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Cody Forest Doucette has found that to tell strong travel stories through photographs requires a balance of four basic elements: people, place, action, and detail.

FIRST AND FOREMOST ARE THE PEOPLE. Travel is defined by many of us through the characters we meet along the way. Second is place. Foreign landscapes, flora and fauna, modes of transportation, famous or unique landmarks, buildings and sculptures — basically, anything that makes a place different from “home.” Third is action. Capturing the moment. Samba dancers at Carnival, street jugglers in Barcelona, local boys playing a game of football on the beach, your mate’s best wave of a surf trip. Last is something I would call details. Textures and colors that form the foundation of a place and its people.

From the recent family vacation to a magazine assignment, creating a balanced set of images so that a viewer will feel a place and its people is the difference between mediocre and good travel photography. Great travel photography happens when a good travel photographer encounters those rare and fleeting moments when all four elements come together — not in a series of images, but in a single one.

Each element requires a slightly different approach and can also depend greatly on what equipment you’re using, where you are, what you hope to capture, what your goals for the photos are, and so on. Since photography is a visual medium and one that’s only improved through experience, I dug through my slide files and hard drives for some of my favorite examples of each aspect.

[All photos by Cody Forest Doucette]

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About The Author

Cody Forest Doucette

Cody Forest Doucette was born in the heartland of Wisconsin, raised in the mountains of Idaho and educated on the beaches of California at UCSB. Working with his twin brother, writer Kitt Doucette, he has spent the past six years circling the globe in pursuit of images and experiences which capture both the beauty of the natural world and the complexity of the human condition in the 21st century. You can find more of his work on his website,

  • Scott Hartman

    Hey Cody, I realize your List isn’t numbered according to priority, but if it was, Respect would be #1 for me, and what I try consciously to do. Most of my own travel is in India, and respect does carry a lot of weight, especially in developing/traditional countries. And as for language, amazing how coming up with even a single word in the local language/dialect can bring a smile to a face where before there might have only been suspicion. Safe travels

  • Maddie Gressel

    this is lovely! Great advice. I wouldn’t have thought of the paying one. Now I will :)

  • The Blond travels

    Not sure if I would agree with the money bit, especially when it comes to kids.

  • Håmed Mågråm

    Thanks for your valuable advice………… You could add handing a gift such as a candy bar to the locals in the destination as a way of sharing a smile.

  • Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler

    I give my chewing gums to kids… money only to older people.

    • Trip in wayanad

      Come to wayanad to take some thrillling portraits

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri Photography

    These are some courteous things to do, but for any portrait photography I feel that eye is the key. If you want to make an awesome portrait shot of people, focus the eye and the portrait will definitely turn out to be awesome. :)

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