#1 Great travel photos are planned
Just think about what you are going to do, understand the scene, watch the light, the movement of people inside the image. When you take your pictures you have to consider all factors: from the time of day and the light, to the emotional preparation of the characters. It is true that luck exists, that someone at some time photographed just that smile, that you can collect stolen photos using a long lens. But few stolen photos have survived to become part of the history of travel photography.
#2 The hair in your soup: An error for some people is something creative for others
A hair is a hair, but one thing is having it on your head and another quite different story is finding it in your soup. An error for some people is something creative for others.
Some questions customers usually ask me when traveling together are:
- Is it okay if I use an aperture of f/8?
- Hey, what is the right speed for this?
- Does it matter if it comes out fuzzy?
My answer is always the same: It depends on what you want to do and what you want to highlight.
In sports photography you usually want to focus movement, and for this purpose you use high sensitivity (ISO) and high speed (shutter speed); but great photographers – specialists in their field – leave images fuzzy to emphasize movement, and get splendid results.
The important thing is that viewers of your photo understand the way you have used the error: if you intended to show movement, the viewer must understand it that way. Otherwise the result is just a blurred picture.
#3 Eyes are the magnet of every photo
Look into people’s eyes, make personal contact. Eyes say a lot about people’s emotions, so much so that in many cultures people don’t want to look you in the eyes because they fear that you will be able to guess what they are thinking. Look for the light in the eyes – or total darkness. They are a magnificent photographic story line.
#4 One good photo a day – nothing else – nothing more
There is no rush. You don’t have to go off shooting like crazy. One photo a day is much more than the greatest photographers achieve when traveling. Don’t rush when shooting the photo. Take your time to take a good photo rather than waiting for luck to achieve what you are not capable of doing calmly.
#5 Forget about the long lenses if you are actually interested in real people on the street
The long lens is the perfect instrument to get away from people, and keep them at a distance. It isn’t the best method to create emotions and capture them in a photo. Get close. Look into people’s eyes. Create an emotion! The vast majority of Magnum’s photographers specializing in people prefer 24mm, 28mm or 35mm lenses.
If you want to grow as a photographer, use prime lenses: they force you to be fully aware of the frame and to take your time. If you are too far away, get closer. If you are too close, move away. I assure you that you will notice a tremendous improvement in your photos. If you don’t own fixed lenses, set your lens to the 35mm position using a band-aid.
#6 Many good pictures are made on your knees
Yes, on your knees. You’ll see how your whole concept of photography changes. I always get irritated by tourists taking pictures standing, from above, of a monk who is sitting on the floor. If you want people to have respect for you, the first thing you have to do is to show respect for others. Get down to their same height.
#7 Find the best light and walk uphill or look for the worst light
Get up very early or wait for dusk. The best light appears with sunrise and lasts for the next 20 minutes or at nightfall. Walk where nobody else walks. In cities and villages, you will most certainly find more opportunities than most photographers, by going uphill, because most people look for what is easiest and requires less effort.
It always depends on what you want to show. Many great pictures are made at the worst moment: when the sun is at its zenith. This situation is exceptional for emphasizing shadows and highlighting hard heat conditions.
#8 Don’t act like a pro
Don’t work, just take photos. Many professional photographers who have lost their way in the struggle to create saleable images come to my courses. Try to keep up your freshness. Remember what it was that originally attracted you to photography. Don’t be afraid of taking photos your colleagues don’t like, and especially don’t be afraid of taking photos that don’t sell.