This might just be lined up with “Basic photo 101” but how quickly we forget the basic steps to great photos.

Let’s go over them again so we all get the best photos, every time you stop to take a photo:

A lot of good photos that we take today, are probably taken “off the cufff”, meaning: we see something and we just grab our camera or cell phone and just snap the photo. Hopefully it turns out. But, what if we take the time and purposely go out and decide: Today I want to go out and take photos of such and such. This is what I am talking about today.

Travel photos are usually that type of photo. I know that for me, travel photos are my souvenirs. There is the memories of the whole trip. I can make better memories than what I could buy. So many times, I notice people buying post cards of the areas that they just went to. So sad. Why don’t they just take the photo. You know you can make post cards from photos. Are you that bad of a photographer? Well, let’s see if we can correct that now.

I want to give you 6 steps, that I think would give you the best photos every time you go out to take photos. Make yourself a card or something that will remind you what you need to do. In fact, at the bottom of this blog, I will create a card that you can take with you so you don’t forget. But, let’s look at number 1:

1- Prioritize your subject:

Photo by Pixabay on

Take a look at the main subject and take a photo of that subject. Is there going to be a person in the photo? There should not be a person blocking the main subject. If you absolutely have to have a person in the photo, put them off to the side so you can still see the main travel subject. When you show photos to people later on, they really want to see the other subject, not your family. (Sorry, I know you love your family, but take separate pictures away from the subject. Whew, got that off my chest) In other words, make the subject the subject.

2- Don’t shoot directly into the light

Unless you know what you are doing the subject will be totally dark and the light in the background will either be too light or just perfect, leaving your subject in a silhouette. The way to correct that is either put your main subject into the light, or use a flash, so that the flash lights up the subject. But, then again, the flash only has a certain range. So make sure your subject is close to your camera if you decide to use your flash.

Here is a photo of the subject where the subject is in front of the light. The light meter of your camera sees that light, and exposes for that, and thus it tries to correct for that too, and you get a backlit photo.
Courtesy of Bing Photos /

3- Make sure your main subject is actually in focus

This is a problem especially with the DSLR cameras, and the cell phone cameras. If your subject that you are taking a photo of, is not in the middle of the viewfinder, it will generally focus in the background. How does it know that you want it to focus to something off to the side? Some cameras can do that, but, they are usually the very sophisticated cameras that sense that you want a person in focus. In your better cameras, you can always override the autofocus, and manually focus on your main subject. Be aware when you do that, that you will throw the background out of focus sometimes, unless you are aware of how to control the depth of field (that’s a subject for another time).

Notice how the subject is off-center. A regular automatic camera would just put her out of focus. You will need a camera that you can control the focus to make this work.
Photo by mariy on

4- Try different camera angles

When taking photos of things that are normal travel photos, try different angles. Everyone will take the same photo of the Redwood trees, but what if you took something different in that forest? Try different angles, look around and find some other interesting things to take photos of. It will be so much more interesting than the same photos everyone else sees.

Take different angles of the forest, there are so many different ideas that are yet to be explored.
Photo by mali maeder on

5- Include variations in light, color and texture in your photos:

This one will take some practice and patience, but could be so rewarding. If you are out taking photos in the same places that everyone else is taking photos, can you see different light schemes, different textures, or different colors to photograph that everyone is missing? This is a training exercise on “seeing artistry”. This is my favorite part of photography. This is what makes you, yes you, an artist. Can you see something different than anyone else, and yet it is artistic.

Photo courtesy of Bing Photos.
Can you see how much nicer the photo is at the bottom, by eliminating the clutter in the background and by moving in closer to your subject.
Photo by Phil Kallahar on
Here is a great photo that shows both color and texture. Would you think to look there?

6- Find natural frames for your subjects

When you are in the great outdoors, nothing will improve a photo that a natural frame. Look for something that you can use to frame your subject. It could be branches on a tree, a rock formation to look through, or other great ideas:

See how this is naturally framed with another arch
Yes, this another way to frame! The photo is definitely of the baby.

These 6 steps will be some things that you should keep in your mind as you set to take some photos. Look for these steps to do as you take photos. Want to have a small card that you can take with you? Below is a small card you can keep with your camera or phone to help you remember:

  • 1- Prioritize your subject
  • 2- Don’t shoot directly into the light
  • 3-Make sure your main subject is in focus
  • 4- Try different camera angles
  • 5- Include variations in light, color & Texture
  • 6- Find natural frames for your subject
This is photo blog # 984

This article was written by: Lanny Cottrell. Lanny Cottrell is the producer, editor of 123PhotoGo. He has been involved in Photography for many years, taught photography for over 10 years, and has sold photography equipment and owned, personally almost every brand of camera. Right now, he is personally involved in creating these blogs, and now writing a book titled: THE BEST OF 1000 BLOGS.

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