Guide to travel photography by Bogdan Mihai Lazar
You are technically our very first contributor. We bet you remember our old layout! How does it feel to be the very first photographer on Dreamstime? Can you share your personal observations on the Dreamstime site evolution?
I knew that my Dreamstime ID number is 8 but I always thought that there must be at least 1 among the other 7 before me which was not a staff member. Therefore it is a surprise for me to find out that I'm the very first contributor! During the past 8 years both Dreamstime and I have evolved. I like to think that we evolved towards better. I am sure at least Dreamstime did.
You have a lot of traveling shots so we're curious: do you travel to shoot or do you shoot while traveling?
That's a difficult question. I would answer that I shoot while travelling, although I sometimes feel it's the other way around. My wife these days certainly thinks like that. There are a certain number of sunsets that one can enjoy and appreciate before it becomes a routine, even if the setting is different. Nonetheless there are still genuine moments resulting from a combination of mood, setting and time of day. I sometimes forget that I should enjoy these moments first, rather than attempting to photograph them.
I do prepare before, especially to check what angles and lighting conditions have been covered and how popular certain landmarks are. But the decision of what and when to shoot is usually spontaneous. It took me a while to learn to travel in such a way that I can be at places of interest at interesting hours (from lighting conditions point of view), while also keeping my family satisfied. I have found that choosing a good hotel in a convenient location is among the most important decisions. Where and when to eat or how
to move around are equally important. It's been a rollercoaster ride to learn how to take these decisions and I am still learning every day.
You've been many times in Japan and also studied there. How do you find Japanese photography/photographers compared to US or European ones? Why do we see so many tourists with cameras but less active photographers in stock photography at least?
I think photography is even more popular in Japan than in the western world, both on the amateur and professional level. Their travel books or brochures are more elaborate than ours, just to show the talent of Japanese photographers in the field. However, I think language is a major barrier in uniting the two worlds. To relate to Japanese photographers or customers, I think one has to be a part of their world and speak their language. This can be the same for other parts of the world as well.
Is there is a trip that you still have not done but you would love to do?
Of course - many! I would put Seychelles Islands on top of my wish list. The Islands are well known to have the most beautiful beaches in the world and the images found on Dreamstime's database are here to certify it.
How much time do you spend with post processing? Is there a technique that you prefer over the others?
I spend about 1h on every image I release. I am very diligent about small imperfections and among them the chromatic aberration is what I find most annoying. About 3 years ago I have started using HDR photography technique. Since then, most of my travel shots are HDR.
At this moment I can think of this image of Chillon Castle. The strong contrast between the sky and the dark silhouette of the castle made it very difficult to properly expose the scene, even considering bracketed exposures for HDR. Among the most recent trips, I found La Rambla in Barcelona extremely difficult to shoot. I've spent several hours walking up and down the street to find good angles capturing the river of people flowing under the trees. I am still not sure if I had managed to capture it properly. Here is one of the few good shots I've got.
It is obvious that you choose the best shots from each location carefully. How important is quality over quantity?
During my first years in stock, I was shooting and uploading everything. You then observe that the sales are concentrated on just the best shots. And then you realize that (unless you have a lot of time at your disposal) it is counterproductive to just post-process and prepare all the images taken during a shoot. I don't have enough time to process even my best images. I still have good images from April last year that I did not get around to.
Summing up, I prefer to use my time traveling or preparing for traveling, rather than post-processing in front of the computer. Therefore, I had to learn to select the best and more difficult, to let the others go.
People are different from one country to the next. Now with editorial becoming more popular, have you given any thoughts to including closeups of local people in these beautiful settings?
I was never comfortable to push my camera into stranger's nose. I have a lot of ground to cover with my current style as well as new techniques or topics that I would like to get my hands dirty with before this happens. But I cannot predict the future.
(i) Save more budget for traveling expenses than for equipment;
My traveling budget is several times more than how much my gear is worth. A downtown hotel can get you into walking distance to more interesting locations, maximizing your shooting time, but it comes at a higher price. A hotel with a view is even better sometimes.
(ii)Travel as light as possible; Keep the number of extra lens and the camera's size to a minimum. It will make you a faster, better and safer shooter ;-)
(iii)Always try to go beyond the state-of-art; Copying is good for learning. To be taken seriously, one has to create new content (new technique, new angle, new light conditions or new location) on the regular basis. Of course, it is difficult to be really original when comparing yourself with the whole world, but one should strive nonetheless. When putting one creation in the perspective of only the stock industry, originality is easier to be achieved.
Mihai Bogdan has traveled a lot around the stock photography world and his steps have finally led him to a path he recommends others to take as well: finding and professing an original style, an original approach, an original view. Travel photography may be an ordinary stock subject. It's your job to make travel photos extraordinary.
Photo credits: Mihai-bogdan Lazar.