Dealing with the red-shirted tourist – travel photography tips

You have that medieval street lined up and composed, there is a break in the crowds and others are waiting behind you to take the shot. As you press the shutter, out steps the tourist in the red shirt – guaranteed to lead the eye away from the ‘real’ subject of the shot. I’m not criticising someone’s clothing choice – they can wear whatever they like. But it can present challenges for the travel photographer.

red shirt tourist

red shirt tourist

I’m going to show you three ways to deal with this situation. There are other ways, such as cloning out in photoshop – but that can be a pretty laborious task. You could also take a series of shots and stack them hoping that the machine will recognise and keep only the stuff that doesn’t change. Tricky in a narrow crowded street. But all is not lost.

The first solution is to just crop out that part of the scene – if he’s on the edge of the photo, you might get away with it, although it’s not the composition you were aiming for.

red shirt tourist

Red shirt tourist

And they won’t always be at the edge of the frame.

The next thing you can do is take the image into Lightroom or Photoshop Elements or equivalent where you can edit by specific colour. In this case I am using Lightroom, and have taken the red channel and zeroed the saturation – just for that channel. All the other colours remain unchanged, but you have neutralised that red beacon.

red shirt tourist

red shirt tourist

So you still have the flesh colour in the face and the ambient warmth of the light, while retaining your composition – and gone are the red shirt and shoes.

Finally, if all else fails, get the tonal values right and convert to black and white (B&W). There are two ways to do this – you could just save as greyscale – but often that kills the drama of the image. The other and my preferred way is to play with the colour channels until you have the right degree of detail in the shadows, and the right level of contrast, then desaturate the whole thing.

red shirt tourist

red shirt tourist

So whenever you see a travel photographer produce in B&W – he or she may not be being ‘arty’ – perhaps there was a puce pink umbrella, or a red shirted tourist leading the eye astray 🙂

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