Travel photography is a popular reason for people to buy a camera, and to actually use it. Before you go, buy my book on travel photography and have me put on my Impactful Travel Photography seminar for you and a few friends (see http://learning.photography).  And let me give you just a couple of starting notes in this post.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

First: research where exactly you are going to go. I use Flickr and to a lesser extent Google image search to look for great images in the location I am going to. Then I look up where exactly they were taken, and at what time of day (Flickr usually retains the EXIF data). I look for best viewpoints and then research where they are: “where was that great photo taken from, and at what time”. I even look at what lenses were used. Not that you should copy, but you can draw conclusions from that kind of data.

View from the Hotel Chelsea, NY, NY

I also look up attractions’ GPS coordinates, since attractions do not always have a street address. You can google that: Searching for “latitude and longitude of Zabriskie Point” gives you “36.4200° N, 116.8111° W”.

I also look for shooting locations of Hollywood movies: why not let Hollywood do the heavy lifting of finding great locations?

On location, I always ask the hotel reception, the concierge; I buy postcards of locations, and I look for events, since people often do not mind being photographed at them; they expect, rather than resist, cameras.

Bring an app like Daylight to check exact sunrise and sunset times; an hour each way around sunrise and sunset , you get wonderful light.

Then check you have what you need. Camera(s); batteries; chargers; memory cards; lenses; flash(es); perhaps an ND and Polarizing filter or two; some cloths for cleaning (anything that is small, light and cheap is good!); whatever you need, think about it now, not just before traveling.

In other words: preparation does wonders when traveling.

Symbolism in your photos

Photos tell stories. Some stories are good, or at least, are allowed. Like the end of the summer in the southern Netherlands, the other day:

All these help tell the story and are very evocative if you’ve been there.

Other types of symbolism are best left alone. Like an 85-year old walking away into the sunset, and worse, unmistakably in the centre:

This is not the kind of symbolism you should strive for—at least not unintentionally.

The moral of today’s post: ask yourself: “what does my photo mean”? If you cannot answer that, you have a snapshot.

I would say more, but I am about to board a flight to Reykjavik and thence, to Toronto.


Telling a story

If I do manage to get to Israel (help me out here for the crowdsourcing project) then I will do a few things. Other than, of course, the purely mechanical.

First, of course, I will constantly remind myself that I am neutral. For any photojournalism to be worth that name, it has to be impartial. Now, I am going to cover a particular story, of course. But that does not imply bias. Sometimes, journalists have to remind themselves they are there to observe; they are not activists. Of course the very choice of subjects implies an agenda, but it can be an impartial agenda (“in search of justice” rather than “in search of justice for party X”).

Second, I will make this a story, and arrange shoots to show that story. My story really here would contain  the following elements:

  • Who’s who? Newspaper readers may think “Israel”: is one unit.. but Israel consists of various types of Jews, various creeds of Muslims, and of Druze, Bahai, and many more. Informing would be good. Showing how these groups live, who they are, how they interact.
  • Show people under the daily threat of violence. The sign above is not unusual. Imagine being confronted with such things daily.
  • Show who is getting on which whom, or if not, why not. The byzantine nature of Middle East politics is not easy to explain in a few photos, but I can shed some light on it no doubt.
  • Show, if possible, both problems and resolutions.

And all this has to be storytelling.

This particular photo assignment may or may not go ahead (depends on you, kind pledgers—only four days left..please help if you can); but what matters more is that the principles here apply to pretty much all photojournalism.

And no, photojournalism makes no-one any money. Most photojournalists, as an acquainted newspaper photo editor just reminded me, make a loss. As will I: consider it my volunteer work.


Photojournalism Israel: Help me fund!

I set up a kickstarter link… ready to take your pledges now. And your other help, ideas, contacts: you name it. Go here:


Click and read, and let me know any questions. I have allowed one week only. This is so that I can book tickets and guide, and prepare interviews, locations, etc.

I look forward to seeing this spread widely, so the trip can go ahead.