April 15, 2009

How to capture great photos on the road

Copyright photo by Peter Guttman
Photo copyright by Peter Guttman

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, NGOs, journalists, individuals. This is part of our ongoing Making Media series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and create media.

JD LasicaWhat does capturing great photos on the road have to do with advancing the social good? When nonprofits and organizations conduct a retreat, or members travel to distant locations to document work in the field, the photographic output of those expeditions — on the Web, in slide show presentations, in annual reports — can be improved dramatically by following a few simple steps.

Peter Guttman, a fabled New York-based travel photographer who has traveled to more than 190 countries, is the author of five influential books on travel. Guttman offered the following tips to amateurs in an interview with the New York Times.

Tip 1: Tell a story

Forgo the temptation to take photos of your compadres standing in front of monuments or landmarks. Instead, research a destination to find out what makes it unique, and look for unusual and offbeat angles or interesting characters to illustrate your story — you’re telling a visual story, after all.

Tip 2: Get close to the action

"The main mistake that people make is that they don’t get close enough to the action," Guttman said. "You have to decide whether you want to be a tourist or a traveler. A tourist basically stands to the side and takes timid candids of things that they see from a distance as a shy spectator. A traveler [makes an effort to enter an experience] and tries to feel all the essence and the joy and the drama of what a place has to offer."

Tip 3: Know when to photograph and use natural light to your advantage

"The most effective time to photograph is at the margins of the day," he said.

"Early morning, dusk and most particularly during blue light, which is after the sun sets but before the sky turns totally dark. It gives photographs a cobalt blue essence that’s almost out of a fairy tale and contrasts with the sparkling golds of man-made light."

Continue reading