Photography tips for tourism: podcast with photographer Alfonso Calero
Tourism Upgrade the Podcast Episode 85
Welcome to Tourism Upgrade. The podcast unpacking marketing trends from travel, tourism and marketing leaders. I’m your host HollyG and today we welcome Sydney photographer Alfonso Calero and we will we chatting about photography inspiration and creativity.
HollyG: How did you get into photography in the first place, Alfonso?
Alfonso: Professionally, I’m what’s considered in photography a late-starter because I decided to go to the Sydney Institute of Technology TAFE in Ultimo to study a diploma when I was 30 years old. I, of course, started photography when I was about 19, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
HollyG: Wow. Yeah. Well, there’s a bit of a growing trend I’ve been reading about lately of this, making a career change in your 30’s and 40’s, and with so much of our work life still yet to go, I think yeah, it can be a good move to make. What are the things that you like to take photos of?
Alfonso: Mainly people and places.
HollyG: Because you travel so much by the looks of it.
Alfonso: Yeah. I really enjoy stopping people on the street and asking their permission to do a street portrait, and also, I love to take photos of cityscapes at night or landscapes out in rural areas, so it’s that combination of being able to switch genres that makes it quite interesting.
HollyG: What are people like when you ask them if you can take a photo of them? Are most people like open to that sort of thing?
Alfonso: I’ve been lucky so far. You will have to accept that maybe 10% of the time, you will get people saying no, but I think it’s the people you approach and how you approach them that can either make or break the … getting the permission working [inaudible 00:02:26].
Alfonso: You look at the body language. You look at … If they’re walking in a hurry, they’re probably going to say no to get somewhere.
Alfonso: If they seem to be floundering around or standing around and you don’t seem like you’re intimidating them … I don’t usually have a very long lens on my camera as well, so it doesn’t feel as scary for them, and explain what you’re doing, why you’re doing it. You take your sunglasses off. You give them a handshake if the culture allows for it. Just show a little bit of trust quickly.
HollyG: Yeah. I like that because when I travel, I’m a very amateur photographer, but I actually just love taking photos of people, but I am often very, very shy about asking, so yes, I might try and practice that a little bit more. You’ve been obviously in photography for quite a while, and I guess I wanted to ask a little bit about how it’s changed over the time that you’ve been practicing.
Alfonso: Massive shift. When digital photography started over 10 years ago, there was a massive drop in the work because everyone suddenly became a photographer, being able to have that access to digital photography. That’s a massive shift, a technology shift, but it’s exciting that we have that available to us now. I’m 52 years old, and the younger generation are much faster at learning because we used to shoot with film, so we have to spend the money, make the mistakes, wait for our results, and then look …
Alfonso: With digital, you can learn from your mistakes immediately and the young are so tech-savvy, and they’re so fast. You’ve seen some people out there that are 19, 20, and they’re doing incredibly beautiful work.
HollyG: I think you raise a really good point actually because one of the things that I find when I talk to people, tourism operators, or people in the industry who maybe have been in the industry for quite some time and they have … They’re not used to using a camera, and they’re quite scared to take photos, but really, today … I guess two points. One, in this world of social media or in social media marketing, business owners and people really need to know how to take a good photo in my view, and we can talk about that in a minute, but also, the learning curve can be a lot easier because it is digital, so you can practise and make mistakes, and it’s not a … Yeah, it’s not a costly exercise.
Alfonso: Yeah, definitely. All those points are spot-on. I think that the immediacy is great, but the question is just because you can take photos and see them quickly, does it mean that you will probably be getting better? Yeah. Like you said, it’s down to your confidence. You come back from your holidays typically with thousands of photos and you’re overwhelmed by the amount, so you almost want to try and consider shooting less, but getting better quality instead of shooting a lot and hoping to hit the target.
HollyG: Yeah, that is very true. That works in marketing as well actually. I guess is that some of the things that you teach people when you take people out on photography tours, and photography walks, and things like that?
Alfonso: Yes. Yes, but every person learns differently and every person has a different form of visual communication, so I have to figure out what they’re like, what they like to photograph, but also how they like to photograph, and then try and guide them in that way to enhance that style of shooting.
HollyG: Okay, so what are some of the different styles that you come across with that?
Alfonso: Okay, so for example, you might have somebody who’s a very organised person, a very neat person, and they would prefer to shoot with less distortion of maybe architecture, so all the lines are really straight as opposed to someone who has more of a photojournalistic style where they shoot really wide angle. Let’s say, if you’re shooting architecture, the building might look a little bit more distorted. Either way is fine. It’s just that it communicates a different message.
HollyG: Yeah. I love that. I have never thought about that before. Before we get into a few more tips because I’d love you to share some tips with us, I just wanted to talk a little bit about why is quality photography for those working in the tourism industry really important?
Alfonso: Because we’re saturated with visuals and video, you really need to stand out with a quality shot. If you don’t, then you just get lost in the mix.
HollyG: Yeah. There’s ridiculous statistics about how many photos are uploaded online every second and videos on YouTube and all that sort of things, so yeah. I guess it is about looking at ways to cut through.
For the show notes for this episode, head to hollyg.com.au. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast service.
Can we go into a little bit about maybe some tips that you can share with us around how we can take a better photo?
Alfonso: Definitely, so it all … Initially, I guess it would help if I at least know if they are shooting with their smartphones or if they have a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. In other words, they can change the lenses. Of course, they have more manual control with the bigger cameras compared to the smartphone. There will be some pros and cons as to what capabilities each one can do.
If it’s about your smartphone, and you’re in an event like you just mentioned, and you want to use it there, you may notice that it’s quite a struggle to try and get a nice photo in an indoor environment. It’s dark. There are all these really orangey-colored tungsten lights, and so it’s a challenge. People are moving around, and it’s tricky. Look. If you happen to have a camera that’s a DSLR or aside from your smartphone and you can at least consider learning how to tackle the manual settings, it won’t be a hit and miss, and it’s a lot easier than people think.
Another I guess suggestion which wouldn’t matter what camera you have is composition. If you can master the elements and principles of composition, instinctively, I think most people know them like leading line, texture, looking for shapes, looking for the right tone. Those are some examples of composition.
HollyG: I remember early on learning. What are you actually taking the photo of? Yeah. What part of that are you actually trying to communicate?
Alfonso: Yeah, and I think the most common error is people want to say too much in the photo. They’re communicating maybe more than one message. I guess in marketing, it’s the same thing, people trying to say too much, and then the message gets muddled and unclear. I guess you’re almost like Robin Hood with the bow and arrow. You’re trying to hit a target or dominant point of focus in the shot, and you want the viewer’s eyes to lock in on that and not be distracted by any other elements around it.
HollyG: Great description. That’s awesome. Where do you find inspiration for your photography?
Alfonso: Everywhere all the time, but mainly, I gravitate around towards art, so I look at different periods of art. Mainly, paintings. Before photography started, these painters mastered light and composition, so they must be on the right track, and they definitely are. I’m always really excited by that. I use Pinterest a lot.
HollyG: Oh, yeah.
Alfonso: I have a lot of boards, mood boards. In the old days, before Pinterest, I used to cut clippings on and put them on my board in the studio, and I just look at those. Now, with Pinterest, yeah, it’s amazing how many boards I have because there’s so much inspiration from everything.
HollyG: Oh my gosh, it’s addictive, isn’t it?
Alfonso: Yeah, I love it. I love it, and you could share with people too, which is great, so they could see my boards. I could see theirs. We could give each other ideas. It definitely motivates you to go out there and create.
HollyG: I’m going to check yours out now.
HollyG: You travel to a lot of different destinations because you take photography groups and things like that overseas.
HollyG: Is that true? Do you have a favourite destination to photograph?
Alfonso: Yeah, so I started this travel education tour company about 2008, and because I’m born … I was born in the Philippines, but I’m of Spanish descent, and I came to Australia when I was 15. I used to live in Japan, and my wife is Japanese. I focus on those four places. Australia, of course.
Alfonso: The Philippines, Spain, and Japan. I only take up to four people, from two to four people, so they’re very private, custom-made itineraries, and we focus on enhancing their style and genres of photography every day for about five to 10 days. Again, the more I go back to the places I have a strong connection with because I know the local language, the culture. I have friends and family there. The more interesting it gets because my local knowledge is building it every time I go back, and I’m exploring new areas, and it’s so much fun.
HollyG: Yeah. Cool. Is there any final sort of comments or tips you wanted to share? Also, let us know how people can find out a little bit more about you and connect with you.
Alfonso: Sure. Look. If you haven’t bought yourself a larger camera aside from the smartphone, don’t hesitate to go out and use your smartphone. I teach a smartphone course in the Rocks almost every Saturday afternoon. That goes for about three hours, and more information can be found on photographytravel.net. My overseas tours or my Tasmanian tours are on alfonso.com.au.
Yeah. Look. Feel free to drop me a line at any time if you just want to have a little chat, and also, I would love to help people think of ideas for any of their tourism campaigns that are coming up because it seems to be changing rapidly with the way people are viewing things online.
HollyG: Yeah, great points, and we’ll put the links to those in our show notes, and I will give you a big thank you. Actually, we have our Women in Tourism Leadership Christmas Party coming up soon, and you have actually donated a prize for that, which is one of the tours and lessons down at the Rocks, so someone attending that event will be lucky enough to win that. Yeah. Thank you for that.
Alfonso: No problem. Lovely, lovely to do that.
HollyG: Now, it’s time for our thousand-dollar bonus question. Now, I have a bonus question if you’re up for it.
Alfonso: Of course.
HollyG: I ask all my guests the same question, and the question is, if you only had a $1,000 marketing budget, what would you spend it on?
Alfonso: I would probably if I was going to market my photo tours … Yeah. A thousand probably won’t be enough, but I’d probably get a videographer that does a little bit of drone as well if possible. Yes. I’d probably get a videographer to do and I’d make some of my stills with the videography and do like a 30-second or one-minute video that can … and carefully-scripted with voiceover. That would really be useful, and I can throw that on any platform online, and I think it would gain traction.
HollyG: Yeah, nice. I reckon you could do that for a thousand dollars.
Alfonso: Yeah, yeah. I just bought a drone
HollyG: Look. It’s been really good to talk with you, and I appreciate you sharing those tips and insights with us, and I will jump off here this call now, and then go on to your Pinterest and check it out I think.
Alfonso: Yes. Please keep in touch, and if you have any questions, you can catch me on my websites.
HollyG: Yeah. Awesome. Great. Thanks for your time.
Alfonso: Thank you.
HollyG: For the show notes for this episode, head to hollyg.com.au. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast service.