What am I talking about? Even though camera settings, composition and the technicalities are important, I am actually referring to the goals you set for yourself.
What I noticed over the last week is that, even though the workshop attendees need help with camera settings and composition, they are missing the first step of the process. They have not pre-planned any photo goals for the trip.
You see, before I travel, I almost always set goals for what I am hoping to accomplish with my camera.
Before my last trip to Africa on safari, I made a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish. It looked something like this:
* Teach attendees more about workflow and composition
* Shoot wider to show the environment
* Shoot really tight on an animal to show the details of their feet, trunk, nose, mouth...
* Take more portraits of people
* Do more motion panning to get motion blur on moving animals
And before this trip to Australia, I made the following list:
* Teach the attendees the importance of keeping your camera completely steady, exposure compensation and shutter speed (for night shooting especially)
* Get a nice straight-on shot of the opera house covered with projected lights
* Get a wide shot of the Sydney Harbor with and without the colored lights
* Shoot from different vantages points to get unique perspectives of the bridge and opera house
* Shoot more video along with the thousands of still photos
* Roll the zoom during exposures to get more unique photos
* Bring the drone to get some aerial shots of the region
* Make sure that the attendees and myself come home with at least 20 epic photos for our collections
Regardless of whether all of these are achieved, it is helpful to have these goals in place before you travel.
At this point, you may be thinking "What if I have never been to this place and don't know what to expect?" For that, my response is twofold:
* If you are going on a photo tour with a leader, make sure they help you set some goals for the location.
* If you are going somewhere new on your own, do your research on the Internet and find places you want to visit, and photos that you want to capture. Make a list of those for future reference. I should also mention that, if you do see a great photo on the Internet, don't just try and copy it. Challenge yourself to shoot something even better.
If you are traveling with a group of other photographers (or meet them on your travels), make sure to talk to them and share ideas. You can definitely learn a lot from each other. Heck, I am continually watching what others are capturing and using that as inspiration. Don't think that just because we are "professional photographers" we have all the ideas and answers. We don't.
There is one goal I ALWAYS set for myself before every trip, and that is to be UNIQUE! I want to push the limits and try to find a photo that is truly different from anything I have seen before. This does not mean that I pass up on opportunities to get nice photos from common locations, but it means that once I get that common shot, I try and push the limits to find something even better.
Here are some goal ideas you can set for yourself:
* Find a unique angle or location to take your photo (remember to look up, down and in all directions for best shots).
* Frame your photos with tree cover, landmarks or other nearby features (like the image above).
* Set an optimum time of day or night to try and capture your photos.
* Try focusing on something other than your main subject (like the image below).
* Learn a new feature on your camera.
* Try a new lighting technique with your meter or flash.
* Meet people from the area and learn something interesting about the location (and capture an image of that person).
* And of course, BE UNIQUE!
I hope this helps you before you head out for your summer vacation or whatever travels are in front of you.
It is almost time for sunset here in Sydney and I am back to checking the goals off my list!
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Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world.