There are a number of factors that have to come together to make a great travel photo and by tweaking a few keys ones you can improve many of your pictures from the road in seconds. You don’t need professional software or a DSLR camera (although they help) to make your lackluster travel pictures a bit more vibrant and impressive to look at.
Your run-of-the-mill photo editor that comes bundled with Windows and Mac are all you need to recreate many of the visual tricks professionals use to breathe a bit of life into a stale picture.
First Thing First – Getting The Shot
Sometimes you get home after taking a number of pictures that looked better on the back of your camera than they do on your computer screen. You can only spice up the pictures you’ve actually taken (sorry, woulda-coulda-shoulda doesn’t work) so it’s critical to get the shot when you have the opportunity.
- Take As Many Pictures From Various Angles As Possible – Changing your focus not only helps add variety to travel photos that tend to be repetitive, but also makes your travel pictures more interesting to look at while making you less obvious as well.
- Add A Buffer – There is no opposite of crop and you can’t add your mom’s feet back if they never make it to your memory card. Add a slight border and shoot a bit wider than you’re actually aiming for.
- Shoot Doubles – One of Johnny Vagabond‘s 5 simple travel photos tips is to take the same shot twice in rapid succession to get a slightly sharper image. Doing so reduces the amount your finger actually disturbs the camera when pulling the trigger.
- Remove Tourists – When you can’t wake up early enough to avoid the crowds, let technology get rid of them for you. Wired shows you how to remove tourists from travel photos and Tourist Remover does it for you; though they can help add perspective as Barbara notes.
Make Your Pictures Pop With More Contrast
Practically all free photo editors, including those that come with your given operating system, have contrast sliders. Increasing the contrast, for most pictures, is going to be an improvement for dull photos.
More contrast accentuates the darker areas of a photo bringing out shadows and the details along many edges. Contrast can also give depth to pictures of people, in particular faces.
Be careful not to go overboard though as too much contrast will have your travel photos looking like pages from a comic book. (Which can be good or bad depending on what you want to achieve.)
Increased contrast is one of the most used but often abused digital modifications done to travel photos. For a bit of spice use contrast sparingly, otherwise you’ll end up completely altering your pictures and turning them into abstract art.
Where contrast enhances the differences between various colors in a photograph, exposure increases brightness, slowly washing out details.
Photographic exposure is a fairly broad topic which you can easily simplify by increasing or decreasing exposure digitally and seeing the results. More tends to be better when used as opposed to less. – especially when combined with a bit of added contrast on monotone photos; the kind that tend to happen outdoors around noon or under cloudy skies.
Additional Basic Photo Adjustments For Some Spice
You can really go to extremes with travel photo tweaking, which is what tends to be the case with the first few pictures you get around to altering. These are a few more common settings which can be increased or decreased to add impact to bland shots.
- Color Saturation – You can increase how vibrant colors are across the board for a picture or choose to highlight a specific one, like blue for example.
- Black & White – One of the oldest, most common, and easiest to accomplish photo edits – as is adding going sepia.
- Selective Coloring – Highlighting a single color in an otherwise black and white picture (like this Seattle photo by Nomadic Matt) can be achieved using the free online tool Picnik (here’s how).
- Sharpen – Most photo editors have this functionality but for a quick fix, free tool Resize.it can do it for you.
Confronting Photo Purity
Chances are, most of the travel pictures you’ve seen in magazines and on the Internet have been edited to highlight the best features of a given shot. For many, the thought of digitally modifying travel pictures after-the-fact violates some notion of sanctity. (Hey, what about black and white film?) Whether digital or film, photography is an altered version of reality and for most travelers these tweaks aren’t to convince yourself you’re a better photographer than you really are.
A bit of spice can bring out the best of your selected travel photos and even save you on souvenirs; especially if you stick to the free software.