Planning for Travel Photography

I'm in the midst of planning for travel photography coming up soon. Photoshop World is around the corner in Las Vegas, and I have another destination on the books, too.

Going to St. Somewhere

Apparently, I'm listening to too many Jimmy Buffet songs lately. My mind is wandering toward some island time. The last time I was in the Caribbean was back in 2002 when my friend Niki got married in Barbados.  She was born there and much of her family still resides on the island, so it seemed like a great place to go for a wedding. 

Planning for Travel PhotographyNow I don't have any friends planning weddings on far-away islands, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't go on a honeymoon. Not that I'm bringing anyone with me. Every time I thought about tying the knot, the object of my desire managed to chew through the ropes and escape.

I asked Niki a while back about the best time to visit the Caribbean (which for me, meant least expensive). Her advice was simple: hurricane season. Rates are lower when you may get swept out to see on a raft.

That, and I'm told it's also so hot that you sweat in the shower.

Shiny Disco Balls

Unlike St. Somewhere, I've been to Las Vegas many times and photographed the snot out of it.  So what will I do differently this time? How can I make an old friend seem new from my camera?

One idea is to try different types of photography in a familiar place. As much as I love shooting scenes of the places I visit, I also appreciate the chance to photograph the people in those places. It's just that I'm an introvert and it takes a good effort for me to approach someone who doesn't know me and ask for a portrait.

Planning for Travel Photography

As it turns out, I can use the same planning methods for someplace new and someplace I've visited many times before. Here's what I've been using for my upcoming travel.


FlickRiver is a tool that makes it easy to search the wealth of photos on Flickr. You can easily search by name, place, tag or the user who shot the photo. Then you can sort photos by the newest, most relevant or most interesting – according to Flickr.

Another great tool on this site is the Lens Explorer. Thinking about buying a lens and want to know what kind of images you can grab with it?  This is a fantastic tool for exploring lens capabilities. It got me to buy much more than I expected this year.

Stuck on Earth

Trey Ratcliff's app for exploring the world through photos – Stuck on Earth – is a handy tool to mine Flickr contributions for ideas. Where FlickRiver can sometimes deliver results that are hit & miss, Stuck on Earth relies upon user submissions that are often a bit more inspiring. It's also handy to mark your favorite images on your iPad or other device so you have them with you on the trip.


If you've ever visited 500px, you know the photos there are a cut above most photo sharing sites. People bring their A-Game to most every shot they post. That makes it a wonderful resource to research your next shoot. Doesn't matter if it's a travel photo or a location portrait. There's a little bit of everything here and some of it will just blow you away.

Kelby Training

There's a new course on Kelby Training from Zack Arias called Professional Photography on a Budget: The 5K Challenge. The object is to get everything he needs – from his gear to his travel expenses – to create a professional portfolio of street portraits – under $5K. While I think the budget constraint is great for most of us, the part that I'm enjoying is watching him hustle for the shots. He's looking for a character, a place and good light. It's amazing to see what he can create with a rudimentary and inexpensive set of gear (which shows that the magic is in his mind, not his equipment), but the lesson that strikes me is how he approaches people and gets them to cooperate.

Doesn't always work, but he's clear that rejection is also part of the game and you have to accept it.

Google Maps Street View

I'm not sure if you've ever tried doing this, but open up Google Maps for your destination and see if there's a Street View for it. I just tried it for Las Vegas and found a new angle on a favorite subject that I'm going to have to try when I get to town.

Your Old Shots

If you're re-visiting a location, it doesn't hurt to look back at your previous photos. Make a note of what you've already done and what you'd like to add. In some cases, you may want to shoot the subject again if you think you can do a better job. Some of the best travel photographers repeat their subjects until they get just the right moment. Things change, so keep swinging.

One of the things I'm doing again in Las Vegas is attending the Concert Photography workshop at Photoshop World. I started looking through my previous images to get in the frame of mind for it. Found things that I want to avoid in the future, but then I also found some things that I liked and want to repeat. This is one of the shots from last year and I love the moment.

Planning for Travel Photography

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  • Todd F. Burgess August 21, 2013   Reply →

    Looks like I am not the only one that picked up the new Buffett album yesterday. Great Blog. Love the Google Street view tip. I was actually thinking about using Street View to find photo spots for an upcoming trip to New Orleans. As for Vegas I love the Bellagio Conservatory, but for some reason I have never been able to get any good shots there.

    • William Beem August 21, 2013   Reply →

      Thanks for the nice comment, Todd. The Bellagio Conservatory is difficult because it’s always so crowded, but also because of the layout. I have about two shots there that I like, and the rest are rotting in my computer.

      Street View gave me some nice views of Las Vegas from the side streets that I ordinarily wouldn’t explore on foot. Give it a shot. You may have something without having to walk or drive around.

  • Vandana Singh September 25, 2013   Reply →

    Hi William!

    I work in the travel industry and reading about you makes me realize that your travels must be very inspiring and interesting( and of course photogenic!). As it seems you do your travel planning yourself, you should checkout mygola(, its almost tailor made for people
    like you. At mygola you can not only customize the itinerary but can also tweak the itinerary as you see fit – add your hotel, change days, add co-travelers to your trip plan, share your trip on Facebook and Twitter etc. And you can carry this itinerary with you while you’re traveling, to get recommendations on-the-fly at your destination.

    We at mygola would love to have someone like you be our user.Do check it out if others as interesting and inspiring like you can use our tool.

    Do check it out!

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