside of the box thinking. The professor Joel Sartore is excellent in presenting the material simply enough to understand while you never think he is talking down to you. This is the third course I have taken with this professor and I am looking forward to more lessons by Mr. Sartore.
Date published: 2016-08-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons Good course for the beginner or casual photographer. To expensive for someone starting out or someone who is looking for ideas. The online course did not work after the third lesson even though I paid full price, so I'm not sure what the rest had to offer.
Date published: 2016-07-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2016-07-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not what I wanted, needed, or expected I have done a fair bit of photography but I was hoping this course would give me some pointers prior to an upcoming trip. Unfortunately, it was a bit less than useful: posing models, showing the use different types of zoom lenses, suggesing shutter relase cables, and recommending different types of flash setups semed to focus more on the equipment than on tips and techniques for taking better pictures (with the equipment you have). Suggesting researching a site for an hour was a bit unrealistic. Only in the final lecture did Sartore hint at some of the techniques to use, and somewhat defined terms that he had used in earlier lectures. All in all, there wasn't much about photorgraphy for the average traveler, but a lot on what travels and scenes he's shot for National Geographic.
Date published: 2016-07-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Lots of talk . Little substance The useful parts of this course amount to 12 minutes. The rest is flatulence. A better option would be (a) download the full manual of your camera from the manufacturer ( usually free) (b) purchase a DVD on the basic controls of your SLR (c) purchase a thin book on Composition suitable for travel (ebook on your smart phone if available would be ideal). Then take as many pictures in varied light situations and ask one of the salespeople at your camera shop for comments on your efforts. You will save at least half of the price on this item and will be well on your way to self assurance. Really Mr Sartore,you disappoint !!
Date published: 2016-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Most watch before any big vacation This video set opened my eyes to what is truly possible. By just looking at things, people,and places, In a different way, we can all bring home incredible photos of our travels. Enjoy! AAA PLUS.
Date published: 2016-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I sure did learn some useful things This was the first course like this I have taken and my first encounter with the Great Courses and was most helpful. In every lesson I could see where I'd done less than a wonderful job in our travels and how I could have done better. Shortly after completing the course, I returned to one of my favorite vacation spots, New Mexico, and I could see the difference in the quality of what I took. I put together a DVD slide show for the family after each vacation and this was better appreciated because the pictures were just better. I must confess that the fact that many of the examples took place in Washington DC, where I live, and where I've taken hundreds of pictures, really brought home some of the lessons.
Date published: 2016-03-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Go Where Others Don't This travel course will teach you some valuable lessons in taking those vacation pictures. One lesson in particular was worth the value of the class. In that lesson Joel Sartore stood on a well- traveled path where all vacationers go to take the pictures of this building, the name of which escapes me for the moment. He said don’t go there; discover your own view of what you want to take away from this scene. What great advice! It is little things like this that helped me ramp up my beginner photography skills more than I could have ever imagined.
Date published: 2016-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2016-03-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed Feelings! In this short series of six video lectures, Joel Sartore, a professional photographer who has done many assignments with the National Geographic magazine, sets outs to provide advice to amateurs regarding travel photography. There is much to comment, both positively and negatively. On the plus side: • the series clearly results from considerable work on numerous locations (Nebraska, Washington, D.C., Virginia, etc.); • many very beautiful photographs are shown, taken no doubt from Mr. Sartore’s personal archives; • Mr. Sartore is very practical and gives down to earth advice as to how to proceed; • his attitude is very encouraging as he favours trial and error as the best way to improve; • he proves sensible, and original with respect to the dozens of Great Courses I have followed, in ending each lecture with an assignment; • he also proves generous by providing a website address and a phone number at the very end of the course. On the negative side: • as may be expected, Mr. Sartore explains how to make photos analogous to those of the National Geographic which, as he unconsciously underscores, result from a considerable amount of staging such as colourfully dressed assistants passing through a scene with bright umbrellas; • many photos are gratuitous and set up just to be bright and attractive; this is the case for instance with the mother and her two sons all running next to a reflecting pool each waving a flag above his or her head; • there are technical glitches with the videography: the lighting is often inadequate, passersby linger in the frame, Mr. Sartore’s hair changes length _ and colour _ from one sequence to the next, much insistence in one sequence is given to not being disrespectful to the U.S. flag by letting it touch the ground … and it clearly does in the following one, etc. • Mr. Sartore as a professional photographer has access to areas off limits to the general public: the choir level of the National Cathedral, beautifully lit stone corridors somewhere in the same building’s ‘backstage area’, etc. • he is openly, and annoyingly, partial to Nebraska, his home state. Overall, despite its qualities, it appears best to pass on this course.
Date published: 2016-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excelent course please do it
Date published: 2016-02-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The art of travel photography I think Joel Sartore is very knowledgable, entertaining and an excellent teacher. However, because I have purchased his other 2 courses, I was disappointed to find that many of the scenes in this course were merely copied from his other productions. If these courses were free, I would have no right to complain.
Date published: 2016-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Photography I have really enjoyed Joel Satore as a photography teacher with his wit and sense of humour. He humbly shows real life examples of how to photograph different situations under various conditions & how to make the photographs better. I would recommend all his photography courses. I learned techniques I have not learnt from other photography courses I have taken.
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Joel Santore photo series This is a fabulous series and gives great insight into many aspects of travel photography. We use it for our photo club meetings.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Real life tips Helpful to see how an expert handles various photo stuations.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Do your next vacation a favor For most of us travel shooters, each new vacation's photos are marginally better than the last one's. But we all look back on our photos with a mix of pride and regret. Oh sure, we get some decent shots. But, IF ONLY we'd taken a more creative approach at this place, done a bit of advance practice with time lapse or long exposure shooting, stopped to create an organized shot list, done a bit of prep work to make sure our equipment would be right for the conditions we encountered, they'd have been even better. Before the next journey, take Joel's course NOW, and you'll get all of those tips before you need them! He covers all sorts of topic areas that will matter to your vacation memories, I promise you. He explains techniques clearly and shows why they work. Well worth the investment to have a renowned NatGeo photographer give you the knowledge and the confidence to shoot the pictures most amateurs won't try, didn't think of or can't execute.
Date published: 2015-12-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2015-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2015-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2015-06-02
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