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
116 Reviews
74% of reviewers would recommend this product
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
 |  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

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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 4.0 out of 5 by 116.
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
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2015-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Travel Photography I found this course to be pretty good, but not quite what I was looking for. It was a lot of useful information. It was like another reviewer stated it was staged.
Date published: 2015-03-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I already knew most of the content. Some ideas could never be used in my travels since the photos were staged with people in colorful clothes, men on horses performing as Joel Sartore asked them to and having the time to spend an hour or more walking around to get the best view. I returned the DVD two weeks ago and have yet to receive my refund check. Shipment for the DVD was $10 because it was shipped in a box significantly larger than the DVD since it included a catalogue to purchase more courses. Very disappointed.
Date published: 2015-03-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Helpful if you have unlimited photography time This DVD was titled Travel Photography. I was disappointed to learn that it is geared to a National Geographic photographer who has unlimited time to capture just the right photo in just the perfect lighting etc. My travel experiences are with groups and I cannot possibly choose the time of day or the number of hours I am willing to wait for a particular event to occur. The DVD is not what I expected and for that reason wasn't particularly helpful to mel. The presentation is good, but not useful to a tourist who has no choice of time of day nor of wait-time.
Date published: 2015-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great vacation tips and tricks! Joel Sartore quickly gets you thinking about how to take your next vacation photos. Although he uses a camera that 2% of travelers can afford, his Down-to-Earth lectures and demonstrations apply to any camera. Water problems, harsh noon sun, caves and group shots are all covered. Well organized and easily referenced, I'm sure to go back and review these tips again and again. You will find something of value to change your photo habits forever!
Date published: 2015-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Close Captions Needed With so much monologue through the DVD most of the information is lost to those who are hard of hearing. Please, in the future, add Closed Captioning throughout. I would so love to know what is being said.
Date published: 2015-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tips on Travel Photography The presenter shares from a wealth of experience as a photographer for National Geographic. I learned WHY the rules of thirds make a difference in outcome, and I appreciated his demonstrations of taking group pictures that are outside the ordinary. His point about taking time ahead of the photo-shoot to PLAN the picture is key to the outcome especially when the subjects of my pictures are often families with small children who soon tire of the exploratory process of setting the scene! This set of DVDs is worthwhile and I will watch it again. --A Great Course!
Date published: 2015-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spoiled After gettting two courses with the professional being Joel Startore, I will only go to Great Courses when seeking instruction on photography. I took photography courses in college and not one even compared to the information that Mr. Startore presents. The only problem I have is that there are not more photography courses on Great Courses. I also have ";The Art of Travek Phootography" and "Masters of Photography." It is a same there are not more courses present by Great Courses. If you are at any level of photography, I hightly recommend that you take the photography courses offered by The Great Courses. You will not regret it at all.
Date published: 2015-02-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The professor repeats some of the same points a lot, but hearing him talk about his process and watching him work out problems with lighting on actual shoots is incredibly helpful and informative. Good exposure (haha puns) to the practical application of the lessons.
Date published: 2015-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific refresher course; great for newbies too! I have been photographing for 30 years but felt my travel images were stuck in a rut. This short course both reminded me of principals I'd forgotten and taught me new approaches to improving my photos. The instructor was clear and enthusiastic. His points were clearly illustrated; he was detailed without belaboring his points. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Six Easy Lessons to Improve Your Travel Photos Ever come home from a nice vacation at a scenic location like Maui or the Grand Tetons, or even the town next door; hoping to share some great photos with your family and friends? Only you found them -- well, a little flat; maybe even boring? Learn from a National Geographic photographer, in six easy lessons, how to make your photographs really sing. With just a few tricks learned from photographer, Joel Sartore, your photos will pop with visual interest. Joel gives demonstrations on how to prepare and be ready to capture outstanding photographic images. So on your next trip, bring your camera and new visual skills in the art of travel photography.
Date published: 2015-01-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst Pictures I've Seen For a course that professes to show how to take great original travel pictures, this one misses the mark. The advice is good, but the actual pictures the photographer takes are not that great. I would give my yearbook students a hard time if they took pictures like this.
Date published: 2015-01-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2014-12-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2014-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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!
Date published: 2014-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from He has a great way of presenting the material. I appreciate the examples he uses/shares.
Date published: 2014-11-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Very Basic Beginners Guide If you've been around a DSLR for more than about year this will be too basic for you. The presentation was good, Joel is a very good photographer and this is very much a beginners guide. I like that Joel urges you to think outside the box and veer away from the basic point and shoot scenario. There was nothing very technical here. I was more interested in ideas for shooting in difficult situations but I feel the course fell short on delivering that information. Just my opinion but there was nothing here that you can't find on You Tube for free. I feel the introduction video promised more than it delivered.
Date published: 2014-11-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not for average travelers This course had a lot of good information. Unfortunately, it was for people who travel to take photographs, not for people who take photographs while they travel. The main recommendations included scouting locations and vantage points ahead of time and remaining in a location for hours waiting for the lighting or the activity there to give you just the right photo. The instructor even chartered a helicopter to get just the right photo. Now, these may be great ideas for people who travel to take photographs, but not for people who take photographs while they travel.
Date published: 2014-11-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Art of Travel Photography Wow, I really expected a lot more from a National Geographic photographer. Some of the comments were in general keeping with standard photography, but the bulk of the class was including people, many times incidental to the photograph. I was expecting techniques on location and wildlife photography, not what this course delivered. Did not learn anything new from this class. Would not take another class with this instructor and am concerned about other courses as well.
Date published: 2014-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course I found this an excellent coarse and well worth the time and the price. I travel internationally and am a competent amateur photographer using a higher end amateur Canon DSLR. I use photos of people, culture and architecture of foreign places in my work. This coarse definitively took me to a new level. The presenter seemed laid back and completely comfortable with the topics. This coarse seems to me to have applicability to a range of photography skill levels and equipment. I recommend this to anyone from the person wanting to take better pictures of their friends and family to serious amateurs wishing to kick their skills up a level or two. Use of flash lighting, complex lighting without using a flash and increasing the interest and creativity in my photography were the three areas where I learned the most from this coarse.
Date published: 2014-10-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from OS 8.0.2 Very interesting ideas and tips on how to take a great picture. Sorry to say, it totally stopped working after I installed OS 8.0.2
Date published: 2014-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fundamentals to another level. This course is a continuation of the Fundamentals of Photography--with advanced application to travel photography. There is advanced information on light, composition, subject choice and selecting the best angle for shooting. This course enables me to "get out of the rut" of shooting subjects (people, buildings and landscapes) the same way regardless of my travel location. Further, I better appreciate having my pictures "tell a story," rather than appear as nice postcards. Because much of the discussion centers around appropriate adjustments to the camera (aperture, shutter speed, artificial lighting and ISO), this is a course best for one using a DSLR camera rather than a "point-and-shoot" camera. The presentations are casual--rather than stilted. I enjoyed it!
Date published: 2014-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Art of Travel Photography In general this course has interesting material and is well presented. It is oriented toward photographers with at least average DSL cameras. Those with point and shoot cameras or camera phones would find it beyond their capabilities. Some of his illustrations while interesting are beyond the realm of most amateur and even some professional photographers. Most of us are not likely to be able to climb up the scaffolding of the state capital, or rent a helicopter in South America. Few of us would also be unlikely to have several cowboys on horses on the beach posing for us. I think he could have illustrated the points he is making using more common objects or situations.
Date published: 2014-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What to know befor you go! If you travel and take a camera with you then you owe to yourself to take this course. I would recommend taking the Fundamentals of Photography first but it is not absolutely necessary. Joel will have you looking at the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary. I am heading out on some vacation at the end of the month and I am already visualizing shots in my head. This course will make you a better photographer! I can not wait for the next course.
Date published: 2014-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Valuable Tips for Improving Travel Photos As other reviewers have noted, this short course is a practical follow-on to Joel Sartore’s general introductory course on photography. I remarked in my review of that course that it provided solid basic information for beginners and occasional film photographers intimidated by the seeming complexities of digital cameras. The new course, again more technique than technical in substance, focuses on how to achieve more interesting and innovative pictures when traveling, whether near home or abroad in exotic destinations. He counsels going beyond “postcard” views of familiar sites that most tourists try to reproduce by seeking different vantage points and including where feasible, people, animals and interesting backgrounds. His tips stress the artistic advantages of taking pictures in low-light, at dawn and at dusk, rather than in harsh, mid-day sunlight. He explains how to obtain special effects in motion and focus by switching from Auto to Aperture or Shutter Priority, options available even on most low-end, point-and-shoot digital cameras. Regarding composition, aside from the central subject, he cautions not to overlook the importance of framing and layering for more effective photos, since, he argues, to be truly worthwhile a single photograph, or a short sequence of frames, should tell a story. While many of his examples were filmed with a large high-end DSLR camera with a long zoom lens, a versatile detached flash, a heavy tripod and attractive young models, aids that are beyond the practical capacity of most amateurs, he points out correctly that similarly pleasing results can be achieved with more modest equipment, plus a good measure of patience, thought and imagination. This six-lecture course can easily be viewed and absorbed in one day, perhaps just before an important vacation trip. Even with ten years of intermittent experience with increasingly sophisticated digital cameras, I found his tips valuable and learned a few new angles to be tested on my next trip this summer.
Date published: 2014-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Travel Expert After taking Joel's course on the Fundamentals of Photography, he recommended The Art of Travel Photography as a good follow up. As I enjoy visiting and photographing historic sites, it was a perfect fit. Very much enjoyed it. I do believe that a novice photographer will benefit more by taking the Fundamentals course first.
Date published: 2014-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great follow on course to Photography Fundamentals I took this course as a follow on to the Photography fundamentals course taught also by Joel Sartore. Like the first course, this was an excellent course that was professionally done by the professor and the staff. I gave this 5 stars because the course covers all of the major topics you may encounter while traveling on vacation and it is done with the easy style of the professor. Very easy to watch and learn. The course covers 6 different topics for travel photography but the professor does a great job weaving in the basic concepts he taught in the fundamentals course. Not much time was spent on the basic concepts but enough so that you can understand how it fits with the topic of the lesson. While I don't think you would have to take the fundamentals course before this one, I do believe that for the beginner to immediate level photographer, it would be very beneficial to have taken it prior to the travel to get the most out of the course.
Date published: 2014-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A course that makes you think This is a course that is designed to make you think about doing things differently. It is not a fundamental photography course. This course encourages you to see all the things you have seen before in a different way. Become creative! Don't do the same shot someone else has...create your own...using your own creativity. In this course you learn some techniques that make you think before you shoot.
Date published: 2014-02-15
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