Travel Photography

7 practical tips for photographing the city

By Kav Dadfar
Cities are excellent places for any photographer. Whether you like to shoot street scenes, landscapes, portraits or architecture - the urban environment offers a wealth of opportunities
By following some simple steps when planning your shoots and when you're out in the field, you'll be able to get the most out of any city that you're photographing.
New York City

Plan a shot list


The key to any successful photoshoot is research and planning. This is even more important when photographing a city.

There are many photo opportunities to be found – and to ensure that you maximise your time, you need to have a shoot plan, or otherwise known as a shot list.

A shot list is simply a list of what you want to try to cover on any given shoot. This might be a simple bullet point list places. or something more detailed like the exact location and time of the day you want to be there.

I print out maps and mark potential spots. I also include the time it will take me to get to places.

The basis of a good shot list is research and planning. I can honestly say that I spend more time researching and planning a city shoot than actually taking images.

Here’s how I go about researching my city shoots:

Define the purpose of the shoot – cities are big places and trying to photograph everything might be impractical. So, try to define precisely what you want to achieve.

Begin your research – once you have an idea of what you are going to be shooting, take time to research it. Begin by searching on the internet and make a note of any exciting locations. Look through social media for example photos of the places you are hoping to shoot. Browse Google Maps for points of interest.

Write a shot list – once you’ve gathered information, you can start to plan your shoot. The level of detail you want to go into will come down to you. I try to plan shoots on a spreadsheet almost to the hour – so that I know where I need to be. I factor in travel times between locations and even make contingency plans in case of bad weather. All of this helps me maximise my time and efficiency when on location.

I use a simple spreadsheet like this to plan out my city shoots.

2 Take your time

One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make when planning their shoots is trying to cram in too much… Trying to photograph everything will probably mean not photographing anything well.

Try to give yourself more time than you think you will need. Not only will this allow you to find unique angles and views, but it will also mean you can go back if the conditions aren’t right first time round.

Motion blur from traffic passing through the arches of Tower Bridge, over the River Thames, London. Image by Tom Wilkinson.

3 Always be ready

The great thing about photographing cities is that for all your planning, there will also always be spontaneous photo opportunities – so you need to be ready for them.

When on location, make sure your camera is out of your bag, it’s turned on with the lens cap off. The last thing you want when a great photo opportunity is in front of you, is to be scrambling around trying to find your camera.

Man crossing the street during the rain. Toronto, ON, Canada. Image by Sven Hartmann.

A good habit to get into is to continuously change your exposure settings every time you move to a different location.

For example, suppose you’re walking in a narrow, dark alleyway. In that case, you will likely need to raise your ISO so that your’e allowing more light to reach the camera. But when you’re in a main street and in bright sunshine, change your settings again by reducing your ISO.

This constant tweaking will ensure that your settings are approximate to what you want them to be when you need to take a photo.

Walking through subway with an umbrella. Image by Mark Harrop.

Get up early

If you want to shoot without the crowds, get up early in the morning.

Not only can you take advantage of the early morning golden hour light, but you’ll often find you have the place to yourself.

Crowds at Alhambra viewpoint, Granada in the afternoon.
The same spot just after sunrise. Images by Kav Dadfar.

Safety:

If you’re venturing out when there’s going to be less people around, be aware of your surroundings. If you’re not familiar with the area you’re photographing, try to go with someone else, or even ask a taxi to wait for you while you take photos.

Dawn at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi. Image by Kav Dadfar

5 Look for rivers and bridges


One of the most striking photos of any city is often its skyline.

The best places for cityscapes are often riversides or bridges as you’ll get a natural clearance to see the city.

It also means that you’ll have a spot where you can easily photograph the skyline at sunrise and sunset (using a tripod) to get those dramatic skies and soft light.

Picture taken at sunrise from the Millennium Bridge, London looking towards The Shard, with Tower Bridge is in the distance. Image from Colin Lines.

Google Street View is a great tool for finding good locations for these cityscape shots. For most of the famous cities around the world, you can pretty much find the exact spot that you need to be at using Street View.

But another good place to capture cityscapes is often from rooftop bars. Every city will have some restaurants, bars or even viewing platforms that offer great views.

The downside of these is that often they are not open at the ideal times for photography or there are entrance fees. Some also won’t allow tripods which makes it difficult to capture photos in low light conditions.

Tip:Look for hotel rooms that have a good view of the city. You can even ask when booking a room or checking-in if they can give you a city view room. I have lost count of the number of times that I have managed to take amazing cityscape shots from my hotel room.

Photographing the Bangkok skyline from a hotel balcony. Image by Kav Dadfar.

6 Head to markets

Markets are one of the best places to photograph in cities. They are a hub of activity, and if it’s a city you’re visiting – you will often be able to get a glimpse of everyday life.

From portraits of the market vendors to the moments of interaction, or the colourful variety of food and products on sale, they offer a range of opportunities for interesting and engaging shots. I always ensure I add markets to my shot list in any city.

The Rialto market in Venice. Image by Kav Dadfar.

7 Look for the details

Think of any city in the world and the first image that comes to mind is often the landmarks, but some of the most interesting shots can be found in overlooked details.

It could be architectural patterns, graffiti or even an interesting doorway. These details will help give your portfolio variety and also offer a different view of a well-photographed place.

Image by Kav Dadfar
Doorways in Pisa, Italy. Image by Francesco Del Santo.
Rooftops of Kavala, Greece. Image from Anna Sowinska.

Whether it’s a city you’re visiting, or the city that you live in – with these tips, some careful planning and some imagination – you’ll be getting those incredible cityscape shots in no time!


Kav Dadfar

Kav is a full-time photographer and author of 400+ articles. He is also a judge on the Wanderlust Magazine Photography of the Year competition and leads small group photo tours around the world.

TOP 15 SITES TO SELL YOUR PHOTOS ONLINE

SEPTEMBER 20, 2014 curated article by: Elle-Rose,

I take a lot of travel photos (it comes naturally, being a travel blogger!) and I’m always thinking of ways that those photos can make me money. I love the photos I’ve taken, so surely other people would too?

Here I’ve put together a big list of websites where you can sell your travel photos online, some are big companies you’ll have heard of – others are smaller companies – that might make a better choice if you’re taking this on as a side project for extra ‘pocket-money’. Either way – these are all great places to sell your photos online – so get reading!

Shop UltraWebHosting.com Now!

iStock Photo

Sell your images through iStock Photo and you’ll earn a royalty rate of 15% for each download. There is also an option to become an exclusive contributor and earn up to 45% instead, which is pretty impressive. These website has a good community feel to it – there are lots of forums and group discussion, which really helps when you’re trying to figure out which of your photos will sell online better than others.

Art Storefronts

Learn how to sell photos online as fine art, and get your own eCommerce website with must-have features to increase your art sales.  This is a robust website platform for professional photographers focused on selling their images as art prints.  They provide first-class educational resources, and a step-by-step Success Plan to ensure that you follow best-practices.  You can print and fulfill your own orders, choose your own lab, or use one of their labs for automated print fulfillment (“print on demand”).  There is also a members-only forum where all customers share ideas, sales strategies, and receive guidance from industry experts.

TourPhotos.com 

If you work in travel, and want to make extra money from your photos – TourPhotos is a professional photography platform dedicated to tourism and activity companies. It will help you manage and deliver your tour photos (the photographs from your activities, excursions and attractions) to your customers. You will be able to choose whether to sell or make your photos available for free (SELL plan or GIVE plan). TourPhotos charges between 19% and 25% commission on your sales with zero fixed fees (if you decide to sell photos) or a 19$/49$ (pro/business) monthly fee if you decide to share your photos for free.
With its endless features and tools, TourPhotos guarantees you, your photographers and your final customers an extremely user-friendly, customisable and professional experience.

SmugMug

This website is a lot like an online gallery or portfolio – with the added benefit of being able to sell your photos online via the tool too. It’s great as it has two purposes. The first (of course) to sell your photos, the second – to make them look awesome. And you’re more likely to sell more photos online, the more professional and awesome you’ve got them displayed.  You can set your own pricing and you get to keep 85% of the markup – but that’s not all, as well as selling digital downloads, you have the option of selling prints and greetings cards too, which is good for those of us who want more selling options.

Unlimited Photo Storage

Alamy

On Alamy photographers earn a whopping 60% royalty fee on any images they sell, so it’s easy to see why this website is such a popular choice when it comes to selling photos online. It’s one of the world’s largest stock photo libraries – so you’l have a fair bit of competition,  but maybe that’s a good thing and will help you step up your game!

Stockxpert

This is one of the smaller websites on the list, but still offers a great reach for beginners – so would make a fantastic option for anyone wanting to dip their toe into the world of selling photos online. The royalty isn’t too bad either – you’ll get 50% of the price of each photos you sell.

Dreamstime

Dreamstime is a microstock agency, and one of the best there is. Aside from being easy to use, it is well thought of and reputable too – which is just as important when making the decision of where to sell your photos online. Before you start selling, you’ll need to get your images approved by their editors (which can be a long process) but once you’ve been approved and you’ve got the hang of it, a rate of 25-50% royalty is yours for the taking.

Travel Accessories

PhotoShelter

This is perhaps one of the more well known options on this list, and if you like the idea of selling your work (but at the same time want to retain complete control and pocket more of the profit – who doesn’t want those things?) you could consider setting up a professional photography website with built-in ecommerce from PhotoShelter. The PhotoShelter system is modern, and will make your images look beautiful.

Crestock

To start selling with Crestock, simply sign up to their website, follow through the easy registration process… and you’re good to go! They’ll give you 30% royalty, so once the images have been approved by staff you may be able to start selling images within the week!

Fotolia

I like Fotolia for its convenience, fair royalties and expansive market reach. Sign up and present your work to more than four million image buyers around the world, around the clock and you’ll notice your images start selling quickly and seamlessly. Each time one of your photos sell, you earn a royalty of between 20% and 63% of your sale, which is immediately added to your Fotolia account – which takes away any money hassles.

Shutterstock

Shutterstock is a highly ranking website which means it likely gets a lot of online traffic – perfect for making sure you sell your photos! Shutterstock also have an approval process in place – and you’ll have to submit ten initial images for approval before you can proceed with any others. But no fear! There are many online forums on their website where you can pick up hints and tips for getting this right first time. With Shutterstock you’ll earn between $0.25 and $28 each time an image of yours sells, depending on the licence.

123RF

With this site, their royalty structure is based on your contributor level, which is quite unique. It basically means, the more images you upload, the more you can earn – good news for anyone who plans to commit to this full-time. The amount you receive could rise from 30% up to 60% if you are particularly active on the site – so get started quickly and build up your reputation.

Can Stock Photo

Can Stock Photo offers photographers a 50% royalty fee which is great if you’re just starting out. Once you’re a member it’s easy to submit images and you can get going almost immediately.

Zenfolio

Zenfolio allows you to create a portfolio site of your work, a little like Smug Mug mentioned above. You can upload photos, create galleries, password protect galleries, and make your photos available for purchase – a great option for wedding and event photographers where you might make several sales off the back of one event. There is a 14-day free trial available if you want to give it a spin first.

Red Bubble

This is a more quirky one, but I wanted to include it! If your images are more VSCO and Instagram friendly – than studio lighting and fake smiles, you may find the audience on Red Bubble more interested in what you have to sell. They don’t just sell images, it’s all about the products too – so you could sell canvases with your images on, for example.

Snap Market

This is a bargain stock photo website, so the amount you’ll make will be less per image – but if people buy in bulk, it may end up equalising anyway. With a less strict submission process that other big names on this list, it may be a good option for anyone wanting to test the water.

My Banner

5 marketing ideas for your photography business

ByKav Dadfar

Like any other business, your photography business requires good marketing and a strategy to help increase its revenue. Here are five simple ideas you can try out…

One of the most important lessons I learned early in my photography career was that to be a commercially-successful photographer, you cannot just be a good photographer. You need to view your photography as a business.

That means being proactive in promoting your work and marketing yourself to potential clients, which is even more critical these days when there is so much competition out there. To help your business grow, you need to start thinking like both a photographer and a marketing manager. These five ideas will help you get into that frame of mind.

BELLA+CANVAS

1 Write a marketing plan

All photographers are guilty of the ‘scattergun’ marketing approach. This means the type of marketing strategy that involves the odd social media post, Google ad or a sporadic email to a client. Not many photographers take the time to think and plan their marketing strategy. But planning one presents a real opportunity.

Start by thinking about your photography business overall. Write down what you are hoping to achieve short term and long term. For example, ask yourself, are there any particular customers who you would like approach? Or do you want to start selling photography-related products like calendars and prints? Once you have an idea about your business goals, you can begin devising a marketing plan.

Create a marketing strategy for your photography business and set a range of goals on what you want to achieve in the short-term and long-term.

Think of all the different marketing avenues that you can follow, such as social media, email and networking, and create a strategy for each one. It is not enough to think, “I’ll post a photo on Instagram”. You need to know why you are doing it and what you will be doing. For example, you might choose to use Instagram to showcase photos you want to sell as prints, whereas in an email to your client list, you might like to talk about a shoot you have recently finished.

The important thing is to treat each marketing channel separately and create a bespoke plan for each one that ties into your overall strategy.

My Instagram profile showcases a curated selection of my images and highlights some of the clients I work with.

Top tip:

For a deeper dive into channel-specific social media marketing, check out the dedicated guides found on your Picfair Dashboard here.

photography.com


One of the best ways to market your business is to continually keep your contacts and clients informed with news and updates about you and your work. For example, when you finish a new shoot, you could create an album on Picfair with your best images and send an email to your contacts and customers to tell them about it. A proactive approach like this could mean you end up with more sales than you were expecting!

Emails don’t need to be regular. You should make sure everything you send out adds value to your photography business. Make a list of ideas, upcoming shoots, or anything else that is relevant. Then make a note in your diary and who you want to email so that you are ready when the time comes to get in touch.

Popular holidays such as Halloween and Christmas are also a great reason to get in touch with your customers and showcase your themed images.

Send your customers themed holiday emails that showcase your work. Image buyers regularly purchase holiday-themed images. And a friendly email is an ideal way to remind your customers about your photography.

You may also find that emails tailored to particular clients or potential customers will be more successful than blanket emails and better appreciated by the recipient. This is another reason why it is essential to make a proper plan of who you are emailing and why.

Create a calendar for your emails so you can plan well in advance and make sure what you’re going to send out adds value each time.

Create a calendar for your emails so you can plan well in advance and make sure what you’re going to send out adds value.

Don’t neglect print marketing


If you are old enough, you may remember how great it felt when you received a postcard from a relative from their vacation. In today’s digital world, we have somewhat lost the practice of sending out physical correspondence. But you should not underestimate the power of sending out something related to your photography business in print. It will stand out much more than an email and help the recipient keep you in mind every time they see it.

Start by getting some quality, professional-looking business cards printed. Business cards will always be handy to have on you to give people that you meet. And if you’re on a shoot where you could encounter potential customers, like at an event, you’ll have something you can give them.

I often send my best clients and customers something in print, like a set of postcards, desk calendars, or even a small print of one of my photos. I almost always receive an email back with a thank you for the item. Just make sure you enclose your business card with what you’re sending out too!

You can also go further and create something even more significant in print! Here’s a personal magazine of my photography that I’ve made to send to my clients and potential customers.

GotPrint Brochure Banner Ad

Keep your contact information up to date


I often write travel articles for some of the UK’s biggest brands, and recently I was working on a project where I needed travel writers. It was astonishing how difficult it was to find contact information for some people, so I gave up. Those writers missed out on the project I was working on simply because I couldn’t find contact information for them.

Keeping your contact information up to date is one of the quickest and easiest marketing fixes you can make. The best way to do this is to set yourself a reminder once a month, along with a checklist of places to review your contact information.

Keep a list of the places you have your contact information, and keep this up to date. Some of the places where you may keep your contact information may include your Picfair Store, external blog or website, social media profiles, email signatures and any organisations or trade bodies where you are a member.

Save $20-$100 On Select Sony Camera Lenses.


As well as your necessary contact details, you may also want to update other relevant information related to your photography business. For example, you may have just won a photography competition, or learned a new type of skill (like aerial photography) or even moved location. Make sure your information tells people about it. Otherwise, you could potentially be missing out on work.

Man playing with drone on the open field

If you’ve recently up-skilled or added a new type of photography to your offering – make sure you add this to your contact information. Image by Gabriel Codarcea.

Engage with other photographers


One of the downsides of photography is that it can be a lonely profession or hobby, which was the case even before the pandemic. However, it’s essential to know that there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to connect with other photographers. Often in associations, camera clubs or even community groups based on the photography subjects you enjoy.

You may think, “How will that help my photography business?”. The answer is that you never know when someone might recommend you for work or know someone who requires your services. Expanding your photographer network will help you get your name out there and lead you to new customers.

At the very least, you should join some private groups on social media (like Facebook groups). These groups also allow you to interact and share ideas with likeminded individuals. Who might inspire you or give you some ideas on how you can improve your images.


Engaging with like-minded photographers will help you expand your network and could lead you to potential new opportunities. Image by Dan Martland.

Next steps


If you want to make your photography business more profitable, then a well-planned and executed marketing strategy is necessary.

Remember, marketing your photography business is no different from any other business. And the sooner you get to work on your strategy, the sooner you’ll start seeing the benefits.

Kav Dadfar

Kav is a full-time photographer and author of 400+ articles. He is also a judge on the Wanderlust Magazine Photography of the Year competition and leads small group photo tours around the world

My Banner

How to Become a Travel Photographer – the Blueprint

BY VIKTOR ELIZAROV

If you want to learn how to become a travel photographer, you in the right place.

It was a beautiful day in Montreal. I was on a regular afternoon jog listening to a popular photography podcast. The topic of the episode was travel photography. The guests of the show were two professional photographers with the years of experience.

At the end of the podcast during the listeners’ question and answer session, the first question immediately grabbed my attention. Why? Because I’ve been asked the same, or nearly identical, question many times before.

So what’s the question?

“I want to start traveling more specifically for photography, but I do not know where to start. Do you have any idea where I should go or how to plan my trip? Should I edit photos while I am there or should I wait until I return home? What cameras, lenses and other equipment do I take? Help! I am suffering from analysis paralysis“.
Ok, so perhaps the question has multiple parts but it still rang true to my experience. I was curious to hear the answers because I knew it was a loaded question and definitely not an easy one.

GotPrint Flyer Banner Ad

The photographers’ answers surprised me.

Here are some of them:

“South Asia is a good place to go.”“Do not go to Bangkok.”“If you do not know, choose a place randomly.”“Europe, maybe.”
Instead of addressing the complex subject of travel photography, the photographers only concentrated on a single aspect: the location. Their answers disappointed me because I do not consider the location to be an essential part of travel photography. You do not need to travel to a remote and exotic destination to enjoy travel photography.

A simple 4-step process on how to become a travel photographer

I decided to put together a blueprint or guide to help people who want to get involved in travel photography but do not know where to start. I used a similar approach when I first started and it has proven successful over the years.

First and foremost, please do not start your travel photography journey with a trip to South Asia. It will be a waste of time and money, not to mention it will be full of disappointments.

Start smaller and grow from there.

Northern California. Morro Bay.


Step 1: Testing Ground

Find a local park in your neighborhood, preferably within walking distance or a short drive. Make this your testing ground for your equipment and photography routines.

Any urban park has all the essential elements of travel photography: landscapes, cityscapes, people, etc….

Plan your visits during different times of the day. Learn how to deal with the harsh midday light, overcast, rain, sunsets and sunrises. In doing so, you will figure out what minimum equipment you need to cover different scenarios of travel photography.

For example, I realized pretty early that a minimalistic approach to photography suits me the best and all I need is a camera with a walk around lens. For years, I used a combination of a Canon 60D + Sigma 17-70mm and now I have a similar setup of a Sony a6000 + Sony 16-70mm.

$1 off for [CZ stock] Haylou Solar LS05 1.28 inch TFT Touch Screen Smartwatch IP68 Waterproof with Heart Rate Monitor Global Version From Xiaomi Youpin – Black with code 4IYLIAHI

I am lucky enough to have a beautiful park in only short walking distance from where I live. Even now, when I have a new piece of equipment, I always test it there. When I switched from a Canon to a Sony, it was a steep learning curve and the local park was the ideal place for learning and testing my new equipment.

Now that it is winter, I ordered new photo gloves and, when I receive them, I will go to the park for a few hours to see if I like them or not.

Park Rene Levesque in Montreal is my testing ground


Step 2: Mini Simulation

The next step is to go on a day-long trip at a location within a 1-2-hour driving range. In my case, I know all the national and provincial parks around Montreal and most of them make perfect destinations for short photo trips.

This trip will take you away from the comfort of your home for the entire day and will allow you to start micro planning and testing your skills.

Make sure you plan in advance what spot to visit at sunset or sunrise. It is not always easy to do both during a short trip, so choose only one and make sure you visit the best spot. Use Google search, Google maps, and 500px to pinpoint the perfect location for your sunrise or sunset shoot.

Also, you have to decide how many camera batteries to bring with you, if you need spare memory cards, and so on. If your trip involves challenging hiking, it also might be a good idea to leave the tripod at home.

These trips are designed for photographers to make mistakes and to learn from them. With every new trip, you will learn more about planning, your equipment, and your habits.

When you comfortable with the short trips, it is time to graduate to multi-day trips.

Mont-Saint-Bruno national park is only 30km from Montreal


Step 3: Multi-Day Driving Trips

This is how real travel photography started for me.

Montreal is located within a 5-7 hour driving distance from New York, Boston and Toronto with Niagara Falls. My trips dedicated exclusively to photography started with 2-3 day driving trips to those destinations.

Multi-days trips require much more planning where you should always do your research first and then plan all your sunrises, sunsets and everything in between.

Technology Used by Successwful Businesses

Another new challenge you have to face on these trips is to figure out how to deal with editing and backups.

I am not giving you a specific scenario to follow because, based on my experience, travel routines are always changing and evolving.

For example, in the beginning, I always did some basic edits of my new photos by the end of every day of the trip. Now, I only concentrate on my shooting and I start the editing process when I am back at home. But, I always have the option to edit photos simply by connecting my tablet to camera using Wi-Fi, grabbing a few photos, editing them with Snapseed and posting them to social media.

At the same time, my backup routine has not changed a lot. By the end of the day, I backup all new photos to two external hard drives and always make sure to keep them in two separate places. I have one with me at all times in my bag and the second I keep in the safe in the hotel or in the trunk of my car.

Also, I do not rush to format my memory cards. I keep photos on the cards until I run out of space on all four of them and only then do I start formatting.

The beauty of driving trips is that you do not have to be too selective about the equipment you bring with you. You can load your trunk with everything you own and later figure out what pieces are essential for your style of photography.

New York. Taken from Staten Island Ferry.

Step 4: Hacking Family Vacation

The next step is to hack your family vacation.

You have to be careful with this one so as to ensure you do not agitate your loved ones or ruin the vacation for them.

A family trip can serve as the perfect opportunity for testing your air travel routines. It requires additional research to figure out carry on allowances on every leg of your trip and to decide what equipment to bring.

After I brought all my equipment on one of my first family trips to Cuba and hardly used any of it, I started to pack differently by bringing only the necessities along. Also, after I switched from DSLR to Mirrorless, I can pack everything (almost everything) in my carry on without worrying about lost luggage.

GeekBuying.com

So how do you start planning?

Begin by planning your vacation as you normally would and concentrate on family activities first. When these are done and everybody is happy, you can enhance your trip with photography adventures.

During the vacation, the only time when you can be 100% dedicated to your photography is when everybody is sleeping. On each day of vacation you will have a few hours between sunrise and breakfast to concentrate on your photography. And, not only will your family be in bed at 5 am, about 99.9% of tourists will be in their beds as well. In fact, you would be surprised how beautiful Venice looks at sunrise – it is completely different and calm without the chaos of crowds.

Cuba. Sunrise at Cayo Coco beach.


Last year, my wife and I went to Niagara Falls in the middle of summer on a weekend getaway. It was so crowded during the day that I had no chance of using a tripod. It was even difficult to take any pictures without having people in the frame. But, when I went to the Falls the next morning just before sunrise, I had the entire place to myself. The only person I met there was another photographer who had the same idea.

The goal of successfully combining a family vacation with photography and to be able to enjoy them both is to plan every single sunrise in advance. The rest of the days will be dedicated to family activities and are much more difficult to plan. You can enjoy your family while trying to be as opportunistic as possible with your photography.

After you have completed dozens of one-day local trips, half a dozen of short driving trips and at least a couple of family vacations, you will be ready to go on extensive trips dedicated exclusively to photography. You will acquire the necessary skills and establish personal routines that will help you be comfortable, confident and safe during your travels.

Check what is in my camera bag

Conclusion

Learning any new complex process requires breaking it down into smaller digestible chunks that you can then start to tackle one at a time. Travel photography is no different. You cannot learn everything in one shot. By starting small, you will gradually accumulate knowledge, experience and establish your unique routines.

I hope my simple blueprint will help you fulfill your dream of becoming a travel photographer and accelerate the learning process.

By Viktor Elizarov

I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

How to improve your photography with the rule of thirds

Published by Feature Shoot  • 1 week ago

In 1797, the engraver and painter John Thomas Smith, who worked as the keeper of prints at the British Museum, came up with a revolutionary theory. 

In his view, landscape paintings worked best not when sky and land were given equal weight, but when one or the other took up an entire two-thirds of the canvas. Contrary to popular wisdom, which favored the “formal half” or a one-to-one ratio, he wondered if the most appealing compositions, in fact, featured a different ratio altogether: one-to-two. 

Smith’s theory predates the invention of the camera by about twenty years, but these days, we know it as one of the guiding principles of photography. Now, when we discuss composition, we still use the same term Smith coined all those years ago: the rule of thirds.

Once you understand this common photographic technique, you can learn to position your subject in any image so that the photo is both visually balanced and interesting to your viewers. In this article, we’ll explore the rule of thirds and how you can use it to your advantage.

What is the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is one of the easiest ways to experiment with your composition; it is simply a matter of placing the elements in your image so that each of them carries the proper amount of visual weight. 

Imagine you are looking at a tic-tac-toe board. Notice how the lines on that board create three distinct horizontal sections and three distinct vertical sections. There are also four points where the lines intersect. According to the rule of thirds, placing your subject along a line or point on this grid will create a more dynamic composition. 

You have the option to view a rule of thirds grid as an overlay in your DSLR viewfinder, and you can even look for a grid option in the camera settings on your phone. This can be helpful when you’re practicing the rule of thirds, but be wary of using it too much as it may interfere with your ability to visualize other compositions while you shoot. The best way to master the rule of thirds is to practice visualizing it in your mind.

How to use the rule of thirds

New photographers tend to put their subjects in the very center of the frame. While this can result in a strong composition under the right circumstances, it can also create static images that lack interest. 

This is partly due to the way our eyes view a scene: they naturally try to follow the lines and points on the grid, even when the grid is not visible. It’s also due to another compositional element: balanced asymmetry. Usually, your subject will already carry the greatest impact out of all the elements in your image, so it wields a lot of visual weight. By positioning the subject so that it takes up approximately one-third of the image, you’re leaving enough negative space to balance that weight.

In landscapes
Try aligning your horizon line with one of the two horizontal lines on the grid. This keeps your viewer’s eye from getting stuck going side to side. If the sky is distractingly bright, this is an easy way to balance that punch of brightness with the more muted detail in the land portion of your image.

In portraiture
The eyes are usually the focus of a portrait, so try to line up your model’s eyes along the grid to give them high visual exposure. For group portraits, use stools, steps, or natural height strategically to utilize different areas of the grid.

Some things to consider

The rule of thirds is a great “cheat sheet” for getting dynamic compositions out of almost any scene. However, it’s not always the best choice for every photo. If you’re shooting in one of the following circumstances, the rule of thirds might not be right for your image. 

You want something to have a larger-than-life effect
Platon is famous for his in-your-face portraits of celebrities and world leaders. You really get a sense of who they are, and for that kind of impact, the subject is the only thing that matters. Although some of his other work does use the rule of thirds, these pieces would only be hindered by it.

If you already use the rule of thirds too frequently
This rule is meant to stimulate creativity, not inhibit it. If you’ve come to rely heavily on the rule of thirds and notice that a lot of your work is looking eerily similar, it may be time to try something new.

You’re battling lens distortion
If you’re using a wide-angle lens, placing your subject in one of the outer thirds could cause them to appear too distorted. If that’s not the effect you are going for, switch lenses or switch photography rules.

The rule of thirds in post-processing

Sometimes we want a rule of thirds composition, but due to shooting circumstances, it’s not easy or possible on-location. If you’re shooting macro photography of insects, for example, you’re already using a lot of mental energy just to get the right point of focus before your subject moves on. In a situation like that, it can help to shoot just a little wider than you think you need. That leaves you room to crop for the rule of thirds in post-processing.

If you plan to do this, check your camera settings before you shoot. Be sure you are shooting in RAW and give yourself a nice, high-resolution file to work with so that you aren’t cropping away all of your image quality. Keep a copy of the original image in your backups in case you need to go back to the drawing board. 

If you simply want to enhance the rule of thirds effect, you can use an adjustment layer mask (or in Lightroom, an adjustment brush) to draw attention to elements that line up with the grid. You can add a little pop of saturation, enhance the brightness, or do some selective sharpening to draw attention to those areas.

Practice is all it takes to master this rule completely. Try setting up a dedicated shoot for this technique and see how many different compositions you can think of. When you walk around without your camera, try visualizing compositions from the things you see around you that follow the rule of thirds. You can also gain a lot of inspiration from finding examples of images that use the rule of thirds to analyze.

Not on 500px yet? Sign up here to explore more impactful photography.

5 Steps to Take Now So You Can Thrive in the Post Coronavirus World

Article Written by; Barry Davret FollowMar 25 · 5 min read

You have plenty of alone time. Don’t waste it.

Pandemics always end. At some point, this will pass. We’ll find a way to defeat the coronavirus. We just don’t know when. But that’s not the question that troubles me. What I want to know are the answers to these questions:

Will my friends and loved ones still be here? Will I still be here? What will become of us? Will I still have a job or business?

Don’t tell me you aren’t thinking that too, or at least similar thoughts more appropriate to your situation. If you’re not careful, you can spend hours on end contemplating the worst-case-scenarios. That kind of thinking will destroy your sanity.

Nobody can predict how this will all end, but I’m planning on thriving in the post coronavirus world, and I’ve already started taking steps to make it happen.

When you shut off the endless cycle of crisis, you’re left with a lot of free time. How you choose to fill that time today will impact your future outcomes. So, where do you start?

These five steps will help you focus on doing work that matters.


1. The Life Design Questions

In the early 2000s, I attended a string of personal development seminars. My intoxication with self-help schemes fizzled out, but one of those events left a lasting impact. The leader of this seminar had us focus on three questions. The answers gave us clarity on what we wanted and enabled us to design a life we desired.

Who do you want to become?

What kind of person do you aspire to be? What characteristics do you want other people to ascribe to you?

What do you want to become?

What kind of professional life do you desire? Describe it in detail.

What is the change you need to make?

Describe the person you are now and what you do. What changes do you need to make to achieve the vision of your future self?

This exercise always provided me interesting insights, but it never resulted in any changes to my life. But years later, I found this to be a useful tool when used as a precursor to the next step.


2. Create Your Day in the Life

Several years ago, I listened to a Tim Ferris podcast, where he interviewed Debbie Millman. She described a life-changing exercise that I’ve been following for the last two years. Here’s how it works.

Picture yourself five years from now, long after the crisis ends. Write out in essay format, a day in your life from the moment you get out of bed until you fall asleep.

Think about all of your dreams and imagine that you have already achieved them (use results from the first step). Imagine what your life would be like if you pursued your goals without fear and delay. Be specific about what you do with your day, both professionally and personally. Write about your career, family life, health, and hobbies. Your essay should run about 3,000–5,000 words.

For more details, I suggest you listen to the segment here at 1:31:00 into the podcast. I’ve been focusing on this the last week, and whenever I feel that twinge of angst, I pull out my essay and read it. It has a remarkably calming and motivating effect.


3. List the Actions You Must Take to Create That Life

Once you’ve put your dream life on paper, list out the high-level activities you must take to achieve those goals. Creating a plan can overwhelm you, so don’t get hung up on intricate details. List out the steps as you think of them. There will be a significant amount of gaps, but you’ll address those in the next step.

Let’s suppose in three years you will have published a novel. Your high-level actions would be:

  1. Write the first draft.
  2. Get it reviewed by a developmental editor.
  3. Rewrite.
  4. Final edit.
  5. Book design.
  6. Publish.

Yes, there are dozens of steps in between. You may need to acquire specific skills, get recommendations, research, and network. But a high-level outline like this gets you excited, focuses your mind, and prepares you to dig into the details.


4. Research, but Not Too Much

There’s nothing like losing yourself in research to take your mind off the craziness of the outside world. It takes more than a few hopeful ideas to achieve a dream. You need to know what steps to take and then act on them.

But don’t bury yourself in research forever. I’ve found that some folks use it as an excuse to avoid doing work or taking risks.

Research other people who have achieved similar goals to yours and find out what they did, and then move on. You can always come back to do more if you need it.

When you finish, go back to your list from the previous step and fill in some of the blanks.


5. Make it Happen

Dreaming and planning are necessary steps, but they mean nothing without taking action. Schedule time in your day to work on your dream. Sure, you knew that already. But what if you’re struggling with following through? It’s almost impossible to focus in this environment.

By scheduling time and limiting your intake of social media and news, you’ll find it easier to focus. If the stress still gets to you, I’ve found that these steps help:

  • Read your day in the life essay. It’ll transport your mind to a future state.
  • Listen to music or sounds that calm you. I listen to Brain.fm, but it’s subscription-based. If you want something free, create a playlist. I find that listening to music that reminds me of childhood brings back memories of happier times, and crowds out today’s madness.

Living in an era of uncertainty and fear may get the better of us at moments. But focusing on your dream now will not only distract you from the fear and anxiety but will set you up for a more fruitful post corona world.

My Banner
Down Time

12 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before You Release Your Shutter

In my personal quest to improve my digital photography skills, I am constantly seeking guidance.

Recently I ran across what I consider to be a very important guide.

Twelve very important questions I think all photographers should ask themselves before each shot.  Considering these questions can and will improve your photography skills.

Get 25% off Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive – offer valid through Dec. 5

Utilizing these questions has greatly improved my effort to produce impressive imagery.  You should consider:

  1. The Purpose 
  2. The Story You Wish To Tell
  3. The Position You Should Take
  4. Orientation
  5. Background
  6. Is the composition Straight? 
  7. Framing
  8. Light
  9. Focal Point
  10. Eye Flow
  11. Movement Within The Frame
  12. Color/Contrast

Commit To Memory

Excited about the expected outcome from my next photo adventure, I immediately committed them to memory in the order given.  

Eager to see the outcome from my newly acquired knowledge, I began using them, in the exact order given.

So, after trying this for a while, I realized that I was struggling to get through the process.  At first, I could not understand why the process was so difficult for me.  Suddenly, I realized that the order in which the questions were given did not fit my slowly developing style.  Causing, my shooting process to become slow and difficult.

My Banner

Make Adjustments

Even though each question needs to be addressed, the order just didn’t match my style.  So I decided to experiment with the sequence.  

My new sequence looks like this:

  1. Purpose
  2. Story
  3. Light
  4. Position
  5. Orientation (Landscape or Portrait)
  6. Framing
  7. Focal Point 
  8. Eye Flow
  9. Background
  10. Color/Contrast
  11. Streight
  12. Movement

This is my personal sequence, and so far it has served me well.  Now, I am beginning to see a dramatic improvement in my photography.

For a final note, I must interject two thoughts.  First, I sometimes let light lead me to my story, after all, photography is all about light.  And finally, I have learned to always shoot both orientations.  You will be surprised at what you may come up with.

So, go out shoot some pics and play around with these questions, find your sequence and see if it improves your skills. 

Samsung Digital Cameras Deals: Up to $250 Instant Rebates for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Scroll to Top