Posts By David Williams

#TravelTuesday has landed again, and I’m here! I’m Dave Williams, and I’m here every Tuesday on ScottKelby.com with something from the world of travel photography for you all. Right now I have seriously itchy feet and I just keep scanning the internet for somewhere to go. Iceland is high up the list and I’ve also been looking at Patagonia, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Finland, and some sunny places, too. Anyway, the problem at the moment is quarantine – nobody is letting anybody in without quarantine, and the quarantine period is longer than the trip. But what about attracting people to the country or destination? How does that actually work and how do we play our part as photographers?

Travel photography explores and shares the dream of visiting faraway places, and perhaps that has never before been so true as it is now. Social media provides a seemingly endless supply of wanderlust-inspiring content and with a click or a scroll we can see almost anywhere in the world. As a profession, travel photography is all about creating images which do the following: –

Travel photography takes landscape and light and culture, a sense of place with no sense of time, while crucially encapsulating the essence of the destination and containing, within one frame, everything required to attain and retain the attention of the viewer and working to make that viewer want to be in the photo.

Travel photography that achieves this aim is all around us because this is the point of travel photography. We can see it in magazines, on postcards, on travel websites, on tour operator social media, literally everywhere that is trying to sell us the concept of travel, because these are the images that make the sale – the ones that make us want to be there.

Take a look at @STATravel on Instagram and notice how, on this account and many like it which sell travel, there’s a huge range of images which make us want to be in these places. There’s no consistent style, no consistent theme per se, no consistent subject, and all the images vary in their style. The one thing they all have in common is the feeling or, if you like, the result. They all make us want to be there.

Moving ahead in travel photography and learning how to develop yourself as a travel photographer is therefore about two things: –

First, we need to know and understand the technical and artistic elements of photography.

Second, we need to learn how to employ all the methods we learn to convey the sense of wanting to be in the images we create to everyone who looks at them.

There are many techniques to help achieve this: good composition, enticing leading lines, a clear and engaging subject, a sense of timelessness, and many other elements – the thing is, if it’s a well-considered shot at the time of taking it, this consideration will carry forward to those viewing the image and the passion of the photographer will shine through.

Take the time to consider your shots and think about what, in each particular scene, will make people want to be there.

Something to think about! Catch you again next week!

Much Love

Dave

With things slowly easing up the world over, it’s time #TravelTuesday got more travel focussed again. I’m Dave Williams and I’m here again, crossing my fingers and checking airline and government notices daily to see when I can go explore again!

I want to share with you the way I find the most cost-effective ways to get shots when I’m self-assigned. When someone else is commissioning a shoot it’s easy—just wait for the tickets and reservations to land in your inbox. But, for self-assignment when shooting stock, for example, it’s a little trickier and every penny counts. That’s why I have developed a system for finding the best prices for flights, hotels, and cars, and it’s this system I want to let you in on today. Being based in the UK it will vary slightly for those of you in the US or other parts of the world, but the system remains similar in all locations.

First up, I need to work out where I need to go. If I’m flying from London to Paris, there are many options, which means there’s healthy competition. London has several airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, and a couple of others. Paris, similarly, has multiple airports. Charles De Gaulle and Orly, serving the city from the north and the south. This range of options means airlines are competing to get you there, and this reflects in the price. Take a look at Stockholm, Sweden, and notice there are three airports: Arlanda, Skavsta, and Bromma. Similarly, New York has JFK, La Guardia, and Newark. Most major cities have multiple airports, which helps to drive the prices down and the options up. But how do I find the best options?

I constantly monitor Hopper to find out the best time to book, and what I mean by this is how far in advance. There’s a whole load of mystery around flight pricing and we know there are controls in place to fill the flights up to make the most profit for the airlines, but what Hopper does is it monitors the prices for major worldwide routes to suggest the best time to book a specific ticket. Once I know this, I know how far ahead to be planning.

Next up, I can do the searching. I tend to start with Skyscanner to gauge the routes available. Skyscanner lets us input a city or an airport, and allows us to select dates or view a range of dates to compare prices. The result is the cheapest ticket. We can select different airlines for different legs of the journey and even different airports for each direction. When I see the results I will go to the airline’s own website to check their price, because although Skyscanner is usually the cheapest option, there is the odd occasion when the airline’s website shaves a couple of quid off the price.

With the flight sorted, I’ll source accommodation. Knowing that I’ll be spending a lot of time out rather than in, it’s more important to me to choose a tactical location than it is to choose the services, etc., that may be available. Some of my favourite places to stay have been in the middle of nowhere, waking up to the sounds of sheep bleating at the door of a mountain in Iceland, with nothing but a bed and a lamp in the room, but perfect positioning to explore the landscape. The best places to find these sorts of accommodations are Booking.com, Hotels.com, and AirBNB. The way I use these is to search the dates and locations, then switch to the map view to view the results geographically, selecting the most appropriate option in terms of price and location to ensure I can get the job done, on-budget. I have an account with each of these companies, and this gives me access to cheaper rates and extras, like early check-in and late check-out, which I’d definitely recommend.

Last on the list is cars. Rentalcars.com is the winner, but a close second is Hotwire. These are price comparison sites as well, and for some reason, I always find the cars cheaper here than with the rental companies themselves. The off-airport companies are always cheaper, but it’s a trade-off whether you’re willing to wait 45 minutes for the agency to send someone to the airport to collect you and to return the car that much earlier at the end of the rental, as well. My top tip for making this cost-effective is to consider that the full insurance is rarely included, and it’s always worth having. The price of a small scrape can run into the hundreds, so unless you have a permanent rental insurance policy, get the insurance (but don’t over-buy it.) Buying it from the rental company when you arrive is the best way to do it to bring down deposits and excesses, rather than buying it through Rentalcars.com or whichever company you used in the first place.

Essentially, it’s important to shop around and put in the research to make your trip as cost-effective as possible. When you’re running a business, this will increase your margins. When you’re not, it’ll save you enough money to be able to see more places! I hope this has been useful.

Much love
Dave

We’re all inspired by something – something makes us click. #TravelTuesday this week is all about figuring that out. I’m Dave Williams, and I’m here each and every Tuesday – no global pandemic will stop me!

So, what is it that inspires us? I’m going to start by flipping this whole scenario on its head. What takes me back to a location is often the music I was listening to at the time. When I listen to The Northern Kings, my mind takes me to Svalbard. Christmas music puts me in Canada, The 1975 is Norway, and Panic! At The Disco is largely places in Iceland. I don’t know what exactly it is that does this, but there’s a part of me that says it must be more than simply having been listening to the music whilst in the place because it’s not all music and it’s not all places. I still can’t figure this one out, so if you have any leads, let me know! I was thinking along the lines of a reverse of the inspiration from the final image back to the source, but enough, let’s get on.

Something is nurturing our creativity. Something is the cause of our ability to create beautiful images. These things we see, like the way the light falls on a mountain or the look in somebody’s eyes, are things that everyone around us also sees. The difference between us and them is that we have the desire and the skill to make something of it. Something inside of us is the difference between the shot and no shot. It could be the time of day or the time of year, and it could be what’s in the scene or what’s missing from it. It could be the lens we’re carrying or the time we’re willing to give the subject. Whatever it is, something inside of us makes us want to take that view, that scene, and compose it in such a way that it makes people want to be there or to look at the results of our creativity. 

Whatever it is, it grants us the unique ability to share the world as we see it, through our lens and through our eyes. Something inside of us is either pre-programmed to create or has learned to create. Finding what that thing is for you is a key part of being able to continue creating art both now during this pandemic, and going forward.

Goðafoss, Iceland, if you were wondering

For me, it’s all about travel. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: – I want to make people want to be in my photos. The whole idea for me in my field, travel photography, is to make people want to be there. This is what sells my images to be in magazines and brochures, and on websites and news stories. If I take a shot that holds somebody’s attention for just a fraction longer than the next person’s photo, I’m winning. The field, travel photography, is inherently vague. Whatever your field of photography, take however long it takes to work out what it is you want to achieve and how you can achieve it, and apply the resulting answer to your images going forward. Give them meaning and give them reason.

What about finding that style? What can we do to work out what it is about our photos that makes us click and keeps us in the game? This can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Is there something about your style that stands above others? Do you have vibrant colours that pop off the page, or do you have a stark contrast of black and white? Is the focus narrow or are your images tack sharp from back to front? Maybe it’s something else altogether – maybe your subject matter reveals you as a photographer, for example, is it all about the architecture? Or the flowers? Or the people? There’s a good place to start with working out what it is about your photography that defines who you are, and it’s to try lots of different things. What happens with this process is that we work through the “maybe” list and tick off all the “no” until we’re left with the “yes.” Top tip: the same process can be used to determine your favourite or “keeper” images from a shoot – instead of looking at, say, 20 similar images and trying to decide your favourite, turn the process on its head and take out the shots you like the least until that leaves you with one, final, favourite image. I’ve completed this process myself in trying to determine which field or genre of photography I wanted to pursue, giving lots of things a go to decide what I didn’t like until I ended up with the one thing that I really, really do like.

Portland, ME, USA

This process of determining what it is that we like about photography and what it is that defines our style is the thing that pushes us to focus and work harder on the things we really love. When we photographers are motivated in our shooting, as a result of shooting what we love in the way that we love to shoot, it’s evident in the results. Photos are lasting – they’re the timeless, living memory of a moment in time, captured beautifully in a way that really shows justice to the subject. We strive constantly to be the best at what we do – always thinking about the newest gear and revolutionary techniques – but here’s the sneaky truth behind the reality: –

When somebody sees a photo and smiles because they love the content and the composition and the subject and the light and emotion and the colour and seemingly endless list of factors drawing them to feel with their eyes, they’re not wondering what camera was used, they’re simply in the moment and enjoying the photo. This is the result of practice and passion combined, and a brand new camera or expensive lens will not create this result – you will.

Figure out what makes you click.

Much love

Dave

#TravelTuesday is here again! Is it just me or does it seem to be coming around quicker during lockdown, teasing me in that I can’t actually go anywhere! It’s me, Dave Williams, and I’m here today and every Tuesday. Let’s start with just a little thing:

Is the lockdown lending itself to generating stronger creativity amongst us? It could be—just take a look around at all the creatives you follow on social media to see exactly what they’re up to. I’ll pick out a perfect example of someone who’s diverting their creativity from photography towards other things: KelbyOne-instructing, guitar-shredding, drum-smashing, pixel-tweaking legend, Mark Heaps has been getting involved in a socially-distant music festival. There are ways for us to keep occupied, so take some inspiration from those around you and keep safe!

So, here’s the point of today’s post: 

Not only are we struggling, but our favourite companies are struggling. We can show our support for them, and perhaps this can lead to bigger things for us. Here’s what I mean:

One way to monetise your photography is through paid or sponsored reviews. These things come in many forms in our digital age, ranging from magazines, both online and offline, through blog posts, Instagram posts, YouTube videos, there are many ways to showcase products that we can get involved in. There is potential to be paid for doing this, but it starts off somewhere smaller where we get recognition, and this is what I’d urge you all to try.

Whatever products or services you use in your photography or creativity, show thanks to the people who made them and show off what you can do with them. If you use KelbyOne to learn photography, show KelbyOne what you’ve learned by sharing the results and tagging them, telling your friends, and even telling KelbyOne themselves. Use this same technique for any company whose product or services you use by simply switching out the word “KelbyOne” in these instructions. For example, if you use Platypod, show them and tell them what you achieve with it. Likewise for Tamron, ProFoto, or whoever else.

There are a lot of people out there in our industry who say you shouldn’t do anything for free, and I understand where this comes from—we should be making money and if we give our service away, we make no money. The caveat here is that we have to start somewhere, and even when we get to that “somewhere” we still need to encourage people to continue to book us. This little giveaway of some words and photos can lead to the bigger things, or to the same thing in exchange for cold, hard cash the next time you do it.

If you’re struggling for things to do with your creativity whilst you’re stuck in the house, grab a photo from the archive and write about what you used to make it or how you learned to make it and go tell that company the story!

Much love 
Dave

#TravelTuesday has come around again, and in these times, there’s less travel and more Tuesday. I’m Dave Williams and this week, I have some confessions.

First up, here are two truths: –

#1 – You are not stuck at home, you are safe at home.

#2 – Instagram is a lie.

Let me elaborate. During this time when we are unable to travel, Instagram is demonstrating that it is a version of reality, and not reality itself. It is a way for us to show our art and creativity, but the “time-stamp” element is removed. Instagram is not so much showing us the now; it is showing us the past. It’s much deeper than that, too. Instagram for the majority is a social media, but for us photographers, it’s a shop window. It’s our facility to show ourselves to the world, and that is part of a struggle we constantly face—showing ourselves.

To get booked and commissioned we need clients, and we find those clients in a variety of ways, but it’s certainly fair to say that Instagram has a lot to do with it, particularly with the popularity of micro-influencing. Personally, I don’t just get clients from Instagram, I also utilise Instagram for those clients. But it all starts somewhere, and each successful photographer has a backstory from which they’ve learned valuable lessons about their craft. Here’s some of my story:

We are all struggling. Learning to become a pro photographer and basing an income on it is not all it’s imagined to be. It’s a long, hard slog. First up on the list of reality checks is that it’s actually far less about photography than you’d think. You have far less freedom than you’d think. A lot of photography work is seasonal—think weddings, schools, landscapes, and the like. Maintaining a certain level of work across all the seasons, and dedicating the time to marketing your portfolio and reaching out to clients, you’re likely to achieve greater success, but it will consume your time.

Something that always comes up, and which I’ve seen firsthand even with some of the best photographers I know, is a lack of self-confidence. In certain light, people are happy to call their business a business, but in others, they aren’t. There’s a niggling intimidation in certain company or certain arenas, which drains our confidence (and sometimes our creativity) and even makes us afraid to invest in ourselves. In extreme circumstances, it can even make us want to give up. This tends to be a problem at the start of our profession, but that’s not at all exclusive—it can happen at any time. As I said, some seriously good vets still doubt their work, and a certain level of this doubt is good. Look at it from a Betari Box point of view: we should have the correct level of competence and confidence, and not let confidence outweigh competence.

This lack of confidence caused by self-doubt can be overcome. The first question to ask yourself if this sounds familiar is this: –

What are you losing by not solving the problem?

The longer the situation runs on, and the longer we suffer a lack of creativity or self-belief, the harder it will be to remedy. By not solving the problem, we face a potential loss of clients or prospective clients. We can start to focus on gaining more appropriate clients (read: better clients) by getting better at sending out the right message to show what we’re actually providing. This can be the correct marketing or an effective website. The message we need to send is not only that we’re competent, but that we have value through every stage from planning through to post-production. Attracting and working with better clients is ultimately the goal with this, and the value we provide is the big point we need to put across in order to attract the right clients.

Pro photographers tend to have this nailed, but getting to this point led every one of them down the same path where self-doubt was present and they all hid behind their gear. We will all profess to you that “the best camera is the one you have,” but we all know why we say that, and we heard it, too. Photographers often feel that maybe they aren’t going to be able to produce a quality result because they have the wrong gear. Here’s a secret that my experience has taught me: there will always be a better camera! No matter which camera you have, a better camera with better specs, will be out there, and although the camera does a grand job, it doesn’t beat the job being done by the person holding it. That’s right, the best thing about any camera is the six inches behind it. It’s evident in just a little look at the non-photography world—we all know this one. It’s the people who ask what camera we have when we show them a photo they like. Most of us have learned to just answer the question and take the compliment, but it’s obviously not about the camera, it’s about who took the photo. Some of my favourite photos were taken on my iPhone.

Build your brand and your confidence (in line with your competence). Use this lockdown time to work out a business model and marketing strategy that demonstrates your value and will grow your career in photography.

Much love
Dave


I’m Dave Williams, here on ScottKelby.com every Tuesday (even in lockdown).

Something I do often, or at least I did often, pre-Corona, is use photography as a tool for mindfulness. Photography makes me happy; therefore, photography is therapeutic to me. Lately, with the lack of ability to travel (the other therapy for me), I’ve been seriously lacking creativity. To be honest, I even struggled with what to write here today, before I ended up deciding that, actually, the struggle to come up with something should perhaps form the inspiration for the content.

Writing is also something I find therapeutic, for the record. I often wondered whether to push my photography and writing beyond being hobbies because I worried that if I made them “work,” they’d become tedious, like any other job does. So far, so good, and I’m glad I pushed both fields. Keeping them fun, rather than making them become “work,” has been the result of mindfulness in the application of both jobs.

So, how does it apply? Let me give you some insight into how photography is good for your mind in two different ways: –

First up, taking photos. We know photography is good for the mind—that’s why we have it as a hobby in the first place. The reason we enjoy taking photos could be because the creative process involves creating and analysing the scene and the light, flipping it into ourselves to understand personal healing, growth, and both conscious and unconscious understanding. Active and passive exploration and reflection of our photographs help us develop, and can carry a far greater strength in times such as these. To that end, let’s look at that side of things.

One of the things I first found useful in self-critique was to describe the feelings I had at a place where I took a photo and tried to realistically see whether those feelings were conveyed in the photo or not. The reason for this is to see whether I could make someone feel like they were in that place, because travel photography to me is all about making somebody want to be there. If I’d succeeded in that, I’d done my job right.

Reflecting on your own photographs is great for mental well-being and creative development. In most instances, when looking at self-critique, we are looking at technical things, such as the correct sharpness, depth of field, colour, etc. What we can do, instead, is explore the creative elements. One major factor is composition. It really isn’t that easy to compose a shot well. It’s a knack, a kind of habit, to be able to do it time after time, and that comes from reflection and practice. The things that make it up are subject placement, framing, the makeup of elements within the scene, depth, and the proper, detailed, and no-holds-barred analysis of our own images. With regard, these things can really help to make us better photographers and fill some time whilst on lockdown and unable to get out and create more images. 

Taking this a step further, we can spend the time and effort also finding and reflecting our vision. Take an image to critique and think back to when and where you took it. At the time, what was the vision? Does this image describe this vision? Was your goal attained? Technical analysis aside, this is the skill that makes us consistent and separates us from others. If we are able to deliver images that are demonstrated in our portfolio. We need to create images that say more than, “Look, I was there.” We need to make images that people stop scrolling to really look at, and that make people want to be there in that place, having that experience. Taking this little bit of time in lockdown to reflect on our photos is, as I have said, good for both our mental well-being and our personal development. Here’s a little footnote rundown: –

Do we invest in time to consider our shot?

Do we consider the light?

Do we consider changing angles or perspective?

Do we crop enough on the subject?

Do we want to go back and shoot it again?

Much love

Dave

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