A Professional Travel Photographer Gives Us Advice On How To Take Better Pictures

Editorial Director, Life
06.19.15 5 Comments

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Baldemar Fierro

It’s easier than ever to take a picture, but taking a good picture is still tough. Instagram filters and that cool tilt shift tool can do a lot, but there are limits. With summer here, it’s time to step your game up, so we asked photographer Baldemar Fierro to kick some advice our way.

“I feel like a good photo can be found anywhere,” Fierro says. “It could be in front of your house or out at the edges of the world. It’s about variables like light, subject matter, and composition all coming together.”

Fierro shares some of his favorite photos below, along with tips on how to achieve a similar effect in your own shots.

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Baldemar Fierro

ON SLOWING DOWN ENOUGH TO STUDY YOUR SURROUNDINGS: I was up on a cliff when I shot this, overlooking a crowded beach in Ibiza. At first, I was just going to take a wide angle shot, but this woman stood out from the rest of the scene. By composing the image this way, I’m hoped to offer a sense of the vastness of the ocean and the freedom she might be feeling at that moment.

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Baldemar Fierro

ON TRUSTING YOUR GUT: I was driving south from San Francisco and pulled off on a small road for gas. There was a thick fog behind me, and I remember seeing a flock of blackbirds fly into it; in the opposite direction of where I was headed. Something about that moment made me want to investigate, so I made a U-turn and found this tree standing alone a half-mile away. Paying attention to my intuition has always seemed to lead to the best things, not just in photography but also life.

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Baldemar Fierro

ON NOT BEING AFRAID TO TURN OFF THE “AUTO” SETTING: One technique worth learning is time exposure, in which you slow the shutter speed way down to let in light. This picture comes from a recent trip to Iceland and was taken at about 10 p.m. (I was there in May when it never fully gets dark outside). I could tell that the clouds were moving across the sky so I used time exposure to capture that blur of motion. I wanted to give the viewer a sense of what I was experiencing in a way that an auto shot couldn’t.

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Baldemar Fierro

ON THINKING AHEAD: I was with a friend on his rooftop in Brazil and I saw this image of the favelas across the road. Everyone was coming home, turning their lights on, and preparing to eat. The sun had gone down 20 minutes earlier, and the blue of dusk played against those lights. I didn’t have my camera with me, so I asked my friend if I could come back the next night. I knew that if the conditions were similar, I could get something I was stoked on. Of course, I only got the shot because the weather was consistent… so the other lesson might be, “If you’re serious about photography, keep your camera with you.”

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Baldemar Fierro

ON NOT STANDING APART FROM YOUR SUBJECTS: Portraiture isn’t a big part of my work. On the occasions that I do photograph people, I like us both to feel comfortable. This photo comes from the island of Kadavu in Fiji, where my daughter and I had been hanging with these kids for a few days. We’d played in their rugby games and visited their school. By the time I took my camera out, they were focused on their game and completely ignoring me, which is, I think, what gives the photo that “insider” feel.

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Baldemar Fierro

ON KNOWING YOUR GEAR: Sometimes the “right moment” only lasts for a few seconds. I saw this kid getting ready to jump off a bridge in Malta and knew the shutter speed I needed to get the shot. Know what your settings will do and use them to your advantage. Have a good idea of what shutter speed will freeze someone; figure out how to use f-stops to get the depth of field you want. Sometimes, it’s not about having the best camera; it’s about knowing how to use the camera you have.

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Baldemar Fierro

ON GETTING LUCKY: If a white stallion walks in to your frame in Patagonia, take a picture of it.

All photographs courtesy of Baldemar Fierro. Instagram: @overxposure

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Need a good camera for under $500? Fierro recommends the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, saying, “It fits in your pocket, it has unparalleled image quality for a camera that size, and it can be used manually to achieve all the techniques I talk about.” A new model launches July 3.

For more advice, the crew at COOPH made a video to help you take the best travel photos of your life. Check out photographer Ray Demski as he explores Venice and lays out some of his favorite tricks and techniques.’

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