How to Infuse Your Travel Photography with Emotion – Part 1

published on May 16, 2013 by

Award-winning travel photographer Andrea Johnson offers tips on how to make sure that the pictures you take on your timeshare vacation are infused with the emotion of the moment.

Known for her storytelling abilities using photos, in Part 1 Andrea discusses lighting, setting, and engagement.

I’ve been working as a professional photojournalist for over a decade yet I still face the same challenge wherever I travel. It’s a never-ending quest to create photographs that create the same emotional impact in the viewer as I experienced during the assignment.

It takes time to allow a place to impress itself on you and to reflect on its significance afterwards. And time and attention are the two resources we lack most in today’s fast paced “ADD” culture.

I was reminded of this challenge on a recent trip to Australia’s Northern Territory, traveling with a group of journalists while testing the newest Canon camera.

To complete my assignment I’d be required to shoot almost exclusively with the ‘prosumer’ model (the EOS D650 also known as the Rebel T4i in the United States) aimed at the market between consumer and professional.

Be Fearless, seek engagement. 
The Bark Hut Inn is an iconic pub in the Northern Territory.

This first photograph I took of the bartender, Kevin Carter, is nothing more than a snapshot. It’s essential to get eyes in focus in portraits but there wasn’t enough light in this dimly lit inn for the camera to quickly auto focus. The fluorescent lighting was horrible, but the tiny on-camera flash was not a good alternative either.

In despair I began joking with Kevin that I didn’t know how to use my camera, which fortunately put him at ease. As we talked about the stories behind his tattoos, his thick Aussie accent was hard to understand but it was easy to see nearly every part of his body was covered in ink.

While he was initially reluctant to pose for our group of twenty-six, after our conversation I was able to coax him away from the bar to open shade next to a door at the back of the pub.

The second portrait is a dramatic improvement not only for the lighting, but also for the direct and confident gaze that comes from a more engaged encounter.

These portraits were still lacking a ‘sense of place’ but when Kevin turned to walk back into the bar I saw what I was looking for. Portraits don’t always need to show the subject’s face; sometimes the body language provides enough context to reveal character.

I love how the natural light from the doorway illuminates his tattoos, the threatening appearance from a pose that showcases his formidable size, and the out of focus tourist in the front door which adds a layer of intrigue.

In Part 2 Andrea Johnson discusses photography outdoors.

Timeshare rentals are available all over the world, where you can find fascinating subjects with which to hone your photography skills.

Andrea Johnson is a freelance photographer specializing in adventure travel, food & wine.  She regularly contributes to the industry’s top wine & travel publications and has photographed three wine books.  

Andrea recently won the Gold Award by the Society of American Travel Writers for her work in Vietnam, judged by National Geographic editors and based on her storytelling ability in a photo essay.  She can be reached at