Getting Schooled

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With A Professional Travel Photographer

Get Those Photos up on More Than Your Virtual Wall with the expertise of a Kristin Potenti of KP Photography. We all want postcard-perfect vacation photos, don’t we? The question is, how do we go from taking selfies and weird snap chat shots to creating beautiful memories that we can hang on the wall (be it Facebook, Instagram or you know, an actual wall)? Here the lovely and very talented Kristin gives us her 11 best tips for making your photos capture your travel moments

  • What do you consider to be “photo-worthy” when you are traveling?

Kristin: I suppose anything that intrigues me or catches my eye is “photo-worthy”, particularly things that I don’t see every day. I love to photograph people interacting and going about ordinary daily tasks. Not tourists,but the people who actually live in a place. I typically don’t spend much time in cities when I travel. I love to visit small towns and get off the beaten path a bit to get a better feel for a place.

It always helps to have a purpose when taking photos; keep in mind the story you are trying to tell.

A story can be told by photographing textures, such as getting low to incorporate the texture of a cobble stone street, by photographing a meal you loved close up, the people who prepared the meal, someone’s face as they take a bite of something delicious. 

The pictures were taken on a trek in the Shan State of Myanmar (Burma). We walked through a village where the people grow thousands of chili peppers. The spice of the peppers filled the air as we walked through town. The people watched us curiously but continued working to prepare the chillis for market.

  • What makes a vacation moment meaningful on film (or digital, whatever)?

Authenticity. Try to capture friends and family when they’re in the moment. A few posed photos are fine but the best pictures are when they’re having fun together. When you tell anyone to smile or say cheese, especially small children, you often end up with a strange expression. When photographing children, try having them say something that ends with an “ee” sound like monkey or turkey or simply act goofy. That usually makes kids laugh.

  • With the advancements there are in cameras in our phones, is it still worth bringing the DSLR (we call it “the big camera”) with you? What are the benefits of having the DSLR with you?

It’s absolutely worth bringing the DSLR. The benefits include a wider focal range i.e., zoom or wide angle,low aperture for that beautiful blurred out background and bokeh (an artistic blur, if you will), fast shutter speed to capture a fleeting moment or slow shutter speed for low light or creative photography that incorporate blurred motion or lights.

  • We have a brand new DSLR, but no idea how to use it. Is it worth taking a class before our trip to make the most of its features, or can we hack away at it on the auto settings?

If you’re not going to be stressed, definitely take a class. However, the auto settings will capture memories just fine until you learn the camera.

Though, it’s not only about learning the camera but learning what type of photographs you want to take. Invest some time in researching photography online; there are so many resources available. You can teach yourself to reverse engineer a photo. First figure out what it is that you like about the picture, then try to identify the photographic technique and learn how to apply that technique yourself.

  • Are there accessories for our phones (special lenses, tripods, etc.) that can make our vacation (and even everyday) memories that much better?

There are many accessories including lenses and tripods that can enhance phone photography such as the Olloclip iphone camera lens kit and tripods. B&H Photo is a great place to purchase equipment.

  • Any suggestions for photography newbies to help us take better shots? Filtered light? Particular objects over landscapes? Time of day, etc.?

Light is the number one element in photography; the camera sensor is actually capturing the light that is reflected off of a subject. The “golden hour”, one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset is definitely the most magical light. However, people travel all day long. The most even lighting during the daytime is shade however if you’re trying to take a picture of your kids in front of the Duomo in Florence at 1 pm you’re not going to have shade over the entire scene. The important thing to consider is where the light is coming from. If the light is coming from behind the photographer and shining on the subject’s face, the whole scene will be lit but people may be squinting. Have them close their eyes and take the picture just after they open them. If the sun is behind your subject then the subject’s face may be darker than the background. This is a good time to use the camera flash as a fill light. Composition is another important element. Keep in mind the rule of thirds- – Images are broken up into thirds both horizontally and vertically so you have 9 parts. The line intersection and directly on the lines are the best placement points for your subject.

Always place the horizon in a landscape on one of the thirds line, never in the middle.

•Clearly Identify Your Subject

•Fill Your Frame

Dramatic Angles- Shoot from different perspectives, up high, down low

Don’t amputate unless it’s intentional

•Watch Your Background- Make sure there is nothing in the background that will detract from the subject, such as palm trees or signs growing out of heads

Look for Frames


Simplify- less is more, clutter distracts the eye

Depth of Field- (Whether everything in the image is in focus or the background is blurred out to create

emphasis on the main subject) Through the use of aperture.

Lines, Patterns, Shapes & Texture -Lines lead the eye to focal points

What makes those pictures interesting?

An interesting image has an obvious focal point, and there is a place for the eye to enter the image, land

on the focal points and exit the image. Remember the story you are trying to tell or the purpose of the


  • Are scenery shots enough or should we have people in them?

Scenery shots aka landscapes are definitely enough. Look at the work of Ansel Adams or today’s Peter Lik who just sold the most expensive photograph ever at $6.5 million dollars. Their work is all landscape without any people. It also depends what interests each person.

  • Should we makes notes somewhere as we are taking photos? Anything to help us remember what in the heck we were doing?

It’s always helpful to keep a travelogue if you can, but if not the images should help to jog your memory.

You can also take pictures of the restaurant name, street name, town name, menu or anything else you would like to remember if you don’t carry a notepad with you.

  • Once we get home, how should we store all of these images? Is cloud storage the way to go? What about programs like Picasa?

It’s recommended to have at least three copies of your files. I personally store my images on an external hard drive, which is backed up to another external hard drive and also backed up to Back Blaze, a cloud based storage site.

  • Everyone experiences the feeling of a picture “not doing the scene justice”. Any there any editing tricks that can bring our digital memories closer to our mental ones?

Making slight adjustments to the following will help any image:

Exposure-always ensure that the exposure is correct, in other words the image is not too light or too dark by adjusting the brightness

Increase the Contrast

Increase the Vibrance

  • We have a few images from a recent trip that we want to display, what kinds of options are there for printing, canvas, etc.? Are there websites that you recommend or should we search locally?

Costco produces very nice prints though their printers don’t handle reds or vibrant pinks very well.

Costco also provides literature so you can learn how to install their printer driver and “soft proof” (allows you to preview what the colors of the print will look like) your images if you’re a real stickler for color.

A friend of mine purchases prints from and is very happy with them. For specialty products, I love a smooth finish photo standout or Gallery Block. They’re similar to canvas but don’t have texture. Prints on metallic paper result in a super vivid finish as well as Fine Art Metalsthat are printed on a thin sheet of aluminum.

All pictures ©KP Photography

Kristin Potenti is the professional photographer behind the lens at KP Photography.

She is a visual storyteller who captures genuine life moments. The authenticity of a

person, the essence of who they truly are, and how they connect with the world. She

engages with people, with their environment, to document and photograph their

most natural, honest self.

Kristin is based in Fort Lauderdale, FL specializing in portrait and commercial

imagery with a particular passion for sharing the stories of people around the world.

She loves to talk about photography with other passionate artists and would love to

hear from you. Email her at

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