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Photo Tip Thursday: Improving Travel Photos

This last weekend, I was backing up my laptop to an external hard-drive so that I could free up some space on my computer, when I came across some old travel photos that I took on a trip to Italy back in 2009.  As I was looking back through them, I couldn’t help but notice that they were…well, pretty awful. So, I set about editing them in Lightroom to spruce them up a bit.
One of the biggest problems I found with my images was that they were taken during the middle of the day when lighting was less than optimal. There were really bright skies casting lots of direct light on some of the areas in my images, while at the same time, causing really dark shadows in other areas.  The problem with cameras nowadays is that they have what is known as a very limited “dynamic range,” meaning that they can’t readily capture sufficient detail in both the light and dark areas of a scene at the same time.  If you expose the image so that all of the detail in the sky is visible {aka in the highlights}, then all of the shadowed regions will appear too dark and detail will be lost.  On the other hand, if you expose for the shadow regions, you’ll lose all of the detail in the sky because it will be over-exposed.  So what can you do?
Well first of all we’re going to increase the dynamic range by adjusting the highlights and shadows of the image in question.  Find the highlights slider and move it to the left.  This will decrease the exposure of the really bright areas of an image and reveal more details in the sky.  Next, find the shadows slider and move it to the right.  This will increase the exposure of the dark areas in the images and also reveal more details.  Make sure not to overdo these actions however as it can make the photo look very unrealistic.  Remember, the goal is to make the images we’re editing appear more like the way our eyes see them.
Check out the before and after images below to see the improvements this technique has made on them.
To access the Highlights/Shadows sliders in Lightroom, look under the ‘Basic’ tab in the Develop module.  In Photoshop Elements/Photoshop, click Image->Adjustments->Highlights/Shadows.
To add some finishing touches to your photos, increase the sharpening a bit to give your photos a crisp feel.  Also, bump up the saturation slightly to really bring out those colors.
I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!
  1. Had the same issue with a lot of the photos I took in Mexico recently. Thank god for shooting in RAW and having highlights/shadows sliders.

    Josh – The Kentucky Gent

  2. Nidhi Patel says:

    Bah you've given me reason to edit all of my European travel pictures! Woo weekend project! Thanks for awesome tips!
    An Unblurred Lady

  3. Anna D Kart says:

    It's so hard to take good pictures on the go! Thanks for the tips

    Happy Medley

  4. So many great tips Grace!! I always enjoyed reading your photography posts. I'm personally trying to get better, and learn better ways to edit my photos. Have a great weekend!

    Primp and Proper

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I’m just an everyday gal who can go from gym to glam in record timing. I run on sarcasm & coffee on the weekdays and sass & vino on the weekends! I strive to stay fit, stylish, and healthy, while also trying to be the very best version of myself (sounds easy enough, right?).   MEET GRACE ⟶