Seven Tips For Travel Photography

Shooting and editing techniques for more powerful images.

My photography has developed out of a passion for travel and finding wonder in the world. While my curiosity often gets the best of me, through creating images I have found that I am able satisfy some of that curiosity. The camera has become my way to interpret the world around me.

Here are seven shooting and editing techniques I use for more powerful images.

1. Composition Is Key

At the end of the day, it’s not the camera with which you shot, the lens or the perfect light, but the image itself that tells the story. Slight changes in angle or timing can mean the difference between the shot you intended and one that falls short. As an artist, it’s your eye that will make the final decision. Which of the two images below holds you the most interested?

William Woodward Travel Photography
A group of climbers descending onto Silverstar Glacier in the Northwest Cascades. Photos by William Woodward.

2. Nail The Exposure

A slightly darker initial exposure may allow for better detail and color recovery in the brighter parts of your images when developing in post production. Your camera’s light meter electronically assesses a scene and determines what it believes to be the average brightness. Depending on the scene, this can lead to blown out (pure white) areas of your image. By darkening your initial exposure, you can retain image detail and color quality. I’ve found in both SLR and phone camera images that much more detail is retained in the shadows than in the highlights. Below you can see how much we were able to recover in the slightly underexposed foreground, bringing the color and detail back in the field of flowers.

William Woodward Travel Photography
Wildflower bloom in Zion National Park. Photos by William Woodward.

3. White Balance

Similar to exposure, your camera will apply an initial white balance to a scene. Often times, such as at sunset and sunrise or in shaded areas, this measurement can be very off. Using the Temperature and Tint adjustments in Lightroom for mobile we are able to more accurately represent the colors of a scene. I test the Temperature (yellow versus blue) and Tint (magenta versus green) of nearly every image by dragging the sliders both directions to get a quick glance at how the scene’s feeling changes.

William Woodward Travel Photography
Exploring slot canyons in Northern Arizona. Photos by William Woodward.

4. The Basic Adjustments

Entire articles are dedicated to the “Basic” adjustments (as they are referred to in Lightroom CC and Lightroom for mobile), as they will likely be your most-used editing tools. After adjusting Temperature and Tint, the following adjustments relate to the tonal quality of light and the intensity and quality of color. Note: (+) values equal “brighter” or increased amounts of each setting, and (-) values equal “darker” or decreased amounts.

  • Exposure. Acts to lighten or darken the entire image equally.
  • Contrast. The difference between the darkest and lightest parts of the image.
  • Highlights. The highlights slider recovers detail in the brightest parts of an image.
  • Shadows. The shadows slider recovers detail in the darkest parts of an image.
  • Whites. This slider allows you to set your white point, which is the brightness value at which the brightest part of the image becomes pure white.
  • Blacks. This slider allows you to set your black point, which is the brightness value at which the darkest part of the image becomes pure black.
  • Clarity. This slider increases or decreases the mid tone contrast. It is similar to the contrast slider above, but does not affect the brightest or darkest parts of the image.
  • Vibrance. The vibrance slider allows you to recover some of the subtle color in your image, bringing back some of the ‘pop’ of color.

Below you’ll see the adjustments I used to edit this image. Generally, the order in which I adjust the sliders is Exposure, Whites, Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, Clarity, Vibrance. The best thing about all these settings being grouped together is that it is quick and simple to jump between settings and see in real time how they are affecting the entire image. When adjusting your Blacks slider further left, you may need to move your Exposure slider further right.

 William Woodward Travel Photography
Image before processing. Photo by William Woodward.
William Woodward Travel Photography
The adjustments. Photo by William Woodward.
William Woodward Travel Photography
After processing. Photo by William Woodward.

5. Understanding Luminance

Luminance is defined as “the intensity of light emitted from a surface.” We can use Luminance to create more intensity in our skies. By entering the “Color / B&W” tab, you can adjust each color’s Luminance values. By decreasing (sliding to the left) the Blue Luminance slider, you are decreasing the light intensity of the blues of an image, which often lead to more natural and vibrant skies. Below you can see the effects of sliding the Blue Luminance slider to the left and right.

William Woodward Travel Photography
Decreasing Blue Luminance will often lead to more natural and vibrant skies. (Left) Dragging a Luminance slider to the right increases the Luminance for that channel. (Right) Conversely, dragging a slider to the left decreases the Luminance for that channel. Photos by William Woodward.

6. You Can Copy And Paste Adjustments

Often you will end up trying several angles and compositions of a very similar scene. On these occasions it can be helpful to apply a basic set of edits to several images. Instead of manually applying the same edits to each image, the Copy and Paste Settings tool in Lightroom for mobile is very helpful. After editing the first image, tap and hold your screen to bring up the menu shown in the screen shots below. Click “Copy Settings” and a menu will prompt which settings to copy. In this case, we want to copy all settings, so we click “OK”. Tap and hold the screen on the photo to which you want to paste the settings, and the pop-up window will now display “Paste Settings” optioin. All the settings from your first image edit will be applied. Repeat as necessary.

William Woodward Travel Photography
Speed up your processing in Lightroom for mobile by copying and pasting your adjustments between multiple images in a series. (Above) Before pasting adjustments. Photo by William Woodward.
William Woodward Travel Photography
The adjustment copy and paste process. Photo by William Woodward.
William Woodward Travel Photography
After pasting adjustments. Photo by William Woodward.

7. Clean Your Image

Inevitably you will come across a scenario where there is something that sneaks into your image that you either missed or cannot control. It could be a tree branch, a dust spot on your lens, or in this case, a distracting marking on the wall of a building. With Photoshop Fix we can quickly and easily remove the distracting element from our scene.

William Woodward Travel Photography
A marking on the wall of a building distracts from this image. Photo by William Woodward.
  • In Lightroom for mobile, select the “Open In” command (in the upper right corner of the screen). Tap “Edit In” then “Healing in Photoshop Fix”.
  • Select “Spot Heal”.
  • With your finger, paint over the area you wish to clean up.
  • Viola!
  • Touch the blue banner at the top of the screen to save and return to Lightroom for mobile.
William Woodward Travel Photography
Photoshop Fix makes it easy to remove unwanted distractions in an image. Photos by William Woodward.

 

William Woodward is a lifestyle, travel and adventure photographer currently living on the road full time in his VW Vanagon named “Ruby”. A conscious effort to downsize and simplify has allowed him to focus on art and experiences in the outdoors. For the past year he has been exploring the American West as well as the Canadian Rockies, with side projects in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Dubai and Mexico. See more of his work at wheretowillie.com

1 Comment

    Nice Tips! I have to tell you, your post giving the best information. Your photography tips are really awesome. Last week my boyfriend gifted me one travel photography print. He purchased that print from Find the Essence of Joy store. That was looking so unique just like your photographs. I am waiting for your next post.

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