Successful Travel Photography is 95% planning, 5% pressing the button


I’ve just finished my Cook Islands assignment and I fly out at 2am (joy). Overall, it’s been a productive shoot (though not without its dramas, he adds). The one lesson I will take away is the importance of planning and conceiving at least the skeleton of an idea ahead of time. Out on Aitutaki Lagoon, never was it more apparent. When everything fell into place – the light, the water, the backdrop, the talent, the props and the wardrobe – actually capturing the photograph proved to be the least demanding thing I did. But the “reccie” we did the day before and planning was critical. An hour later and the sea breeze would have picked up and blown the tent over, the tide would have submerged the sandbar and the sun would have been too bright. An hour earlier and the water colour would have been too dark and the sand, too  dull. And anything more than an hour of shooting would have seen the talent cooked, so we needed to move quickly. Understanding the conditions and working within that window was paramount to the success of the shoot. It took us three days of organising to get there but within an hour of actually shooting, we were done. And, the day we got back, it poured (tears of joy by the Gods as they looked over my shoulder at the pictures, I’d have myself believe). As I’ve often been heard to say – weather aside, successful photography in the South Pacific is 95% planning and 5% pressing the button. Without it, these photographs would never have happened.

I quite like this one  (top) because it defines, and differentiates the Cook Islands with its spectacular lagoon and the characteristic dance costume. While we shot more stock images (next down) and others with a more subtle use of the dancer (ie with her further in the background), I’d still choose the top one from a marketing perspective because, in a world crowded with images, this strongly identifies the Cook Islands (subtly, while more tasteful, can often see the message – in this case a holiday in The Cook Islands – overlooked). Using this as a lead image, I’d compliment it with others that reflect the diversity and appeal of the destination according to the market I’m looking to attract. Anyway, I’ll link it to a preview of some of the other pictures when I get back – that’s assuming I ever recover from the horrendous flight ahead as I have trouble sleeping on planes.

Kia Manuia


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A successful promotional photograph starts with knowing what you want it to say and who you want it to appeal to - before you even bring the camera to your eye.




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