The perfect shot: Northwest photographers share their secrets for taking better travel photos

Utah's Bryce Canyon

We’ve all been there. You’ve planned every detail: where you’ll stay, where you’ll eat, what you’ll do. Now you want to capture those amazing moments to show friends back home. But once you start uploading pictures to share with friends and family, you realize that the photos fall short of capturing your amazing experience. They are a little blah.

Northwest travel photographers Tim Boyer and Lee Hendrickson say they hear this concern frequently.

“As travelers, one of the first things we pack is the camera,” Hendrickson said.

You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take great travel photos. To take better photos now, Hendrickson has developed an easy-to-remember acronym to break down key skills fittingly named: TRAVELS.

TR: Technical Readiness

Unsurprisingly, knowing how to operate the settings on your camera will drastically improve the quality of your photos whether you are using a point and shoot camera or a digital single-lens reflex camera.

“With a digital camera, you can look at the back of an LCD screen at the histogram and make sure you aren’t overexposing the image,” says Boyer.

Adjust the settings on your camera so that you are ready to take a picture when the time comes. Make sure you have a spare battery and parts handy. Hold steady to get a sharp picture, brace the camera and exhale.

“You’ll want to pull your elbows in tight to your body while holding the camera up and out,” he says.

He recommends bracing the camera on a guard rail or something stable to get a sharper image.

If you’re using a smart phone, try one of these apps for exposure:

Camera Genius: This iphone and android app gives you control over exposure, focus and zoom.

Camera FV-5: This android app gives you control over exposure time, aperture, stops, meeting and white balance.

A: The Artist in us.

As important as it is to have the technical details down, the composition of a photo is what can really make a photo stand out. Artists use different methods to draw people into an image.

Boyer recommends going back to the classic rule of thirds when composing photos, where an image is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically “to produce what people in our culture think of as a pleasing image.”

If you’re using a smart phone, try one of these apps for creativity:

Repix: This android and iphone app allows you to use individual brushes to customize photos and turn them into works of art.

Gorillacam: This iphone app has a grid overlay which helps you apply the rule of thirds to your pictures.

V: Viewpoint

Taking photographs is a chance to look at the world a little differently and share that perspective with others, Hendrickson says.

Hendrickson recommends seeking out different ways of looking at the same thing. Instead of shooting at eye level get down on the ground or shoot down at something.

“Find a rooftop café to shoot from, go up and around, and behind,” he says.

If you’re using a smart phone, try one of these apps for unique viewpoints:   

Photosynth: This android iphone app makes taking wrap-around panoramic photographs a snap.

Camera+: This android and iphone app highlights where you’ve focused and provides a white balance setting results in more realistic skin tones.

E- Explore

Hendrickson urges travelers to try to get off the beaten path to try to find a fresh perspective.

“Step away from the typical and explore new areas,” he says. “Find places that are a little off the beaten path.”

He said oftentimes hotels have a service that will take guests around the city and help them discover new places.

Boyer recommends before travelers visit a place, they check out websites like Flickr.com and 500px.com to see what other photographers have done.

If you’re using a smart phone, try one of these apps for better exploring:       

Flickr: The android and iphone app allows you to view to view photographs that just might provide you with inspiration or ideas.

Flickr Commons Map: This android and iphone app shows you the most recently uploaded photos for any displayed map area.

L-Light

Taking advantage of the light can make a huge difference the quality of photographs, so photographers often plan their trips around the photographs they want to take.

This can mean taking photos during “the golden hour,” an hour before sunrise and after sunset when daylight is redder and softer compared to other times of day when the sun is higher in the sky, or  going out when the weather is not so great, to achieve an effect with more texture and depth.

S- Story

All good photos tell a story of some kind.

“They have an element of story that connects to the viewer, and draws the viewer into the image with emotion and passion,” Hendrickson says.

On a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Hendrickson attended a performance that included dance groups from all over the country. He wanted to capture the flavor of the scene -- including the music and motion without a big blur. He decided to take photos using a flash and slow shutter speed.

On a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Hendrickson attended a performance that included dance groups from all over the country. He wanted to capture the flavor of the scene — including the music and motion without a big blur. He decided to take photos using a flash and slow shutter speed.

What are your favorite tips, tricks or smartphone apps for taking great travel photos?

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