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How to tell a story with travel photography

From attention to detail to getting your timings right, National Geographic Traveller (UK) art director Chris Hudson shares what makes the perfect story as part of our photography series with CEWE Photoworld

How to tell a story with travel photography
Image: Getty

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National Geographic is renowned for groundbreaking photography, and National Geographic Traveller is no different. We’re on a mission to tell great stories through our photos, capturing the essence of a destination and offering our readers a real sense of place. Inspiration comes mainly from our network of travel photographers across the globe, who are constantly scouting for the best rural locations, cultural events and urban hotspots.

Our photographers are able to find the next unique angle because they live and breathe the subject — they’re constantly on the move, making sure they know exactly what’s happening around the world. Others simply have a wishlist of places they want to visit and discover — and since they’re such excellent photographers, they make wherever they go look incredibly appealing, even if it isn’t the hottest, most photogenic place in the world.

Image: Getty

We need to be able to tell a clear, concise story through a series of images that offer up a slice of life or an insight into a culture. We need a range of photographs that allow us to start big — we still need to be able to offer our reader a sense of place, to get a feel for a destination — before we focus on the people and the detail that the story has to offer. So, it’s just as important to capture those wide panoramas as it is to get the tiny details — both are crucial in helping the jigsaw to come together.

Tone, light and composition are all key to a great photograph. Our photographers sometimes spend weeks researching a destination or event to plot the best times of day to shoot, so they can frame subjects in the best light. They’ll meticulously plan their itinerary, making sure, for example, they hit the town square at the busiest time and capture the people they need to make the shot work, or get that perfect sunset over the sea without the gathering crowds.

This attention to detail, coupled with technical ability and the unique angle, all add up to make a great photo story. And it’s this standard of photography that excites me — stories that are worthy of our brand and continue to educate and inspire our readers to travel the world.

A story will really leap off the page if the photographer considers absolutely everything, says Chris. Image: CEWE Photoworld

Quite often, the most fun part of putting a photo story together is the curation and solving the puzzle of getting the story into print. This is where the considerations above really shine through — getting photographs together in sequences on page relies on forward planning, from the shot list through to the tonal value of the images. Even if you don’t have a magazine to design, it’s something you can appreciate when putting together an album or creating a photobook of your own, for example, as you can admire everything with striking clarity when you have actual photographs in your hands. A story will really leap off the page if the photographer considers absolutely everything.

Keep your travels alive and bring your memories to life with a CEWE PHOTOBOOK. CEWE is the official Photography Partner for National Geographic Traveller (UK) 2018-2019.

CEWE Photoworld Photography Partner of Natonal Geographic Traveller (UK)

Feeling inspired? Enter our 2019 Photography Competition today