Ugo Cei is a travel photographer based in Milan, Italy who organizes workshops for his company Mediterranean Photo Tours. He also hosts a weekly travel photography podcast called the The Traveling Image Makers. We sat down with this travel aficionado to talk about his tips for getting started in travel photography. Here’s what he had to say:
I’ve always loved traveling and being able to bring memories home from my travels, so travel photography was a natural choice for me. What started as a hobby soon transitioned to a passion, and now it has become a part-time job. I’m fortunate to have a day job that takes me around the world, so the challenge is to cram as much shooting as possible into the limited time I have on location. In this article, I’ll give you a few tips for making the best use of your time if you’re just getting started in travel photography.
Have a Plan
Because I’m usually traveling for work or with family, I don’t have much time that is fully dedicated to photography. I tend to do a lot of research beforehand so I can pack as many locations as possible into the few days I have at my disposal. If you want to get to the best locations at the best possible times:
- Start by taking a look at Google Images and 500PX. This will help you to get a sense of what kinds of shots other photographers have taken.
- Explore Google Maps so you can get an overview of the geography of area you’ll be visiting. For well-known locations, you can almost always find tips from fellow photographers online.
- To anticipate the direction of light at your location, use The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It’s both a website and an app that will tell you where the sun and moon will be in the sky at all times of day.
Always Carry Your Camera With You
When you’re just getting started in travel photography, it’s essential to actually have your camera with you. People often say, “Yeah, I’m into photography. I’d like to do more.” Then they go out and don’t take their camera. Or they take their camera and leave it their bag. The problem is, when they see an interesting subject, they have to take the camera out of the bag, turn it on, figure out the settings they left the camera in, and take the lens cap off. At that point, the scene may have disappeared. If you are really serious about photography, then you should keep your camera in your hand at all times, turned on with the lens cap off. Leave the lens cap at home.
When you’re on location, shoot as much as you can. Of course, there’s something to be said for being parsimonious when you shoot instead of just clicking at random. But especially when you’re just starting out and trying to figure out what your eye is drawn to, just shoot everything and see what works and what doesn’t. We are not in the age of having 36 exposures in a roll anymore, so there’s no reason to limit yourself to that.
Be Ruthless When You Edit
That being said, you can take a thousand photos and 990 of them are just so-so. Just delete them and keep the best ten. An interesting exercise is to go to a city and shoot as many photos as you like. But when you come home, only allow yourself to keep the best five and throw the rest away.
Learn to Observe
Learn to look at things before brining the camera to your eye. Observe the light, and learn to be patient with it. Sometimes you have great light in a particular spot, but the scene will not be great unless someone walks through that spot and is illuminated by a shaft of light coming from an alley or reflected off of the colored walls. Stay there for ten or fifteen minutes and wait for something to happen. If you decide to move on right way, you might miss something really special.
Carry a notebook with you and write down your impressions. Say your doing a photo walk in a city or park and then decide to rest for a while. Whether you go get some coffee, stop at a restaurant or go back to your hotel room, take the time to write down your impressions of the day. Write what you saw, the smells and the sounds. All of these things are part of the memory, not just the visuals.
Travel photography goes hand-and-hand with…travel. Many people say, “I will travel when I have time” or “when I have money” or “when I’m retired” and so on. My advice? Travel now. Travel as much as you can. See new places. Experience other cultures. Go beyond your own backyard. You have to make sacrifices in order to travel sometimes, but I urge you not to wait until it’s too late. You will never regret the things you did, only the things you didn’t do.