Talking travel with Shutterfly’s resident photographer

Dane Howard is the photography portal Shutterfly‘s resident photographer and author of The Future of Memories, a book about sharing photos in the digital age. He’s here today to talk about some secrets of the trade–and to give us the scoop on today’s launch of Shutterfly’s new travel site.

What photography equipment do you take on your travels?

When I have a targeted 2-hour segment of shooting, I like to walk with my digital SLR, the Nikon D40x. I’m like a soldier for visuals. I’ve outfitted my Nikon with a hand-strap, allowing me to freely walk with my finger on the shutter button at all times. If I’m planning on taking large area photos with a single shot, I’ll bring along my Nikkor 18-55mm wide angle lenses, a lens hood to reduce flare and increase contrast.

A small, lightweight tripod is really useful when it comes to time-lapse or night shots. The Joby Gorillapod is awesome because it works on uneven surfaces and can even be wrapped around rails and branches.

When it comes to everyday shots, I’ll need something pocket size. I use my Panasonic Lumix LX2 or my Canon G9. These are my ‘everywhere’ cameras, which means I take them ‘everywhere.’ They allow me to shoot great photos and video. They are small enough to just slip into my pocket.

Extra memory cards are definitely a necessity because you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you have to delete pictures just to take more. And of course a battery charger–do not forget that! If I’m traveling to a foreign country I also make sure to bring a power adapter. I use the Belkin Universal AC Travel Adapter. I never shoot with the flash, so this extends my battery life while travelling.

How would you make the best of shots from a point-and-click? Any tips?

  • Find Visual ‘Book-ends': Think about the visual elements that establish a new scene. These can be either a sign or entry into the successive shots. By establishing a shot that gives context, you help build a stronger narrative.
  • Panoramic POV: Photos are magnificent because they can really get the span of a beautiful view. One of my favorite techniques for the photo books that I make on Shutterfly is to create panoramic layouts by facing two “full bleed” pages.
  • Take your time. Take a moment to observe your environment and take shots from different angles to make sure you get the best lighting, background, and character of your environment.
  • Close-ups: You’ll never forget to take the wide panoramic, but you’ll want to remember the details. Don’t forget to capture the Macro shots of an important detail, like a table setting, glass or ornate door or structure. Focus on textures, like ripples on a lake and various materials on city buildings. You’ll want the juxtaposition later.
  • Use people or objects: Put them in the foreground/background to help convey the scale of your subject matter and to make the picture more visually interesting
What advice would you give to travelers who want to move away from the cheesy “me-standing-in-front-of-the-Eiffel-tower” shots?

I would definitely suggest trying different perspectives than the predictable shots. Not only is it more fun for you, but it makes it more interesting to those you share your photos with. For example, if you are taking a picture of a monument or sign, stand below and look up at it versus the usual front and center point of view. Or another unique approach is to take a picture of the monument/sign reflected in another object.

How do you land those “slice-of-life” shots of locals?

I stay put. Usually when you travel you’re always on the go. I often observe and set a camera on a key ledge or table where I know the locals will pass by. If you are on the move, so is your camera. I like to show ‘local fare’ by shooting two shots of a local passing through their space. This gets to the essence of local movement, thus local behavior. If I have time, I’ll switch over to movie mode and capture an audio track along with the video. I may use this later when I share the memory.

It’s always good to venture away from the tourist shopping areas to check out the local market where residents buy their groceries. Check out local hangouts and neighborhoods away from downtown.

What are some tips to telling a narrative through photography?

Context, context, context. Choose and drive the context of the story you want to tell through your pictures. If you know what context you want your narrative to be told in, it makes it much easier to stay focused. This helps in the process of actually taking pictures while out and about as well as when you have to choose the best pictures that you want to include in your story and how to do it in a cohesive sequence.

No matter what you choose your narrative direction to be, enjoy the process of gathering a body of work aligned with something that gives you the freedom and creativity to author something you will enjoy for years to come.

What are your favorite digital solutions for preserving and displaying vacation photos?

I really love online sites like Shutterfly for photo books. Vacation photos can be shared individually or by album. You can also create a photo book with captions and share the beautiful finished product with friends and family.

I also use VUVOX, which enables me to quickly showcase and share my photos in rich presentation styles. I use this on chloehoward.com all the time.

Top 3 photography travel blogs?

  • Europe: I love his emphasis on Europe through the Back Door. I find helpful hints, stories and insight by his site and the community that follows it.
  • Daily Practices: I must practice what I preach, and when I re-read my own material and from contributors of my own book, I am reminded why I am so passionate about the future of memories and sharing this information. These convictions help push me to make my photos and my work better, wherever I go.
  • Shutterfly Gallery: Shutterfly Gallery is a community that provides readers with inspiration for storytelling, tips, and encourages them to be active in the community by contributing their own photo books. You can learn a lot here. They’ve also introduced “Hit the Road with Shutterfly,” a new destination for travelers to find inspiration on where to go this summer and how best to record and tell tell the story of their summer journeys through photos.