Make Your Travel Photography Magazine Quality

I used to be a travel photography purist. The way I took the photo was the way it was going to stay. I didn’t have Photoshop or formal graphic design skills, so I thought I was stuck with what the camera captured. I was okay with it.



Since then I’ve fallen in love with the simple photo editing tools that come standard on most Windows PCs. Now with a small amount of effort and a little bit of imagination, I can take a bland or boring shot, play with the color saturation, brightness, tint, and more, and come out with travel photography that better captures the way the moment made me feel.

That’s why we take pictures, right? To preserve the feeling of that moment, a feeling that would otherwise fade with time.

In a way, we are simply restoring the image in the file to the way we saw it when we took it, because most standard cameras seem to capture images in a slightly dull and dark form.

So what am I talking about?

Let’s take a look at some of my travel photography that I edited using the steps below.

travel photography



As you can see from the examples above, a little bit of effort can really make a difference. The photos in the After examples are more visually interesting and have brighter colors.

So how do we accomplish these photo effects?

All of the photos above and below were edited using only the free photo editor that comes with Microsoft Windows. The steps below may not correspond to the exact version of Windows you are running.  But by following these steps and saving a new version of each photo to edit, you can do some fun photo editing without risk of losing or doing irreparable harm to your photos.


The Easiest Way to Turn Vacation Photos Into Travel Photography

  • 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.


More Travel Photography, Edited 

travel photography


An Even Easier Way to Edit Your Photos

There is one way to spice up your run-of-the-mill travel photography that is also free - Instagram. If you have been living under a rock like I have, Instagram is a free app that allows you to choose from a bunch of pre-set photo effects filters to get similar effects as above. This app is popular because it does a great job of making photo editing a social event.

I like Instagram for travel photography because it is mobile-phone based, which means the photos are more spur-of-the-moment than if you unpacked your DSLR or point and shoot.

Here are a few of my photos from Instagram, to demonstrate what the application allows you to accomplish:

travel photography



Follow me on Twitter if you’d like to see travel photography from our upcoming vacation via Instagram.

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  1. Hey John.. This is probably my favorite post that I have seen on MWD.. Some seriously great tips here..

    And it is awesome that you get to do so much world traveling to have the opportunity to pull these off. Do you usually travel for work or pleasure?

    Also, your “Marsaslox’s Famous Boats” picture is seriously amazing. That needs to be blown up and framed somewhere, if it isn’t already.

  2. My wife and I love taking pictures but we’ve never learned how to really edit them. I hope to take a photography class here in the near future to learn a little more about the new digital camera we bought a few months back. After I learn more about that then I should learn more about picture editing.

  3. Great shots John. It looks like you’re enjoying your European vacation. Instagram is super popular these days and they do create some pretty cool effects, but I didn’t realize you could do this with the basic image editing software that comes with Windows. Very cool. I’m planning to get a decent camera later this year and learning this kind of thing.

  4. Wow, beautiful photos! Awesome tips. I’m going to NYC in September and I’d love to take some photos that look as good as these. I don’t have an amazing camera but one of my favorite pictures in Mexico is a beautiful photo that I took with a crappy camera and fixed it up.

  5. Hey John,
    What kind of camera do you use? It looks like some great trips!

  6. Great tips! I have always wanted to do more work on my photos, but Photoshop is expensive and very difficult to use. I will have to take a look at what I already have!

  7. I am apparently under a rock - I need to try Instagram. Those photos look great! I was looking for a way to both spice up my blog photos as well as just my normal keep-sake ones.

  8. Very cool! I am not a huge photography person but my girlfriend is. She can play with photos all day!

  9. Very cool! My wife has recently discovered photo editing. Now she wants to get a better camera so she has the option of enlarging shots she really likes to poster size. I’m all for it, if it makes her happy. We have loads of opportunities for great scenery shots in our immediate area.

  10. I’m definitely going to use this. I’m kind of a horrible photographer, so maybe using photoshop and like programs will help me make my pictures look like the scene ACTUALLY looked when I was there.

  11. Great tips (and examples)! You’re so right - about photos being a way to capture the moment, the memory, the atmosphere. I never edit my photos, but so many times I take a picture and think to myself “man - this looks sooo much better in real life!”. Maybe I should start editing??

  12. I didn’t realize Windows live would let you edit. I’ve been using photoshop elements for years.

  13. My wife has been using instagram on a lot of photos she takes and it really does some cool things with the images.

  14. Impressive tips. I’m a horrible, rotten photographer and I feel like EVEN I can do this, too.

  15. I see no problem with improving an image at all. Those are some truly awesome photos. Looks like you’ve done quite a bit of traveling.

  16. Those photos look awesome! Great tips too. I have tried to use photo editing software but I always give up. I have a lot of pics of my kids I would like to enhance.

  17. I’m used to posting great vacation foto to Instagram too.

    Offtopic: recently on Instagram I noticed great place to visit. it’s in Ukraine. Search in Instagram for #chernobil Ex-nuclear plant and abandoned city of Pripyat.

  18. Wow…I’m impressed that basic photoediting software could improve a photo so drastically.

    I really like instagram but I hate that it’s only a mobile app. I have a dumb phone and I have a really old iPod, so I can’t take advantage of it. I wish they would create a plugin for iPhoto for a mac (or the pc equivalent).

  19. Why not try adobe? Remember not to saturate the pictures too much because it will look photoshopped.

    My friend wrote this great guest post on my blog about photography:

  20. Those are some great photos. I usually just take picture with my phone and don’t worry too much about the quality. I might check out these effects to make some of the photos better.

  21. Starting out with a quality camera is always a good thing. I only used my iPhone on a recent trip to Sydney and I’ll admit it was nice not lugging around an SLR and spending time thinking about framing shots (and you’re right, Instagram does wonders for jazzing up photos). Generally, I do like to use my SLR to really capture the beautify of new places, though.

    I didn’t realise Windows had a built in editor - I use as photo editing something I do on a regular basis, especially if I’m working from home.

  22. I agree with you, Microsoft has a pretty good photo editing tool that is perfect for minimal adjustments. On the other hand, I like Instagram for the wonderful effects it can give; I hate it as well for making lazy people out of newbie photographers.

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