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How To Take Good Pictures

We place a considerable amount of focus on travel photos during our travels, but have never taken a photography class, read a photography book or spent significant time with a professional photographer. So, how did we learn to take good pictures? We were handed a copy of Bethany Salvon’s latest photo ebook – Getting Out Of Auto.
How to Take Good Photos

I am being honest now. The good travel photos we have captured up to this point have been through luck and lots of trial and error. There are several reasons we have avoided taking classes or reading books. Neither of us is serious enough to spend a lot of our time in a class or spending the money to read a thick book of everything you ever wanted to know on becoming a professional photographer. We don’t want to become professional photographers, but we do want the amazing things we see during our travels shared with you in a way that captivates the scene. Nothing is better than seeing a place or thing in person, so we need to do the best we can when capturing that moment by camera.

A How To Book

I read through Bethany’s how to take good pictures book with skepticism. How much information can a professional photographer share with us for a mere $10? Apparently, a lot, in a way that your everyday camera user can understand. That means you and I. I hate reading, but I finished this tutorial in a single day. I could go on and on about how easy it was to follow her tips, but instead I will show you some pictures I took while applying her photography tips.  If you are a photographer trying to take better pictures and understand how you camera can help you do that, don’t hesitate to buy this book now!

How To Take Good Pictures

A Focus on Composition

The rule of thirds

The rule of thirds divides up the image by thirds horizontally and vertically.  The crosshairs identify the key points of interest for placing an object.

How to Take Good Pictures

Illinois State House - ISO 80 f/4.8 1/296

When applying the rule of thirds in this photo, we create a better picture by sitting the statue off to the right.  This draws the eye to not only the statue of Senator Stephen Douglas, but also the Illinois State House.  If the statue were to be placed front and center, you would subconsciously pay little attention to the building.  The eye wouldn’t sense the need to scan the image with the target front and center.  The image is now more complex allowing me to share various aspects of what we saw.

How to Take Better Pictures

Lincoln's Tomb - ISO 80 f/4.8 1/600

Again we apply the basic rule of thirds creating various points of interest in the photo.

Depth of Field

Using a shallow depth of field

Depth of field is the range of sharpness in your image.  At what point is the image in focus and at what point does it blur?  The aperture, or f/stop, you choose controls your depth of field. The larger your aperture (smaller f/stop reading) the less range of focus your photo will have.  This section in her book is laid out in very good detail.  The methods Beth choose to help you understand f/stop are brilliant.  The images below from me show you what different depth of field ranges look like.

How to Take Good Photos

Outdoor Chandelier Key West - ISO 200 f/3.5 1/160

The focus of this image is on the Chandelier, however it’s important that the floral surrounding the chandelier be a part of the image to enhance color and character. With a low f/stop, the range of focus doesn’t stretch far beyond where our camera is focused, the chandelier.  If we had increased our  f/stop, the range of focus increases, creating sharper surroundings.

How to Take Better Photos

Restaurant on Culebra Island - ISO 1600 f/5 1/25

Again, we use a limited depth range in order to draw attention to the lights illuminating the bamboo wall.

Using a larger depth of field

How to Take Good Pictures

Miami - ISO 125 f/10 1/160

In a Miami marina, we desire a large depth of field, enabling all objects in the foreground and background to remain in focus.  We do this with a higher f/stop.


Adding impact and drawing attention

Color can create sudden impact and draw great attention to an object in a photo.

How to Take Good Pictures

Illinois State Fairgrounds - smart phone, boosted color in editing

Taken with a smart phone, we decide to center the main object of focus.  That object also has tremendous color – bright blue.  Without having to look at the rest of the image, you focus on the robust color and read, “Scrambler.”  The blue base sits well below the sign, but it does lead you up to it rather easily, since the sign stands out against a white sky.

A Complete Guide to Better Photography

Now I am going to pitch you this book.  Buy it it for $9.99.  As a fellow travel blogger and photographer I was lucky enough to be offered this ebook review.  If I wasn’t offered the book, I probably would have never bought it.  Why?  Because I hate reading books.  I laughed as I told Aracely, “I finished this thing in a few hours.”  She was shocked something held my attention for that long.  I have learned more about how to take good photography today than I have in the last 2 years.  Getting Out Of Auto is your perfect ebook for wanting to understand what makes a good photo. Click here to view more details
How to Take Good Photos

Disclosure: We receive a 50% commission for all books sold through our site.  This is another way you can help become sustainable.  Thank you.


Jason says:

Thanks for visiting. Yes, you have to bring the camera. It’s a great way for sharing those memories, and it helps to know a little more than the average photographer.

Samuel says:

Bethany’s photography is as creative as any I’ve seen on any travel blog – or any website for that matter. I think this would be a wise investment to learn from somebody this talented.

Jason says:

She is an excellent photographer, and thank for the support Samuel.

Ted says:

Thanks J. Cheryl just bought me a Nikon D7000… so I’m in full picture taking/learning mode. I’ll give this read a shot.

Jason says:

You da man Ted. That’s an incredible camera! Enjoy it.

Sophie says:

Love Bethany’s book. Nice review here!

Heidi says:

I’m not a huge fan of reading either so this is really helpful – actually, let me rephrase that. I’m not a huge fan of reading instructions and tutorials… Everything else is ok! But this sounds like it’ll be really beneficial so I think I’ll give it a shot, thanks for the recommendation! 🙂


Gerard says:

I hate reading books too, but I love it when people summarize it in blog format. 🙂

Jason says:

Glad we could put something together you liked.

bethany says:

So glad you liked the book Jason and found it helpful!!

Andrew says:

I think you guys are really good at this travel blog thing. Be careful not to spread yourself thin by trying to cover too broad a range of topics. You are travel experts and I visit this site for your travel information and up to snuff media. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I appreciate that you post a lot of images and usually I like that they really place your site goers in the action of your travels. There are other sites that I frequent for beginner to expert photography tips but I come to 2Backpackers because you guys are some of the best in the world at posting trip blogs with decent accompanying media. Maybe others won’t agree, but I think you do yourself a favor when you put all your efforts into delivering quality info about travel rather than tips about photography.

My humble 2 cents is that if you’re going to start doing photo tips, maybe follow up this article with some more advanced tips about how to break the Rule of Thirds and specifics of your post production process on the computer. Also make sure to only post photos that clearly demonstrate your points while also being stunning by themselves so readers take you seriously as photo experts.

I do understand the business angle of this post though. This is a sponsored post, published with the intent to deliver relevant content and also make a commission. I’m sure the eBook is full of useful information and I hope you sell a million copies.

Much love and hopefully no hard feelings.

Jason says:

Andrew, I appreciate the constructive feedback, but I still want to clarify my intentions with this article.

We don’t offer photography tips on our blog, we offer travel porn. Our travel blogger friend Bethany of has created an intelligent, clearly written ebook on how to take better travel photos.

Often, when those of us in the travel blogging community create a product, we pass it around to others for feedback and possibly a review post if they are willing. This is not a Sponsored Post by our definition. A Sponsored Post is when someone pays us to plug their links in the article. This post is purely our own opinions about a product we reviewed for free. And if someone buys this product, then yes, we in turn get a 50% commission. I may never a single book, thereby obtaining zero funds.

Regardless, Bethany has written an excellent book that is receiving rave reviews in our travel blogger community and I want to share that with our audience. Beth is the formally educated professional photographer here, not us. She is the one offering photography tips, we are just explaining how we applied them.

The majority of the content on our site is photography based, comprised of Photo of the Day’s and Photo Essays. Many people interested in earth porn or travel porn come to our site for that type of content. In my mind it seems fitting for us to tell them about an ebook we recently read that can help improve their photography, as it is already helping us. We don’t have an audience big enough to sell a million copies, but 10 would be nice. I could always use $50.

Andrew says:

Thanks for the reply. I think we’re saying the same thing. I agree that passing around expert advice is a good thing. Also, there’s no foul in making a commission when you help sell a quality product.
The term travel porn made me snicker. It’s accurate and I think you know your audience well, I’m just still in 3rd grade.

I’m glad you didn’t take my comment as an attack. I heart 2Backpackers.

Josh Aggars says:

I bought this for my girlfriend last week and she read it on her roof top during the London riots. It took her mind off the carnage below so for that I’m very grateful. Add to that the fact it was written and produced by Beth, who has a fantastic eye for travel shots, and you’ve got a real winner on your hands.

In short, if in doubt, buy it! Worth every penny.

Jason says:

I couldn’t agree more Josh. I can’t wait for Aracely to read it. I told her it’s good one.

Some really good advice here.
It really is not hard to make a ‘normal’ travel shot into a really good one.
Lie down on your belly, stand up on a chair, zoom in on a tiny detail, zoom out and include a vast expanse of blue sky… The key is to THINK a little bit before pressing the shutter. Think laterally, use your imagination and innovation.

Jason says:

I agree. Many of the places we visit already have thousands of photos of them on Google Images. If we just take it from a different angle, it becomes a new picture. The good advice is in her book, we just touched on a few of them here.

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