Tourists in Your Shots


Travel Photography: The Complete Guide


Lesson Info

Tourists in Your Shots

Let's talk about tourists. Now a lot of times, you go to a location, you get there and you got this great thing. It's the Eiffel Tower, it's something. The Eiffel Tower's not the best thing, it's just a tower, but there's always mobs of people around and you don't always like the mobs of people to show up in your pictures. Sometimes you can't help it, but there are a lot of techniques you can use to minimize them or to make them a useful element within the scene. So let's look at a few of those. The first is, I look for color. If you see one particular tourist that's wearing overly vivid colors, not some of the overly vivids you see these days like it's, I don't know, I won't get into the (laughs) fluorescent, certain fluorescent colors, wearing clothing that doesn't quite look complementary to them (laughs) or something. That was (mumbles), but when you find a little element of color in the tourists, I look for that element of color and I look for what's around it that I can include w...

ith that because color is a magnet for your eye and if I can incorporate that, that's great. So in this case, I actually was visiting this area form a cruise chip and that's somebody else from the cruise ship. It was raining that day, which gives me nice streets, any time it's been raining, are going to be nice and shiny. And they were the one person. Everybody else had white umbrellas. That had that umbrella, so who was I following? Looking around? Well, because if otherwise all I'm doing is shooting streets that are always empty and monuments that are always have no people around them, something feels weird about it, and it's like, what? Was it closed the day you got there? So that human element adds something. And so in this case though, I saw the one person with the green and I said where are they walking? And I started thinking about what could I frame up with them and happened to get that one. And just putting a person in a lot of shots ends up, just imagine if he wasn't there. It would feel a lot less, like, there's a lot less life to that image. It's just concrete and paint. But just him walking through helps. So sometimes I don't mind tourists. When they're really small, they give scale to architecture and other things, so I don't mind that. Look at those tiny people. You wouldn't really know. That one's no processed obviously it's too foggy looking, but you wouldn't really know how big that Buddha is unless the people were in the shot. So it's not that I always want to get rid of them, but then there are techniques that I use to minimize, reduce them. So in this case, we have a temple-like area. People were constantly going in and out. Well, one thing is to have patience. If I wait long enough, I might get a in between two sets of people that are kind of going in and out and I might be able to get it. You see, there's still a guy sitting there on the right side in the shadows? But oftentimes, it has to do with framing and not including the entire scene. If you look at this particular structure and you think about what is most interesting about it, to me, what's most interesting is the shape of the roof and the gold panel that is on the surface. To me, the ground that's down below isn't really that interesting to me. There's not that much about it. So what about shooting at an angle? Now there is a little sloppy in that you'll see me talk about angles at the edges of photos and you see at the very bottom of the photo it's close to matching the angle, but not quite. I'd usually get it to match. But I could do that and right now at this particular spot people could be walking in and out because I'm shooting right above their heads and that's a very common thing. There, if I recompose a little bit it's relatively clean. Now I did get a guy's head in the lower right. You see him sitting down there? But that's so easy to retouch out. Now retouching, it's up to you as far as something you can do or not. If you're going to have this published in National Geographic, they don't let you retouch anything. If it's something where it's supposed to be news or something depicting just straight out reality in a kind of newsworthy fashion, it's usually not a good thing. If it's fine art, if you're just making a pretty picture, then it's up to you if you think it's appropriate or not. I have no problem with it as long as I'm not presenting it as a news piece of some sort because that person's head was not there two minutes (laughs) later. It's not like I'm fooling them. So here, do you see the people? I don't think they're adding to this. Sure, they do give some scale but they just seem to be randomly there and you notice that horizontal bar that is kind of in here. It looks like it's almost slicing these guys' heads off? And this person looks like they're walking into the other? And it's just not a pleasant setup, so what do I do? Just tilt up. Oftentimes, it's literally as easy as tilting up or more commonly, crouching down. When you crouch down, you need to tilt up to include the same framing and suddenly you're shooting above their heads and that can clean things up. So here, I got this great procession of monks, but look in the background. These guys. Who are they and what are they doing? You see, this guy has got a camera up to his face, we got some colorful things over there and you're like aw man, well, what do I have to do? All you need to do is crouch down a little bit. If I crouch down, what's going to happen to those people in the background? They're going to get covered up. I can still see the one guy's head though. Well, then why not either have me walk this towards the right or left until one these monks' heads is covering them up and so that now, they're still there and if I was standing up with a normal shot from eye level, they'd be there. I still have one person on the far right I wish wasn't there, but I can always crop the photo and even get rid of the monk that's sitting there to get a clean shot of that. So you get the idea that oftentimes, it does have to do with angle, getting rid of things. Then we have other approaches. You remember when we talked about gear, there was one thing that was very important to me with gear because it's a trick that I use in my photography all the time, and that is being able to get areas to look soft and out of focus. And by doing so, I can isolate my subject which I'm focusing on, from its background, which I hope to look like just a blurry blob of shapes. And so if I have tourists and things behind there and I don't want them to really be prominent, I'm going to shoot at F2.8 because if, when I mention two, eight, I should just mention the lenses I happen to shoot with, that's the lowest number that that setting goes to and so for your lens, whatever the lowest setting is. For some people, that's 1.4. For other people, that's F4 or fix, six. Whatever the number is, I go for the lowest number, which gives me the narrowest depth of field. And that's what I'm going try to knock them out of focus. There are two keys to getting the out-of-focus background, which I'm sure we'll get to later on as well, but what it is is you must be magnifying your subject. The more you magnify the subject, the more out of focus the background goes, and what that means is either get closer and closer because as you walk closer to somebody, don't they get bigger in the viewfinder? That means you're magnifying them. Or the other way is even use a longer lens or zoom your lens. And if you actually go through that math that we did before, do you remember? It was the millimeters of your lens divided by the aperture and that told you how big the opening was on your lens and how big the opening controls how much depth you get? Well, if you do the math and you do it for a 17 millimeter lens, you're going to find the opening is going to be not going to be not allowing you to get it as open. If you end up getting to a long lens you're going to find that it's going to give a much more out-of-focus background. So it's any time you magnify, it's going to actually push it, so either walk closer to them, put on a longer lens, one of those two, and you're going to be able to do that as long as you shoot wide open. Wide open means lowest number your F stop goes to. Another way of dealing with tourists is to blur them and so that's why, you remember I said I have some filters and those filters, two of them are neutral density filters and if you're not familiar with neutral density filters, it's just like sunglasses. It's just a tinted piece of glass and if I put that on, I'm going to end up forcing the camera to have less light coming in the lens and therefore, it's going to have to compensate by doing a longer exposure to end up using the same amount of light for my exposure. Well, in this case, I was in Florida actually and this is a bar that has dollar bills stapled to the ceiling and they're all over. I mean, there's, I don't know, feels like 100, dollar bills in there and everybody writes their names on them and staples them to the ceiling. And I wanted to get a shot of it, but these guys just sitting there were not doing it for me and so in this case, I did have a tripod. I popped my camera on the tripod, put a neutral density filter on and shot it. Sometimes you don't need the neutral density. If it's not midday, like noontime, instead it's later in the day where there might not be quite as much light going on, you can just change your aperture setting to the highest number it goes to, the F stop, like F22, or some lenses go higher than that. That means the opening in your lens becomes smaller and smaller and once you get to the highest number you can put in there, it's as small as it can be and that's going to let the least amount of light in. The other thing that I do is I change the ISO setting of my camera. That's how sensitive it is to light. The default for my camera is 100, but I can actually set it to 50 and if I set it to 50, then it doubles the length of the exposure because it's less sensitive to light. So the combination of F22 and ISO 50 is kind of the formula for I want to blur stuff and it just sometimes doesn't work when it's mega bright out because there's just so much light that it's still a fast shutter speed and if that's the case, that's when I start thinking about putting a neutral density filter on. If I don't have a tripod, I'm going to have to probably find something to set my camera on and sometimes it even works if I can find a pole and I just hold my camera against the pole and I'm still holding the camera on one side and the pole is making it solid on the opposite. So here are a few examples. See the traffic going by? If the traffic was sharp, then it wouldn't be quite as interesting of a photo. Do you see a bicycle in there? (laughter) Or here, I got this thing where I framed up this area in the distance, but the tourists just aren't doing it for me. So again, what do I do? I start F and ISO and if that still doesn't give it to me, I try to overexpose as much as I can without losing too much, but overexpose just means let more light. More light means longer exposure. And in this case, you see the sky with the white. That's because I changed the exposure to make it even longer and I get nice blurriness. So other things. Here you see the people on the left side. I like their umbrella and things, but I don't like that I lobbed off the bottom of their legs. And I don't know if I like them or not, but what I'm going to do is another approach, is take this shot and I might, no matter how long I stand here, never get this shot without people in it. But if I take more than one shot, just stand still, take one shot, take this shot. If I combine these two shots together, I can get rid of the people because here, they're blocking part of that building that's behind them, right? But right here, they're not blocking that same area and so as long as I got both, now I can combine those two images together into one where I simply say use the stairs that are over here from this shot and use this area from this shot and I'll show you how to do that once we get into Photoshop and I'll just keep taking them just to make sure I got it because I might not remember, were there any people over on that part when I took that first one? I don't know, better to take too many shots. Or the final thing is, of course, tilt up. Here, I got a monk. Love that with the background. But that person walking in the background. First off, the image needs to be adjusted. For those of you in the audience, it looks okay. On my screen, it's quite dark but it can be adjusted to brighten him up. But you see that person in the background? It's one of those situations where you're kind of like, if only that person wasn't there! Well, chill out about that. Just take the shot and then pause for a second and say I got Photoshop. Is there any way I can capture something in addition to this that might help me get rid of them? And so all I got to do is stay right there and take another shot and even here, I move the camera, but I can still use it as long as it's not a radically different angle. If all I'm doing is tilting the camera around, I can usually use it. So look at this area where she is and let's look at, oops, this one. And you see that same general area is clean, right? Or if this is the area I need to get rid of her, this actually is. Look at that area. Remember, there's a little different colored thing. And if you look in this one, here's that area with the little different colored thing. We got it clean and I'm able to combine those two together even if the camera did not remain still. I'll show you how to get Photoshop to automatically line them up so you don't have to do any work to do that and the total amount of time it would take to get rid of her in Photoshop is about three minutes, maybe two if you're good at it, okay? Some of you could probably, if you know keyboard shark, could do it in less than a minute. Another example. I like the color on these umbrellas and the city in the background, Hong Kong, but I didn't like this group of people that are right here. Didn't mind the people working in their little booths. So I took this shot and I just stood still and I waited for them to walk to there and they're blocking other stuff, so I waited them to walk a little bit further and just taking those shots, I can combine them together. This one, the problem is, if you watch the left edge of the photograph, do you see that guy in red pants? If I back up a little bit, here, that area these guys are blocking, here he is and there he is too. Of course, he's a photographer! (laughter) Do you see that camera in his hand (laughs)? Yeah, they always do. So that means if I want to get rid of him, first off, I could crop. It's only on the edge of the frame, but I might not want to cut off the umbrella that's on the far left, so that might be a retouch job. That one will probably take me probably about 10 minutes and we can do that one when we're in Photoshop if you like, so you'd see how to clean that all up, combine it all together. But otherwise, one of the other keys is to simply have patience and wait for that gap when there's no people and sometimes you get it, but sometimes you don't and that's when you have to either take multiple shots to composite them together, blur them, crop them out somehow by doing different angles, or make them so out of focus that they're actually a good part of the image and so that's some of how I deal with tourists in general. Does that make any sense? Any questions about those ideas? Do you ever manually blur out certain areas of the photos? Like, I catch myself doing that sometimes if I don't have the proper depth of field and I want to create it, I just kind of go to the background and. It depends. When it comes to people, I haven't found myself really blurring that much. I mean, it doesn't mean that I wouldn't necessarily if it looked good, but I just don't find myself doing that on a regular instance. If I want to create a certain look though in a picture, it has nothing to do with people. Just, what happens is if you end up creating a much, how would I say it? If you have the view of a really large area like a city, it is almost impossible to get a narrow depth of field and the reason for it is the wider the angle of your lens, the deeper the depth of field becomes and there's actually a little calculator. So I have one on my phone and I might be able to find one here that can tell you you will have exactly this much depth. And if you look at it for wide angle lenses, it's a huge amount of depth. So if you've ever taken a picture of a whole city, it's, for the most part, impossible to get areas out of focus, but if I want it to look that way, I might do what you're mentioning. And if I do, what happens is that city suddenly looks miniature and the reason it looks miniature is the only time your brain is used to seeing limited depth of field is when you magnify things. If you get under a microscope and you try to focus a microscope, it's a microscopic thinness that is in focus and as you get closer and closer to that, that's what you achieve. So when you get those areas out of focus on that cityscape, your brain goes wait a minute. I never see that with a wide angle lens, so that must be miniature because it looks like you're magnifying. So I do it for that reason, yeah. Anything else before I slide into another? I'm not sure if you're going to cover this, but we have a lot of questions about whether you need releases from people when doing travel photography if their faces are visible and that's whether they are tourists that are there or people on the street that you're encountering. Well, I'm not a legal expert by any means whatsoever and I don't play one on TV (laughs). But, so, don't listen to what I'm about to say and don't take it as something that is like, what you should do. You should study up on that if that is your concern. My general mindset is if the image is taken in public and the person had no expectation of privacy, then I feel okay taking that picture. Now there are some areas of the world where there are laws that say no, you can't do that and you would have to do research on where those things apply. If the image is being used for editorial purposes, like in a magazine, it's a story about a location or something like that, or it's being used for fine art where it's a decorative thing on your wall, then as far as my mind about it is, I'm fine using that. If, on the other hand, it's going to be used for a commercial purpose, you're going to use it in an advertisement for Canon cameras, you need a model release because now it's going to look like they might be representing that product and if they're not okay with that, you can run into big time trouble. But having said all of that, don't listen to me. Do your own research because just because I said anything doesn't mean it's actually legal with any of that. So if I think that some image I'm going to take, it includes a person and I was like dang, I think that's going to be, I'd like to use that for a particular purpose and I just feel bad about it, you can just have model releases in your camera bag. Try to make them as small and as few words as you can, just so they're not intimidating, and you can ask people. It takes a little bit of gall to walk up and ask somebody and you have to have the right mindset and be very friendly about it and also, it helps if you say you'll send them a photo. Just say something like, "I took a great picture of you. "I hope you don't mind about so and so. "I'd love to send it to you and do you mind "signing this so that it's okay for me to use it?" You know, that kind of thing. And usually they're like, "Oh, you're going "to send it to me?" You know, that kind of thing. And you might just email it to them. That's "sending it" kind of thing. And there you kind of made a bond with them of I'm giving you something. Is there any chance you'd do this for me? And it's usually a lot more acceptable. The problem is when it's travel photography, oftentimes you're in a country where you don't speak the language and you're not going to get it unless you have an interpreter guide with you.

Class Description

It takes the perfect combination of gear, exposure, and creative thinking to produce travel images that stand out from the rest. Learn the how to bring the critical ingredients together in Travel Photography: The Complete Guide with Ben Willmore.

Fresh off a seven-country, two-month international trip, Ben will share everything it takes to create exciting and memorable travel images. You’ll learn how to:

  • Deal with everyday tourists in your shots 
  • Select the best lens for each situation 
  • Organize the chaos of a scene into a compelling image

Ben will cover everything you want to know about selecting, packing, and protecting gear. You’ll also develop an efficient digital workflow that fits the fast-paced lifestyle of travel shooting.

Don’t go on your next travel adventure without the insights and skills you need to capture high-quality images, fast processing – join Ben Willmore for Travel Photography: The Complete Guide.