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Travel Photography: Learning the Basics

Learning the Basics of Travel Photography

by Jessica Howell

The best way to invest in life, say some, is to travel.

Not only does the experience broaden your horizons physically, it often expands your state of mind to a matching degree. Whether you seek a life-affirming voyage into the Amazon or a historically steeped tour through Europe, the goal is the same... to return home a changed, and perhaps enlightened, individual.

How to Take a Great Photo
Below, Perello offers tips for shooting images while traveling.

1. Be comfortable and familiar with your camera. If it's a new camera, take the time to read the manual and take some test shots before you leave for your trip to make sure everything is in good working order.

2. When taking a picture, think cinematically: take a wide establishing shot, a medium shot and close-ups of a scene to help capture all the important details of a place.

3. Try to schedule some shooting time in the early morning or late afternoon when the best light is available, rather than shooting only during mid-day when the light is harsh and creates contrast.

"It's really about capturing the experience of traveling, more than just creating some pretty pictures," says Perello. "I always strive to capture the small moments that really make my trip special."

When you think of investing in your travel experience, what comes to mind? Springing for new, reliable luggage? Stocking up on insider’s guide books? Hiring the best tour operator? Of course; but don’t overlook the power of the evidence you bring home. No, we’re not talking about souvenirs.

Equipped with a camera, you’re able to visually document your journey – every leaf that blows across your path, should you choose. Not only will every image you capture take you right back to that particular place and time, you’re able to share the most delicate and intimate thing possible with those left at home – a sense of place.

It’s for this reason that one might consider investing hard-earned money in something unpackable, like a well-sharpened skill.

That must have been on the minds of the folks at when they began offering Brenda Tharp's online course “Creating a Sense of Place” among their class listings.

We spoke to Ibarionex Perello, course advisor for, to gain an insider’s perspective on why travel photography is so important and how an online course can help achieve great results.

RTM: What suggestions do you have for travelers looking to participate in an online photography course?

They'll want a course and a site that is easy to navigate, provides good instruction and customer support, and offers a community where they can learn and pose questions to not only the instructor, but also other students in the online community. BetterPhoto's site provides all this while offering students access to the experience and knowledge of published professional photographers.

RTM: How do instructors create a "hands on" experience in a virtual enviroment, as opposed to the interaction of, say, a community college course?

IP: The assignments that come with each lesson are key. This allows the photographers to immediately put to practice what they have learned from that week's lesson. The detailed critiques that follow provide a great help in helping the photographer to understand how well they have put those new techniques or tips to use. Unlike a community course, you have access to the critiques of your fellow students’ work as well, providing a great resource for learning. It helps to also create a dynamic dialogue between fellow students that can occur at anytime, from the convenience of your own home.

RTM: How familiar do students have to be with the internet to participate in a course?

IP: The ease by which a student can navigate a website is important. The BetterPhoto website has been designed to make it very easy for students to make the most of their learning experience. Weekly lessons are e-mailed to each student. Students are then able to upload the images from their assignment using a simple image uploader. From there, all they have to do is log-in with a user name and password to access their image critiques and additional resources. It's designed so that anyone with a basic understanding of navigating the web can participate.

RTM: What advice would you give a novice photographer who’s venturing into travel photography—on vacation—for the first time?

IP: Make sure to have extra batteries and memory cards. Back-up your images to a rewritable CD or DVD if you take along a laptop, or purchase a media storage device such as the Epson P3000 which provides the means to copy your images to an external hard drive. Such units also provide a screen that allows you to share your images with fellow travelers.

Perello recommends Brenda Tharp’s “Creating a Sense of Place” course on (eight-weeks, $297) for travelers that want to build or enhance their photography skills. “It addresses specific techniques for achieving great results,” says Perello.

It’s recommended that students have a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera with a wide and telephoto zoom lens. Other courses are available as well, some starting as low as $198. For details, visit