This post was sponsored by HP x360.
There is no better souvenir to bring home than photos you’ve captured yourself. Whether a jawdropping landscape or a selfie at sunset, good travel photos preserve the feelings you had in that moment and help you travel back to that time and place, again and again.
I started this blog to protect and share my travel photos, and I’m constantly working to hone my travel photography skills. I get a lot of questions from readers about what camera they should buy, usually in preparation for an fast-approaching trip, and I often recommend sticking to the camera they already have and learning to take better travel photos with it. Have a smart phone? Use your smart phone! (Personally, I take more than half of my travel photos with my iPhone.) Whatever you do, you need to be able to back up your photos somewhere and you need to edit them, so I always recommend packing a lightweight computer or tablet device.
HP recently reached out to me and asked me to check out their new HP x360 convertible laptop computer that they say helps “#BendTheRules” on mobile computing. The x360 was named for its unique 360° hinge, allowing it to flex into four different modes: Laptop, Tablet, Tent, and Stand. This flexibility and compact size (13″) makes it a great travel companion — use it as a laptop when you need to work, use it as a tablet, tent, or stand when you are browsing the internet or relaxing with a movie. HP is tagging along with singer Meghan Trainor’s That Bass Tour and they are sharing photos and videos from the tour on their website and at #ThatBassTour.
As part of this campaign, they asked me to share “4 ways” I do something, inspired by the “4 ways” you can use the HP x360. You know I love photography, so I thought I’d share 4 ways to take better travel photos:
1. Learn to work your camera (or your camera phone!)
This one sounds silly, but this really is the best way to improve your photography. You may like to point, shoot and forget it, but changing basic settings on your camera or your phone can do a lot to improve your photos. One simple thing you can try is experimenting with turning the flash on and off. This may sound counter-intuitive, but I rarely use the flash at night (it often results in awful glare and terrible contrast) but I do use it during the day (to light up the foreground/subjects) of photos taken in bright sunlight. Play around with it and see what works under different conditions.
Your camera may be capable of other fancy things like adjusting EV compensation (which can brighten or darken your photos as needed), change the F-stop (that not-so-scary number that really just means how much light your camera lets in–the higher the F-stop, the less light gets let in) and the shutter speed (faster shutter speed means less blur, but also less light… it’s a balancing act).
Even camera phones can do these kinds of things. On an iPhone, try pressing your finger down on an area of your shot that are either too bright or too dark. The camera will automatically adjust the exposure to compensate. I err on the side of darker photos because while it is possible to brighten photos in editing software, it is not easy to fix areas that are too bright.
There are also lots of interesting apps that can give you additional features. My iPhone takes really well-exposed and sometimes dramatic looking HDR (high-dynamic range) photos using the $1.99 app Pro HDR X.
2. Plan your trip around the light.
The quality of light makes a big difference in whether your photos are good or blah. While I take photos wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I always try to plan our travel days to take capture important vistas under the most flattering light, which is the hour or so surrounding sunrise and sunset.
I admit, I don’t get up very often for sunrise when I travel, but I always try to be somewhere with an interesting view for sunset. When we planned our trip to Florence, Italy, we read that Piazzale Michelangelo (a plaza at the top of a hill) offers a great view of the city. We climbed the hill in the late afternoon so we could watch the city as the sun went down. I took this shot using my iPhone and the above mentioned app, Pro HDR.
Because places that have good views at sunset also have good views at night, we stuck around for another hour after sunset to get this shot with our DSLR and zoom lens. (You might also notice the “starburst” effect with some of the lights in this exposure. To get that, you set the camera to aperture to f/22.)
3. Edit your photos before sharing them.
I edit every single photo that I share before I post it, no matter whether I took it with my DSLR or my iPhone. I always recommend travelers learn to edit their photos, because a few very simple tweaks can make a big difference.
On my computer, I use Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is far and away the best tool I’ve found for for managing and quickly editing lots of photos. Lightroom is powerful and professional but quite easy to learn. There are hours of free Lightroom video tutorials available on Adobe’s website, and many more on YouTube. I took this shot last night, as I was using the HP x360 to edit photos from my recent trip to California’s Central Coast.
There are dozens of photo editing apps you can get for your smart phone, but most of the time, I just use Instagram (Do you use IG? Join me there!).
But let’s pause for a second because this is very important–don’t use Instagram’s filters!
A few months ago, Instagram added some very advanced editing features into the app itself. You can manually adjust alignment, brightness, contrast, saturation, shadows, highlights, sharpness, and so on. You can do all of basic photo editing functions right within Instagram! So by learning what each of these tools does and adjusting them manually, you’ll get much better photos than quickly slapping a filter on it.
In the example below, the starting photo was much too bright because I took it at mid-day when the sun is very harsh. I skipped over the Instagram filters and made just a few quick changes (straightening the horizon line, increasing contrast, reducing highlights, and increasing saturation), but as you can see, they made a big difference. Pay special attention to the extra detail and blues in the cloudy sky, and the brighter green grass in the foreground. The sand is also a noticeably deeper red.
Before (left) and after (right), edited using Instagram.
4. Protect and preserve your photos
I’ve learned the hard way to back up my travel photos. A month after an amazing trip to Hawaii, ten days spent photographing every breathtaking, colorful view of Maui and Kauai, my brand new computer’s hard drive failed and I lost all my photos. I hadn’t gotten around to putting an album on Facebook or Flickr yet and, because this was pre-EIT, I didn’t have any blog posts, either! I was heartbroken. I learned an important lesson that day.
There are two things you can do to make sure this never happens to you:
- Get in the habit of backing up your photos every week when you are at home, and every night when you are traveling. This goes for both your camera, and your phone (you probably know someone who has lost months or years of memories when their phone was lost or stolen–I do!)
- Never delete photographs until you have at least two copies of them in different places.
I always carry a laptop computer with me when I travel because it’s the easiest way to back up your files on the road. The HP x360 is a great option for this, because it has a built-in SD card reader, a 500 GB hard drive, and two different pre-installed cloud storage options, HP Connected Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. You can save one copy of your files to the computer’s hard drive, a second copy to the cloud, and then feel secure in clearing space on your camera’s memory card or your phone.
This post was sponsored by HP x360 as part of their #BendTheRules campaign. I was compensated for sharing my “Four Ways” post, but all opinions and photo tips are my own and are not endorsed by HP. To learn more about the HP x360 and Meghan Trainor‘s That Bass Tour follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
I’d like to hear from you–what’s one thing you have tried to take better travel photos?
OH, I didn’t think to not use the filters because I like the way they look. I still do go through those other editing functions on the app, but I like that the filters are a quick one-stop shop if I don’t really need to change much in the photo. 😛 Sometimes I even #nofilter it.
Cassie Kifer says
Nofilter, gasp! 🙂 If you like them and know what works, then use them! I think they work well for urban shots and architecture, there are a lot that are really contrasty. I just figured out what characteristics I like in the filters and and use the individual settings a lot: + brightness and shadows, – highlights, and adding a little bit of saturation and vignetting. I would love it if they would let us save these settings and create our own custom filters!
I hate flash but haven’t tried using it during the day in the way you describe. I have SO much to learn about my camera still. I love the 4 ways one can use that HP computer, by the way. Very clever.
Cassie Kifer says
I love your photos though, Jenna! We all have stuff to learn. The flash during the day trick works really well on the beach mid-late day when you are shooting into the sun.
And it is a handy computer design, so many of the small (< 14") screen laptops they are making today have detachable keyboards which I hate, because personally, I prefer to use it as a laptop most of the time. I bought and returned a different compact computer that was like that last fall, because it didn't work well in laptop mode--it was screen-heavy and kept falling over. This one is much better balanced!
Rene Lynn aka Mrs. L says
I’m notorious for taking travel photos and just having them sit on my computer…not posted or printed out. I need to do better at that.
Cassie Kifer says
I’ve always struggled with that! At least now some of them make it onto the blog, but there are so many just sitting on my computer!
Mike | VagabondingMike says
Great advice on taking great travel photos.
I definitely need to implement some of this advice.
It truly is amazing how a little editing work can have a massive effect on the outcome of a photo you share!!!
Cassie Kifer says
Agreed! Such a little work goes a long way.