As you may be able to tell from this blog, I take a lot of photos. After all, travel and photography are two of my favorite things! Traveling & taking pictures is an easy thing to do. But–how do you do it well? When you get home, then what? How the heck do you find anything? How do you organize and share all of those great shots?
Begin With the End(s) in Mind
Before even leaving the house, know what you want to do with what you shoot. Do you want to put them in a photo book, share them in a blog, put them in a social media post, or produce a video recalling your trip? It helps to have an idea of what you want the end product to look like before you start shooting–especially when you want to produce a video.
Here’s a practical example: suppose you’re going on a cruise, and you’d like to share still photos in multiple ways (photobook, instagram, etc), but you really want to produce an excellent video. One (hopefully) knows where they’re going before they get on a cruise ship, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a basic plan for a cruise video. Ask yourself things like:
- What destination(s) do I plan on visiting? Look at pictures that other folks have taken at these destination(s), and have an idea of what kinds of shots (video & photo) you want. With that in mind, then consider…
- How much media do you need to build the product that you want? If you took 5,000 pictures and only 2 videos and you really wanted a video, it is possible to create a video from what you have, but it’s certainly not ideal. If you want a video, make sure that you shoot enough video! (Stills will be okay as well, but there’s no substitute for video.)
- Know the intended audience for your media, and consider picking out a playlist and/or music for your trip. This is especially helpful when making a video. And I don’t necessarily mean to pick a playlist to listen to on your trip–I mean to pick music that you can plan to use on your trip video. It can help you make and recall great memories on the trip, but you can also build the video around it. (One more related idea here: if you plan to share the media publicly, you should check out the YouTube Audio Library. You can probably find some pretty nice stuff there which doesn’t require ads or anything special.)
First off–don’t get too caught up in gear. The best camera you have is the one you have with you. It is best to make sure you at least have a decent cell phone camera–that’ll help out a bunch when getting basic shots. NEVER bring your iPad or tablet to take photography–it is clunky, obnoxious for all around you, and makes you look like a dweeb.
However–going beyond your basic cell phone–ask yourself–“what gear will I need to get the shots that I want?” Here’s a little table of the gear that I may be traveling with, depending on the situation.
|Item||Model I Use||What It Does|
|DSLR Camera||Nikon D7500||One of the premier cropped-format DSLRs made today. I bring the lenses best suited for the subjects I anticipate I’ll encounter.|
|Geologger||Bad Elf 2200 GPS Pro||This keeps a track of exactly where you were and when you were there. This is mainly used by me to geotag photos.|
|Action Cam||GoPro & Any Relevant Mounts||Used for POV videos on roller coasters, ziplines, rides, and other similar experiences. (This is probably my least-used piece of gear.)|
|Monopod / Selfie Stick / Portable Tripod|| |
Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod + Insta360 ONE Selfie Stick
|It’s a teeny tripod that doesn’t show up in 360 shots. It’s very helpful when traveling alone, and you don’t want to have your arm in all of your selfies.|
|Gimbal Camera||DJI Osmo Pocket 3 + Expansion Kit||This is a huge upgrade over your cell phone camera–it gives you smooth, cinematic quality video in your pocket, and can do other things to (like panoramic shots, better selfies, hyperlapses, motion timelapses, etc.)|
|360 Cam||Ricoh Theta V||Generates an instant “photo-sphere,” and can record photo sphere video. Excellent for immersive subjects.|
|Flash Memory Case||Pelican Flash Memory Holder||Sleek, strong, and great for organizing your memory cards. (When you fill one up, flip it around and put it back in the case.) Always bring extra flash media, and make sure it is recommended by your camera manufacturer.|
|Microfiber Cloth||Generic||Don’t forget to bring a towel!|
|Lens Pen||I use an older version of this||Helps to get that crap off of your lens in the field.|
|Camera Bag||Lowepro||I use the “Lowepro Stealth Reporter D650 AW” for when I’m carrying more stuff, but you can’t get that one anymore. You really can’t go wrong with Lowepro for camera bags.|
|Underwater Camera and/or Underwater Camera Case||Nikon AW100||Used for taking pictures underwater, but can be used as a “point and shoot” camera in pretty much any setting–including waterparks. (Note: Many cell phones can go underwater now–check to see if yours can. Also–underwater cases for smartphones aren’t expensive.)|
Note: Better models may exist of the above products–if you’re looking to expand your collection, you may want to do some research.
So–as an example, if you’re going to an art museum, it’s not likely that you’re going to want to pack that long 600mm zoom lens. (I’ll eventually dedicate a post to my lens addiction.) You probably don’t want a GoPro, and it’s highly likely that you’re going to want to take a lot of video–at least, not much more than what your smartphone could take. Depending on the art museum, you may want a 360° camera, but it’s fairly unlikely. Remember–anything you bring that you don’t use is dead weight. You probably don’t need the GPS logger, either. But–if you’re going on a cruise–you probably want all of the above with the exception of the fast prime lenses, unless you want to take a lot of portraits or something like that.
Taking Photos & Videos
First–when getting out in the field never forget to turn on your geologger, make sure that it’s logging, and make sure your camera’s time is set! You’ll be thankful that you did! It is less work for you later.
Aside from that–go nuts. Tell your story. Generally–try to take your time to compose shots, but sometimes that isn’t always possible–so don’t worry about it. Remember: As is true with anything in life, you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Not all pictures have to be Pulitzer prize winners–don’t be afraid to take some crappy shots. If you’re new to photography, one of the best ways to ultimately take great pictures is to take a bunch of less-than-stellar ones. Time & experience will make you better.
Speaking of time, as you’re shooting, it isn’t a terrible idea to get one picture of a clock with each camera you’re shooting with. Ideally, the same clock, and one that has a seconds hand. This (hopefully) won’t be your greatest photography ever, but it will help with later steps. I suggest wearing a wrist watch that has a seconds hand (or some other indication of seconds). Just make sure if you’re taking a picture of your watch to make sure it’s not blurry and that you can read it clearly.
One last thing: I don’t generally shoot in raw. I don’t find that the HUGE files give me a big enough advantage to take up the extra space on the hard drive. I will shoot in raw when I’m shooting intentionally for some project that I’m doing where the raw file will help or in some situations where having the raw file may help me in post production situations (i.e. – challenging lighting, wanting a more “high dynamic range” type shot, needing some additional creative control over the white balance of a shot, etc.) Also, if something goes wrong with your memory card, I find it a lot easier to recover a JPG file versus a RAW format file.
Long story short, if you don’t understand what “shooting in RAW” means and have a good, specific reason (or plan) for the RAW files, you’re probably better off shooting in “fine” JPG mode.
Photo & Video Post-Production
I’ll start this off by saying that I use a Mac for photo & video post-production now. It is a much better choice, in general, for doing what I do. Here’s a chart of what I use and why:
|Software Type||What I Use (PC)||What I Use (Mac)||Notes|
|Video Editing||N/A||iMovie||This is one great reason to buy a Mac. The PC software that I’ve used sucks, and I don’t recommend it.|
|Photo Tagging||Geosetter||Houdahgeo||Geosetter is a great program, but can be a HUGE resource hog, unless it is set perfectly. Houdahgeo is king.|
|Meta-Data Correction||N/A||A Better Finder Attributes||Here’s another piece of software that I haven’t found a better alternative on PC. This is great for fixing incorrect camera times / settings / etc.|
|Geolog Viewer||Google Earth||Google Earth||Equally powerful on all platforms for viewing .kml or .gpx files. (Note: Both photo tagging software packages above do a good job on this also, but it can be impossible to isolate times on the track.)|
|Blemish Fixer||N/A||Snapheal||Snapheal is a cheap and quick way to touch up photos. It is not as powerful as the next piece of software on this list, but it will work in a pinch.|
|Post-Processing Software||Adobe Lightroom||Adobe Lightroom||Adobe Lightroom (any of the latest versions) is capable of doing darn near every task you’d want to do to a photo in post production. It also has a really cool automatic face detection functionality that can be used to tag photos with keywords, making them searchable by person (or people) in them. This is optional, but highly recommended.|
|Photo Editing Software||Adobe Photoshop||Adobe Photoshop||I don’t pull things into Photoshop unless I’m trying to do something odd with them, or if I’m trying to re-touch something that’s too challenging to conquer in Adobe Lightroom.|
And here’s the process I follow:
- Copy (don’t move or cut & paste) your pictures off of each camera / SD card and save them on your computer’s hard drive.
- Download the GPS track(s) off of your Geologger, and save it next to the pictures.
- Sort the files by “Date Picture Taken” and/or “Date Created.” If you find that they don’t follow the correct time flow, use your Meta-Data Correction software to resolve any issues. (Google Earth is a good tool to examine your GPS track and see where you were at what time here.) If your camera had the wrong time set, look for pictures of clocks (or the watch picture I suggested you take) to help you fix the time offset.
WARNING: CONFUSING, BUT VALUABLE NOTE: If you are post-processing in another time zone than the one in which your pictures were taken, there will be a discrepancy between “Date Picture Taken” and “Date Created.” Specifically, “Date Picture Taken” is based upon the EXIF image tag that your camera created when your picture was taken. “Date Created” is the time that your camera reported that the picture was taken to the operating system when recording the file, adjusted for the local time zone in which you’re viewing the files. This can cause some annoying discrepancies with cameras that automatically adjust time zones when moved around (like smartphones) and ones that don’t (like DSLRs.) Be aware of this discrepancy–you may want to plan for this as you pull the picture off of your camera. Your mileage will vary per device.
- Once all of the pictures follow the right timeline, import them (and the tracks) into Houdahgeo. (Note: This can be done in Lightroom as well, but I find the interface to be far clunkier and slower than Houdahgeo’s.) Be sure to put the & year, copyright on them, as well as the GPS locations and keywords. (I typically repeat the GPS locations (City / State / Country / Sublocation) as keywords as well, as it makes them much easier to search for. I also add some keywords as relevant.)
- Use Houdahgeo to export directly into the EXIF tags of the images.
- Optional: If you’ve splurged for Lightroom / Photoshop / Snapheal, you can do that post-processing here. (Make sure to tag everyone in your pictures in Lightroom to make them more searchable later.)
- Back everything up on at least two storage devices. Additionally, back things up on the cloud as well–more on that in the next section of this post.
- Delete the basic photos off of your cameras / SD Cards.
Photography Storage & Sharing
There are a number of image sharing & hosting services you can go with. Most people rely on a social network (Facebook, Instagram, et al) to share their photos. However, this is a terrible idea.
First of all–a cautionary word about social networks. As stated in the outstanding Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, “if you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.” This is especially true with the aforementioned social media networks. Plus, every picture you upload (and every interaction you have on these platforms) can be used against you as leverage by other people or the platform in the future. Further, if Facebook doesn’t like your opinions, they control everything you upload to the platform–they could take all of your pictures in the blink of an eye.
On top of this, in the disastrous case of you losing all of your pictures on your home computer, it is a lot more of a challenge to access the full resolution photo from these social sites, even in perfect circumstances.
Your best bet is to use a paid platform that allows for full resolution pictures to be uploaded and offers some layer of security to getting into those pictures. If you can also do this in such a way where you have unlimited storage, you’re in good shape.
I personally use SmugMug. Check them out. (And if you check them out from that link, you’ll be saving me a little on my next year’s renewal!) SmugMug has all of these features, and a number of others. Here’s some of my favorites:
- The “look and feel” of your sharing site can be customized however you see fit.
- Smugmug allows videos (if they are in a supported format.) They embed in your gallery automatically. Neat!
- Smugmug allows you to have visitors use a standard password, but also allows owners to log in and tweak the specific security settings of the site, allowing you to choose what a visitor can or can’t do with a gallery or folder of photos.
- The built-in modules allow you to take advantage of searching all of the stuff you did above possible from the web.
- Thumbnails support animated GIFs, so if you generate those files, you can animate your gallery.
- You can change the file structure of your gallery however you see fit.
- The photo site is very adaptive, making it easy to view the website on any type of device right in a browser.
- For any other type of device where you typically don’t use a browser (like Apple TV), you are (generally) able to get a SmugMug app and view your pictures in it. (This is great for showing pictures on your TV directly through the cloud.)
Start small. There’s a lot here–as this details my entire process, which continues to adapt and grow, even today. Don’t get overwhelmed. Even if you take pieces of this article and come back and get more as you need more, you’ll find things getting better and better! Rome wasn’t conquered in a day–and I’ll bet your (already giant) collection of pictures won’t be, either.
Lost? Or, do you know of another piece of software / hardware that is worth mentioning here? Got any additional tips? Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments below!