We’ve learned a thing or two over the years of traveling and building our travel photography library. Here are some tips that helped us improve our technique. Remember, practice makes perfect, we can’t stress that enough with photography.
Composition – move and visualize before you shoot
This will make all the difference, don’t just stop and take a picture as soon as you see something photo worthy.
- Take a second,
- look around,
- move wherever you have to,
- position and tilt the camera to your liking,
- relax (so your hands don’t shake) and take the picture!
Take a look at this example, instead of taking a wide photo of one of Amsterdam’s canals, which is OK, but nothing special, we took a few steps to the right, zoomed in a bit and took an image of the houses next to the canal, to capture one of Amsterdam’s unique views.
Placing all relative objects and elements into a good composition makes all the difference. Is there something you want to include in the background of the photo, should you use another angle – should you crouch, is your subject in focus and similar questions should go through your mind before you take the shot. Also, playing with depth of field can make all the difference, more about that a bit later. Taking fewer and better photos will make it easier to organize and backup your library afterward.
Taking photos with your mobile phone
This image was taken with a LG G4 mobile phone. Of course, your DSLR or mirrorless camera is irreplaceable, but most of today’s mid-range mobile phones have decent cameras. Regardless if this is your weapon of choice or you’re in a situation where you can only use your phone, here are some tips that can make all the difference Get the composition you want, make sure that your focus is on spot and your hands are not shaking. Keeping your hands close to your body (tuck in your elbows) or leaning against a solid object will help you a lot.
Don’t tap on the screen so hard when you take the shot. It’ll shake the phone and you may end up with a blurry photo, especially if there isn’t a lot of light in your surroundings.
Playing with depth of field is always fun. Mobile phone cameras with their physical sensor size and aperture specs have a shorter depth of field compared to a DSLR. This means that playing with blurred out foreground or background and focused objects will happen very close to your phone, approximately 1 meter or 3 feet from your camera to your subject.
Editing photos – quick edit with filters or awesome edits with photo editing software
Now it’s time to add some finishing touches. Depending on your goals and available time, you can add that oomph to your photos either quickly with so called filters or a more robust solution with desktop applications to perfect them to your liking. The latter takes more time of course but the end result can be much nicer, plus there are some hacks you can use that’ll save you some time.
You can get your hands on filters in apps such as Instagram, Google’s Snapseed and similar. Adobe’s Lightroom mobile is a hybrid between the apps with filters and the advanced desktop editing version. You have filters but also the option to manually adjust some of the photo characteristics we’ll go over.
Desktop apps include the mentioned Adobe Lightroom which we use and recommend, but there are many other free applications you can find with a quick google search.
Brightness, contrast, highlights and shadows
Depending on the look you want to achieve, playing with the mentioned characteristics is essential next to color grading, if you’re into the latter that is. All in all it’s up to you to create the look you want to achieve and not give into some of the defined rules. Play around with the sliders or values at your disposal and see what works for you. Sometimes you want the darker areas to be more visible hence increasing the shadows slider, making them brighter. Other times, you want the sky to be more blue, decreasing the highlights will take care of that.
Saturation, hue and color grading
This is the finishing touch when editing your photos. Colors will make all the difference, especially setting the mood of the photo to your liking. Black and white, washed out or over the top cheesy color looks are just a few examples you could go for with saturation and hue.
Color grading, if only your highlights and shadows can significantly improve the overall mood you’re trying to achieve. The “standard” is to use yellow for highlights and blue for shadows, but you could go for any of complementary colors, use Adobe’s complementary color wheel to help you choose the 2 mentioned colors.
Travel photography expert look
If you’re willing put in the extra time and aim for the perfect photo, then use all of the above mentioned techniques, but only for a specific part of the photo. Break down the image into separate sections and edit or retouch them to your liking. Make specific parts stand out and others darker, so they don’t take away attention from more important elements. Lightroom allows you to do this with the Adjustment Brush tool, by “painting” a mask with a brush and then editing it to your liking.
Here is the end result of our Lava Tube Cave image, located in Iceland:
Edit on the go, while you travel
Mobile apps have come a very long way. Photo editing apps are not an exception. Adobe Lightroom for both iOS and Android will be more than enough to add that oomph to your photos and post them everywhere you want.
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