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EyeEm Travel Guide: The City with Tobi Shinobi

By Guest Author - 6 min read

As a self-taught photographer, Tobi Shinobi has travelled to major cities around the world working for a network of renowned brands. Here are his 10 essential travel tips for photographers on the move.

When it comes to travel and shooting, the two go hand in hand. I started photography about 9 years ago, and since then, I can’t remember a trip where I didn’t take my camera with me or ensuring that I allocated time to take some shots.

During my adventures shooting street photography, cityscapes and aerial shots in major cities around the world, I have learnt the highs and lows associated to pursuing photography whilst on the move. Here are some of the key tricks that I have picked up along the way.

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10 Essential Tips for Capturing Outstanding Travel Pictures

Preparation

Whether it’s trying to put my own spin on something I’ve seen before or discovering new places, for the unique is the best part of my photography process. With the city being my canvas, my photography style is very much inspired by each individual location.

As someone who makes a living from my photography, I have traveled to various places around the world. My last count? 50 cities. Given that I’m spending time, effort and money to produce the best content it’s essential that I maximise my time in each place as it’s necessary for me to work smarter not just harder.

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“I have grown a network which I can rely on to help me achieve my goals.”

Research

A large part of preparing for each trip I take, is research. This may seem obvious but the question I get asked most is ‘how do I find my locations’ but in reality it’s a rather simple process. In terms of inspiration, I take a lot from movies, TV and the Internet.

I also use social media, as well as specific forums such as those about abandoned buildings or blogs on the best places for sunsets. The thing that takes these inspirations to the next level is my determination to find something and the dedication towards gaining access to a location once I’ve found it.

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Exploring and Networking

When I started out, I used to spend hours walking and exploring to find something new. Although I would still suggest that everybody also go out and do this, it may not always be possible or the best use of your time. It’s important to reach out to fellow photographers and use their local knowledge to your advantage. Plus, I have discovered some great friendships and job opportunities through reaching out when in new places.

Over the years, I have grown a network which I can rely on to help me achieve my goals. If I don’t know someone in an area then I usually know someone who knows someone and I reach out to them before I touch down. That way, I have an idea of not only what I want to shoot but also the best places to stay and eat.

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“Shoot what you love and love what you shoot”

Timing

To get the shots that I love requires preparation all year-round. My favourite time to shoot is fog season and when it comes around I regularly check the weather to make sure I make the most of it. I’ve even planned trips around fog season in particular cities, choosing to wait until I know I can get fog and knowing that if I missed it then perhaps I won’t go this year.

Specific calendar events are worth noting too. For example, Chicago and Manhattan Henge, the time of the year when the sunset lines up with specific streets and you can capture an orange glow from within the metropolis. It’s worth marking event like this in your your calendar so you don’t miss out.

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I like harsh shadows in some of my shots. So being out at a time that makes best use of light play can make for some unique and striking visuals. There are apps which can tell you how high the sun will be and as a result how long the shadows will be based on your location. These apps are used by movie producers to work out the best time to shoot and some can be expensive but they range in functionality and price. Another simple tip is planning out my shooting day by making a list and plotting out a route.

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Droning

Preparation also includes being aware of restrictions around where you can fly your drone, this is another thing that apps can be great for. With regard to planning shots I also take into account the type of mood I want my location to have. This means thinking about the time of day, the time of year and the weather.

I prefer sunrise over sunset because you get a head start on the day and less people are up, but depending on the direction you need to face to get the shot you want you may need to switch things around.

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Gear

Before I get into gear I have to say that I think it’s key that you spend as much money and time on travel as you do gear. Gear helps but knowledge of and experience with your existing gear is more valuable. It’s worth taking time to learn as much as you can with your existing equipment before you upgrade.

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This is just some of my gear that I use when I travel. I’m likely to add a small gimbal to that list because I really like what they bring to the table when shooting video.

Cameras: Sony a7riii, rx0, GoPro Hero 7, Insta360 one x

Favorite lens: Sigma Wide 14mm 1.8 or 35m 1.4

Drone: Mavic Pro/Mavic Pro 2

Smartphone: iPhone X

Tripod and Bag: Gitzo

Lens cleaning kit

Reflector

Lens skirt

Ice light

ND filter and Polarising filter

Small HD focus and an Atomos Ninja V

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Clothing

You should also consider what you wear when shooting for long periods of time. It’s important to be comfortable and that you have durable clothing that’s going to keep you shooting. Comfortable cargo pants with lots of pockets and comfortable footwear that’s going to let you walk for hours or even run if you need to catch that last train are ideal.

“your mind and body are your most important pieces of equipment”

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Accessories and Essentials

While I won’t bore you with lectures on making sure you charge your batteries before you head out I will say that obviously people forget from time to time to charge their stuff. To get around this. I carry spare batteries and battery packs at all times. I take a small pack of cables and memory cards, as well as lens clothes and a rocket blower for dust, everywhere I go.

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The Most Important Piece of Equipment

Having injured myself a few times from overwork while out shooting, it’s worth remembering that your mind and body are your most important pieces of equipment and they are worth preserving and protecting. Lighter equipment and a good bag will allow you to shoot for longer.

“If you don’t enjoying creating then you’re probably doing it wrong”

Knowing your limits and resting when you reach those will allow you to create for longer periods in both the short term and long term. Mentally getting a good night’s sleep is essential to having a clear head to create. Again, this may seem obvious but I know a lot of Creators who don’t do this and lose out as a result.

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Which Gear?

When it comes to my camera itself, though I am no expert, I usually take time to go through each setting and have at least a rough idea of what it does. Along with knowing what each feature can do comes knowledge of the limitations of that piece of equipment. Knowing when to use a particular piece of a equipment will help you create your best work.

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You have to work out which meets your needs and consider your budget when you’re working out what’s best for you. I shoot a range of subjects for work as a commercial photographer. Food, product, people, events, interviews and more. For my personal work I’m trying to share my perspective with others, and a large part of that is the balance in my life and so I shoot symmetry.

Shoot what you love and love what you shoot. If you’ve always been into colour – shoot that, If you love people – shoot people. Don’t just follow trends for the sake of being cool otherwise you’ll get bored. By all means try new tech out but remember what it is you like and bring something new to the table, but don’t forget to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoying creating then you’re probably doing it wrong.

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Take a look at Tobi’s online portfolio for more stunning visuals, as well as more information about his projects, or follow along on his Instagram.