The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons

In partnership with
Joel Sartore,
National Geographic Photographer
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4.1 out of 5
120 Reviews
75% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 7912
Video Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Discover the three most important rules of photography - all while exploring famous photogenic locations.
  • numbers Get tips on taking dynamic portraits of individuals and groups.
  • numbers 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
 |  Average 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...
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The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 120.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course This course covers so many great details needed for good photos. Good investment.
Date published: 2019-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Art of Travel 6 Expert Lessons I am a want-a-be photographer and welcome all the hints and lessons give by the National Geographic Photograpers. Thank you Great Courses!
Date published: 2019-03-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Okay if you like fake, setup photography I was disappointed because the emphasis in this course seemed to be on how to hire people and bring props to photography locations in order to create interesting photos. I like to shoot what is there naturally. The idea of posing people and using props and creating situations that actually never would have existed but for your staging repulses me as phony. I know, not everyone feels this way, but if you do, you won't like this course.
Date published: 2019-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Useful tips I found a lot of useful tips to make better photographs on the go. The lessons present many different situations you are in when you are traveling and the tips given by Mr Sartore are easy to understand. I will watch those courses again before going on vacation!
Date published: 2019-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great update for me I took this course just after having followed Joel's Fundamental 1 lecture, perhaps too soon, having not managed to really test in depth everything from his previous 24 lessons, But I may always come back and rehearse the course now that it's in my list ;) Here, Joel goes deeper into the specificity of Travel Photography, with numerous examples, the course summarises and goes further into the subject of the last 12 sessions sessions of the Fundamental 1 course. Joel uses his family and friends to give some animation and human presence in his photos for the course, but as he tells us, if we do not have actors ourselves, now its up to us to be patient and to capture the special event with other visitors or the locals as they move by any great Travel subject shot. Joel's way of presenting is joyful and easy to follow. I highly recommend.
Date published: 2019-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable I really enjoyed this series from Joel. I’m going try and make my travel photos more than the “I was there” type pictures.
Date published: 2019-03-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very basic I have been doing amateur travel photography for quite some time now, but I have never taken any photography courses. From this course I hoped to learn some useful tips and ideas. Alas, it would be more appropriate to call it "The Basics of Travel Photography" rather than "Art". The course revolves mostly around basic stuff like "be creative" and "take your pictures at sunrise and sunset". It does include a few more advanced pieces like using a telephoto lens to blur background, but you'll have to sit through a lot of very basic material to pick them up. On the other hand it does seem to assume familiarity with some basics like layering and rule of thirds. To underline how this course doesn't quite stand up to its promise, only a few of the photos the lecturer takes during the course look good straight out-of-the-camera. When they are shown to us again in the lesson summary, they are heavily post-processed, but post-processing is not part of this course. The presentation is good, although I found it a bit too repetitive. I liked the tasks at the end of each lecture, they were not too hard and really helped summarize the material.
Date published: 2018-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So far.... GREAT! I have only viewed two of the lessons so far, but they’ve proven to be most worthwhile and helpful. Everything seems to be in the ”that makes sense - why didn’t I know that already?” category. Simple, straightforward, informative. Thank you!!
Date published: 2018-12-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Course for those who travel! This course gave me tips on how to take great photos of Monuments, buildings, and scenes that have been photographed to death. I got a lot of helpful instruction from Joel's Fundamentals of Photography I and II, and this course helped me to improve my photography even more.
Date published: 2018-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GREAT TOPICS WELL COVERED I bought this course after i had purchased the Fundamentals of photography also conducted by Mr Joel. This is an absolutely great course as Mr Joel takes you to live field experiences and shows you how to shoot great photos in different environment, how to think during such assignments, what factors to consider while shooting outdoors etc. A lot of learning here in this series and I would greatly recommend photographers who want to learn more to purchase this course.
Date published: 2018-11-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from only thru lesson two Not much detail Just photograph early late and with sun at back Too much time watching him shoot
Date published: 2018-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information I really enjoyed how you covered a variety of subject situations and problems that might occur, then how to fix the situation. So many times I take a photo and it is blah. You showed some of those photos and then changed an angle or moved the subject and it turned into a completely different picture. I always tried to get the people out of the photo so I could see a plain structure. I like that you always included them. I am wondering though if you need a photo release to sell photos with someone in them? The main point that hit me is, besides great light and great composition, you need to have something interesting. That is what many of my photos are missing. Thanks again for your instruction!
Date published: 2018-10-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good course, but... Don't get me wrong with the rating. The course is good, but loosely related to travel photography. Joel does a very good job, but I insist, not really about travel photography.
Date published: 2018-10-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ok if your travel is primarily about photography Good ideas if you’re willing to lug a tripod, a couple flashes units and a light box. But most of us travel partially to photograph but also to see new things without all the gear. We travel with small cameras and no gear. I had hoped for tips on taking great photos with nothing more than a point and shoot or just a smart camera. It’s not about the gear; it’s about the eye, the brain and the heart.
Date published: 2018-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information. I am enjoying this course very much. This is the second photography course I have taken with Great Courses. Joel Satore is a wonderful teacher.
Date published: 2018-08-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good explanations for novice! This is a great lecture for camera novice giving ideas how can make a better picture, from ordinary to great pictures.
Date published: 2018-08-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Non Sence of public desire/interest of subject. Mostly on bra-bra talking images with his pose and expression! We want illustrations, sample results, and comparison photos in view with narrations in background audio to support. Selection of seen, tools, and models are also nonsense: Traveler does not take models, umbrella, canvas: Author should experience himself to tour travel.
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take "travel" photos on a walk around the block I have taken both the Fundamentals of Photography courses so I must find the professor pretty good. From the content of course I am able to see more photo ops when I am just walking around. This course is good because, unlike the Fundamentals courses, it is about travel, so it is not so equipment heavy. Use your eyes, and make do with what you have with you.
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Joel is a consummate expert. He explains not only the how but the why so you have reason and logic and not gave to rely on rote memorization
Date published: 2018-04-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not for programmed travel tour Uses models and talks about choosing early hours and taking time to set things up. Made some interesting points about layered setting etc. and lighting. Not much about altering focus and light to get special effects. Left wanting more as to getting the best out of a particular situation. More than come early in the morning, shoot on the beach and use people to make it interesting.
Date published: 2018-03-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well described title This program is about how to look at your surroundings to get the best picture. It looks at composition, light, foregrounds and backgrounds, all the things you should be thinking about if you want an interesting photo and not just a document. I would have liked a little more technical information. He tells us he is changing a setting, but does not say what or why. He does reference the ISO, and talks about what different lenses bring, but I would have been interested in how the aperture setting, for example, affects the photo. The course does what it does very well.
Date published: 2018-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I like the video format - so much better to have an individual speak to a photograph rather than read it in a book. Lots of useful tips
Date published: 2018-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really, really good. I purchased all three courses by Joel Sartore: Fundamentals of Photography I, Fundamentals of Photography II, and now The Art of Travel Photography. All are really helpful. Joel explains things very well, gives very practical advice and demonstrates the techniques. I have taken many photography courses, many of which have not been worth the money I spent, but and these three have to be among the very best.
Date published: 2018-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great so far I have not completed the course yet but so far it is great
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Instruction. Mr. Sartore gives a no nonsense right to the point explanation with out the technobabble that others use. I have used the Technics learned in my every day photography.
Date published: 2018-02-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Some helpful thoughts There were some helpful thoughts and ideas. It would be good for a budding photographer but for average hobby photographer not so helpful. Travellers often don't have the luxury of shooting at dawn or dusk especially when travelling with others. Using models while interesting not particularly helpful as friends or family are not necessarily so willing to follow your whims. Being aware of lighting, the angle or foreground and background helpful thoughts especially to reduce business. Not sure I would recommend this video to others.
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exelent guidelines in all six lessons Easy to using and follow the directions and the lecture
Date published: 2017-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Omnipotent This lecture gives what I want to learn how to operate a camera and shooting ABC. Thanks thanks and thanks.
Date published: 2017-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exactly as described. Great course. Very well done.Really enjoying the presentations.
Date published: 2017-10-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great series I really enjoyed this short series. I picked up quite a few tricks to help focus my photography while traveling. However Joe Sartore's Fundamentals of Photography I was superb.
Date published: 2017-10-15
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