In the April issue of Spirit we caught up with photographer Joel Sartore, who gave readersfive fail-safe tips for sharpening their picture-taking skills. Below, he tells you what you need to know about snapping shots on the go.
Do the rules for good photographs change when traveling?
No matter where you’re shooting, at home or on the road, you’ll need good light, great composition, and an interesting subject. Shoot at the edges of the day when possible: early morning and dusk. Think about your composition, and try layering it from the background forward. You can do this by looking for an interesting item in the far back—a field, skyscrapers, or a ferris wheel—then identifying something in the middle ground, maybe a line of tourists or a road cutting through the scene. Finally, add a focal point in the front—a monument, a little kid with cotton candy, a juggler. Telling details that suggest a sense of place are what will take your pictures beyond the postcard.
How do you shoot something iconic in a new way?
Find a way to frame your subject or shoot it from a different angle, from above or from the base up. Take advantage of shadows and reflections, and use leading lines—elements within the image that lead the viewer to a different focal point—to move the eye around the image. (Think of a path of individual stones leading to a gate or rows of tulips leading to a windmill.) It also helps to be open to the serendipitous; looking for unexpected elements can help the photo tell a story.
How can you better capture your family members (and the memories made) on vacation?
Catch your family and friends in action instead of a static pose. If you do want to pose them for a portrait, try placing some people in the foreground and some in the background. I’ve even tried posing my friends on the branches of a tree!
Joel Sartore is an award-winning photographer for National Geographic. He gives lectures on his craft through The Great Courses (The Art of Travel Photography: Six Expert Lessons and Fundamentals of Photography). For more information, click here. Photograph above (C) Joel Sartore.