Picture Perfect


Great trip photos don't just happen—trust us. But each of these examples, pulled from readers' Travel Journals on BudgetTravel.com, delivers the goods.

So You Want to Shoot...

Common mistake Fiddling with the lighting.

For best results Turn off the flash. Yes, even the "night flash" setting—it will only highlight potentially distracting elements in the foreground and won't add anything to the sky's rich showing. If you have time, take several shots from the same spot over the course of the sunset.

Our reader pick Redwood City, Calif., resident Kevin Ummel's shot, taken in Sanur, Bali, in December 2007, captures a calendar-worthy array of hues but avoids cliché territory thanks to the dark silhouettes just off center, which add layers and dimension to the otherwise static, symmetrical composition. (view photo)

So You Want to Shoot...

Common mistake Not giving yourself enough time.

For best results You'll need a tripod or a flat surface to hold your camera absolutely still and a long exposure to allow distant ambient light to reach the camera (this shot took 10 seconds). If you can't set your shutter speed manually, choose the lowest ISO setting your camera offers (usually 100) to get a similar effect—and turn the flash off.

Our reader pick In May 2007, a bridge over the Las Vegas Strip provided Brian O'Neill of Austin, Tex., with an ideal elevation to shoot from. Diagonal lines made by moving car headlights introduce a graphic element to the composition and draw the eye to the center of the image. (view photo)

So You Want to Shoot...

Common mistake Snapping the same ho-hum shot as everyone else.

For best results Scan the perimeter for groups of shutterbug tourists. Now walk away from them. You're far more likely to land a one-of-a-kind photograph if you remove yourself from the crowds. And remember: You don't have to include every last brick of a building to get a great picture. Focusing on a particular segment of a structure can yield much more surprising, compelling, and dramatic results.

Our reader pick By strolling about half a mile from the base of the Eiffel Tower in June 2009, Andrea Hughes of Redondo Beach, Calif., was able to capture the majority of the monument without tilting the camera to the point of distortion—and in the process she found a built-in frame in the edges of the nearby Wall for Peace. (view photo)

So You Want to Shoot...

Common mistake Getting too close—or too far away.

For best results Experiment with several different distances, vantage points, and angles, and if you're photographing a landscape that's particularly vast, include a human or other identifiable object—preferably at a significant distance—to establish the scale.

Our reader pick Lea Rose Marciano of Johnston, R.I., turned what could have been an obstacle—a row of binoculars on the viewing platform of the historic Cape Neddick Lighthouse in York, Maine—into an asset in November 2009, using one as a framing device for the landmark. Bonus: The machine's one red button picks up the crimson of the small house beyond it, creating subtle pops of color in the moody, muted palette. (view photo)

So You Want to Shoot...

Common mistake Not taking this type of photo at all.

For best results Zero in on the small-scale scenes that capture your trip. Shoot in indirect natural light whenever possible, and unless you have a tripod or surgeon-steady hands, don't bother with your camera's macro setting (best for isolating the truly tiny, such as individual flower petals).

Our reader pick Fernando Noriega of Cambridge, Mass., saw potential in the juxtaposition of patterns in this Istanbul café cup and tablecloth in June 2009; the fact that he'd sipped the coffee before getting out his camera gives the image a lived-in immediacy. (view photo)

So You Want to Shoot...

Common mistake Cutting out the context.

For best results Position yourself at eye level with the animals in order to incorporate the environment. And choose your time wisely: Mornings and late afternoons provide the best natural light, and many animals are more likely to be active then than at midday—also known as nap time.

Our reader pick A fast shutter speed (1/500th of a second) helped John Fleming of Kirkland, Wash., catch these Antarctic Peninsula penguins in action in January 2009. (view photo)


"To get sharper shots in dim light when you can't use a flash, set the camera on a timer. Even a two-second delay will eliminate the movement caused by pushing the camera's button." Amy Lundeen, Photo Director

"If you want to take photos when it's raining, use a hotel shower cap to cover the camera's body, and cut a hole that's just large enough for the lens to poke through." Michael Mohr, Associate Photo Editor

Related Content