Make Your Travel Photos Magazine Quality

No Software Required

I used to be a travel photo purist. To me, Photoshop and photo editing in general was cheating; if you couldn’t do it with the camera, it shouldn’t be done.

Then one day I was playing around with a photo screen saver for my home computer, and just started watching a slide show of all my photos - family and travel - in sepia tone. Seeing old photos I had forgotten about in a new way made me realize that some photos were of high enough quality that they deserved to be enhanced...and that some photos that seem run of the mill in color actually look like professional shots when converted to sepia or black and white.

When I say a photo has to be of a certain quality, I’m talking about the subject matter and the framing. Sometimes we catch a scene that is of great interest, but when we look at the image on our computer, something just isn’t right with it. Maybe the color balance or the lighting or a random passerby needs cropped out.

I also discovered that great photos in color often look great in black and white or sepia, but it is important to note that this is something that is dependent on each photo.


Before and After Travel Photos

So now let's see some examples from my own portfolio. What follows are the before and after shots, and a little about what I did and what I was going for with the changes.

After the photos I will give you a super easy, step by step way to achieve the same results.



Photo 1 - "Munich in the Morning"

It was about 8:30 in the morning in Munich, and my brother and I had come from an all-night flight. We were waiting to meet our tour group for a free walking tour. I was sitting on the ground, tired, and just pointing my camera around trying to get a feel for a new city. One thing I always try to do is photograph people when they aren't aware.

I like the original photo, especially the framing. By playing around with the contrast and setting it high, as well as adding more saturation to the color, I was able to achieve a more vintage feel, one that complements the shadowing. The background is also more monochromatic, which forces the eye to focus on the person, who is about to take their sunglasses off to get a view of an attractive traveler.

In the edited version, the blues, greens and reds pop more, making the photo more interesting and pleasing.


"Munich in the Morning" - BEFORE

Tags: Munich, Munich travel photo
Tags: Munich, Munich travel photo | Source

"Munich in the Morning" - AFTER

Tags: Munich, Munich travel photo
Tags: Munich, Munich travel photo | Source

Photo 2 - "Window into Life" (Budapest)

My brother and I had just finished a homemade meal cobbled together from meats and cheeses from a grocery store in Budapest (Pest side of Danube), and were walking around to familiarize ourselves with the neighborhood.

I saw a man and a woman arguing in a courtyard. They could not see me. I felt as though I was looking through a window in a neighborhood that had once been rife with prostitution and crime, but was working hard to make a turnaround.

While I like the original photo a lot, especially the framing, by washing it out by playing with the brightness and contrast, the foreground is almost blurred, forcing the viewer to the action down the tunnel in the courtyard. The architecture looks a little better, perhaps older, and the resulting image would look great on a travel photo website against a white background.



"Window into Life" - BEFORE

Tags: Budapest photo, Budapest travel, life in Budapest
Tags: Budapest photo, Budapest travel, life in Budapest | Source

"Window into Life" - AFTER

Tags: Budapest photo, Budapest travel, life in Budapest
Tags: Budapest photo, Budapest travel, life in Budapest | Source

Photo 3 - "On a Boat, Croatian Bay"

This is a photo of me, so I think it's fairly obvious that I didn't take this one. I included it to give an example of what can be done with portrait shots gone wrong, or in need of improvement.

This is one of my most special memories from our last trip to Croatia. We had left the region of Istria to drive down to the Island of Brac. My aunt and uncle have a few houses there, and an olive grove where they harvest and make their own olive oil.

On our last day on the island, one of my cousins cousins puttered up on a little fishing motorboat, and took us for a tour of the bays and inlets near Boboviscu. It was so relaxing, feeling the sea breezes and sitting in the shade of the boat.

In the original photo, which is nothing special, we were dealing with some challenges from a lack of light, as well as a burgeoning sunburn on my chest and neck, which made it hard to saturate the colors without turning me lobster-red. Instead, this photo called for a more black-and-white feel, with the brightness and contrast turned up to enhance my features and provide definition.

The resulting photo better captures the way I was feeling at the time, like I had traveled back in time. The white wine spritzers helped too!



"On a Boat, Croatian Bay" - BEFORE

Tags: Croatia photo, Croatia travel, Croatia travel photo, Brac, Island of Brac, Otok Brac,
Tags: Croatia photo, Croatia travel, Croatia travel photo, Brac, Island of Brac, Otok Brac, | Source

"On a Boat, Croatian Bay" - AFTER

Tags: Croatia photo, Croatia travel, Croatia travel photo, Brac, Island of Brac, Otok Brac,
Tags: Croatia photo, Croatia travel, Croatia travel photo, Brac, Island of Brac, Otok Brac, | Source

Photo 4 - "In Search of Peter's Pool" (Malta)

We had taken a rickety bus almost an hour to Marsaslox, a fishing town on the southern coast of Malta. We had lucked out, because it was the town's Catholic feast day, a time of food, parades, fireworks, and family fun.

Because we had arrived so early, we decided to walk the two or three miles through the countryside, out of town, to find Peter's Pool, a popular cliffside swimming spot carved into the rocks. My brother and I, along with a Frenchman and a French Canadian nomad, walked down dusty dirt roads. It felt like something out of the Godfather.

In the edited version, I simply changed the contrast to near max. This gave the photo a 1960s National Geographic feel to it, and is definitely more visually appealing than the original. By enhancing the color and the juxtaposition between the dead browns and bright greens, you get a better feel of the island. By adding color, you feel the monochromatic nature of Malta (at least I do.)


"In Search of Peter's Pool" - BEFORE

Tags: Malta, Marsaslox, Peter's Pool, Malta travel photo
Tags: Malta, Marsaslox, Peter's Pool, Malta travel photo | Source

"In Search of Peter's Pool" - AFTER

Tags: Malta, Marsaslox, Peter's Pool, Malta travel photo
Tags: Malta, Marsaslox, Peter's Pool, Malta travel photo | Source

How to Make Your Travel Photos Magazine Quality

You may be asking at this point...”do I need Photoshop or expensive software to make my vacation photos look better?”

I can tell you the answer is no. All the photos I enhanced for this article were done with the standard tools that are available on the Windows operating system.

  • Step 1 - Select the photo you want to edit using the Windows Photo Gallery tool (the standard Windows photo browser).
  • Step 2 - Click the File dropdown and select Make a Copy. You will then be prompted to save the photo with a new name.
  • Step 3 - Go back to the window containing your photos and open a new copy of your copy. This is important so you don’t save your changes to your original photo.
  • Step 4 - With your new copy open in Windows Photo Gallery, near the upper right center, select the Open dropdown and select Microsoft Office Picture Manager.
  • Step 5 - The Picture Manager will now be open with your photo. Now it’s time to start playing around.
  • Step 6 - Select Edit Pictures on your function ribbon. A sidebar will appear with options. Here you can change the contrast and brightness, color options (including saturation and hue),
  • Step 7 - When you have your photo looking the way you want it, select Save. Your copy of your original photo will now be updated to your new, cooler version.


Some More Before and Afters

Here are some more striking before and afters from my portfolio.


"Sailboat - Island of Brac" - BEFORE

Source

"Sailboat - Island of Brac" - AFTER

Source

"Walkway in Valetta, Malta" - BEFORE

Source

"Walkway in Valetta, Malta" - AFTER

Source

"Marsaslox's Famous Boats" - BEFORE

Source

"Marsaslox's Famous Boats" - AFTER

Source

Great Photo Editing without Photoshop

By applying these tips and tricks, you can make your best photos look even better, almost magazine quality. For travel photography, you need to do whatever you can to convey a sense of place and feeling through the photograph. The best photography does not even need words to support it.

Because every photo is different, taken differently, and interpreted differently, there is no photo editing advice that can apply to every photo...

except this advice...

Pick out great photos that show interest, adventure, and emotion, and play with the color (saturation, temperature..) and the brightness and contrast, until it looks better than the original. If you can’t get it right, give up and move on to another photo - it was fine the way you took it.


About the Author

About the author: John is the founder of MarriedWithDebt.com, a personal finance and lifestyle design blog geared towards helping younger, married couples get out of debt and build the life they want...together.


More by this Author


Comments 29 comments

Little two two profile image

Little two two 4 years ago from Canada

These are some awesome tips ... I love taking pictures but am not so good at it. What I see is not what the camera captures. Chuckles. Voted up and shared, excellent work.


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for stopping by two two. An easy way to make your photos look better, if you are having them developed, is use the Enhance Photo feature that most Walgreens have. It is one button that you have to click for each photo, but if you do only one thing, this will make a great improvement.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

Beautiful photos and nice changes that you made to them. I've just recently started to take a look at my own photos and play around with them with the windows photo editor. Thanks for sharing your information, it inspires me to do more!


justom profile image

justom 4 years ago from 41042

It's always interesting to read hubs about taking pictures because while the info could be spot on the examples often times are not. The photo of the folks arguing is a decent shot but really has little to do with that because you had to explain it because in our eyes we can't see that. Sorry if I sound a bit harsh but this subject is one I've been involved with for almost 40 years. I like editing photos too, it's fun, where the darkroom wasn't always :-P Peace!! Tom


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks cardelean. I was surprised at how easy it was to take some of your favorite photos, copy them, and make them new. Would be good to do a photo scrapbook to commemorate a trip or a wedding.


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Tom, you are correct about the Window photo. The Hubpages format does not really allow for the photos to be made very big, and I can see how the action would be lost to those who were not there. Was just giving background to each photo.

To me the photo is special, which is what the Hub was about - taking your own personal photos that may not be that great and making them better.

These are tips for everyday Joes like me. If I were counselling someone about pitching a magazine, I'd tell them that Photoshop was probably required, and warn them that I'm not an "expert" photographer.

Thanks for taking a look.


justom profile image

justom 4 years ago from 41042

First, thanks for not taking what I said the wrong way. I like people just taking photos of anything they like but when the word photographer gets used I become a bit more critical. IMO, digital cameras have a lot to do with it. Good hub about keeping it simple.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Wow! I will never be able to do all that as I can barely put film in my camera ( I know, I know everyone is groaning. Why doesn't she get a digital camera?). But this is very impressive information filled Hub and some fantastic photographs.


jeyaramd profile image

jeyaramd 4 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

The photo with high contrast, in search of peter's pool and the boats with gorgeous water in the background was top notch. Magazine quality. I agree that we should be able to create great photos in the camera itself. However, this is subtle and very good. Its not ruining the original at all. I despise photography to the extreme, where people are projected on the sky with flying objects. That just looks bad. Trust me. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing. You would never think of these possibilities. You really have opened my eyes to a new form of appreciating old photography. BTW, You really are an exceptional photographer. Have you thought of a professional career in photographhy. Great hub.


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hey jeyaramd - I agree that photos that look so overphotoshopped to the point of looking like a cartoon rarely do it for me. Good photography starts with a good eye and good framing.

I am glad that you got some ideas for revisiting old photos. Thank you so much for the encouraging words - taking photos is something I enjoy very much, and glad you like them.


JaneA profile image

JaneA 4 years ago from California

Great blog and a great showcase for the art of photography. I like the window shot the best - something about windows and doors in imagery (photos, paintings, film etc) that help to create a sense of possibility, depth and intrigue.


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks JaneA, really appreciate your comment.


jeyaramd profile image

jeyaramd 4 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

Glad you mentioned perfect framing. I am still in search of finding that perfect authentic frame. Frames bring life back to your pictures as well. That could be a hub on its own. Subtle touches like you pointed out in your hub will always stand the test of time. You really do have a gift. Thanks for sharing.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

Great photos. I liked the sailboat - Island of Brac the best. I really enjoy playing with these features as well to see how I can enhance my photos, although I mostly try to make it look more like how my eye saw it instead of what my camera saw.


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

It is weird how cameras can capture things in ways we don't remember. Thanks MT for reading!


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Framing is key, and I hate it when I mess that part up. Lots of other stuff can be fixed and tweaked, but framing is usually not one of them (though cropping can help). Thanks for reading and your kind words.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

marriedwithdebt, I wanted to let you know that this hub made my list of favorites this week. Congrats!


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Very cool! Thanks MT!


nifwlseirff profile image

nifwlseirff 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

Great photos and tips - thanks!


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for reading. Appreciate it!


SandyMcCollum profile image

SandyMcCollum 4 years ago

Great read, lots of information. Thanks!


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for reading!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

My favorite "After" was the Sailboat- Island of Brac. I agree that using the Windows Photo Gallery Tool can be an effective and simple way of editing photos.


marriedwithdebt profile image

marriedwithdebt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Glad you liked it! Thanks for reading


hhunterr profile image

hhunterr 4 years ago from Highway 24

cool stuff. I'd had success with a style similar to Peter's Pool, but didn't know about the windows gallery shot. I bet a lot of people don't.


patrick 3 years ago

Dear Sir, nice photo's!

But if you take the time to enhance them, why not also straighten the horizon(s)?


joyathome profile image

joyathome 3 years ago from USA

I like the sailboat "after" picture too. But I like the "before" sailboat too. It just has a different quality to it, the soft foggy look makes it look peaceful.


kerlund74 profile image

kerlund74 2 years ago from Sweden

Nice to see these "Before and after". Love the lonely sailboat and the other one with boats in particular:-)


hhunterr profile image

hhunterr 2 years ago from Highway 24

This really drew me in. I've got this tricked-out Samsung camera/computer that has options galore and been playing with 'em. I think it teaches you. Loved the hub, guy.

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