Work from a shot list.
As photographers, we tend to have an interest in one or two genres of photography, perhaps for you it’s people, landscapes or food. It’s perfectly fine, and highly recommended, to specialize in a certain area so you get really proficient at that type of imagery. However, as a travel photographer looking to bring back an overall cultural portrait of a place, one that tells a complete story for the viewers of my work, I have to be a generalist, and that means bringing back solid images of all different types.
We’ve all sat through a fellow photographer’s presentation from his or her latest trip to [insert location here], and although the images may have been good, or even fantastic, after the 10th or 12th landscape in a row, enough is enough, right? The idea is to keep the viewer’s interest by presenting images that show a variety of the distinctive characteristics of a destination, or even a particular subject.
In a class I teach called Capturing the Essence of a Place, I discuss the importance of adhering to a fundamental principle of photography, the idea of working from a shot list. A shot list provides a framework for returning with a well-rounded portfolio of images that conveys the true feeling of what it was like to actually be there, and it’s made up of categories. I’ve come up with over 50 wide-ranging categories, just some of which include People, Landmarks, Details, Culture & Customs, Establishing Shots, Everyday Life, Fashion & Style, History, Humor, and many more.
Because I got tired of carrying around cumbersome pen and paper, and later using my iPhone’s Notes app for creating shot lists while out in the field leading tours or traveling on my own, I decided to create the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone and iPod touch (it works on the iPad, but it’s not currently optimized for that device). At US 99 cents, it’s a great tool for organizing and tracking a shot list, and it’s customizable for any destination or subject. It also comes complete with sample images and descriptions for each category.
The user can take advantage of the device’s internal camera capabilities and My Data feature to capture images from within the app. He or she can add notes to each image, such as the exact location it was shot, best time of day, equipment suggestions, contacts, and more. There’s also a Challenge Me feature that’s activated by shaking the device or tapping the Challenge Me button. Doing so adds a new category to the top of the current shot list. The idea is to push the user out of his or her comfort zone and to get them thinking about categories that aren’t on their shot list, as a sort of test or personal assignment to be on the lookout for those types of photo opportunities that day or week.
As a travel photography instructor, my main goal is to help anyone with a camera to bring back a more varied and interesting set of images from their travels, whether venturing around the world or around the corner. The idea is to return with a compelling set of images that will then be a solid basis for interesting slideshows, books, albums and websites, however it is that the user is presenting his or her photography. We’re storytellers, so be sure to portray a complete story of whatever it is that you’re photographing.