I've taken a few pictures of this girl. I'm not satisfied with the result but I cannot say the reason.

enter image description here

Let's say that I want to improve it. What should I do?

A strong zoom on her face may help?

I've cutted her in a wrong position? The landscape behind is not enough interesting? the column is not nice?

How could I improve the background and what should I correct of her? The tones of her face? Is she too red? Or too saturated?

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 because I think there is a very good answer associated with it too \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2014 at 13:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the edits and improvements. I think the question is great now, so I've reopened it. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    May 20, 2014 at 18:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ if you made the girl sit on the column it might have looked better :) \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2014 at 16:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm making the assumption that these are vacation or travel pictures. I'd like to edit the title and tags to be a little bit less generic so people with similar questions have a chance of finding it. Would something like "How can I improve this picture of my friend on vacation?" be accurate? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    May 22, 2014 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it's correct. Feel free to edit, if it's not completely correct I will improve it again. But it seems correct \$\endgroup\$
    – Revious
    May 23, 2014 at 8:57

4 Answers 4


This picture, and others similar to it, aren't pictures of the woman.

These are travel snapshots, with some landmark and a woman in the same frame.

There's nothing wrong with such snapshots per se. In fact, they're pretty great: they show where you were, remind you of the good times, and they're not anything like the travel postcards you could buy, even though those might feature some of the same tourist landmarks.

But they're not really portraits. If you want portraits, make them about your subject. Watch how the light falls on her, her expression, and what she's doing. If the light and shadows aren't right, move or come back at a different time. If you can find a way to work some interesting background into the composition, cool — maybe she's interacting with it (ideally in a natural way!) instead of just standing there. But if the background and the portrait aren't working together, and you wanted a portrait... forget the background.

For the specific example you give, all of the notes you've given yourself apply — the composition is haphazard, the column is extraneous, the lighting isn't flattering to skin tones. But all of that is really incidental to the basic problem, which is the nature of the photograph as a snapshot.

If you want, instead, to have postcard or coffeetable book photographs of travel landmarks... again, you might want to reconsider. That's been done, and it's best done by people with time to study the site, wait for the right weather and lighting (or make their own). It takes a lot of experience and work. Luck might come into it too, but it's the kind of luck you make by putting in the time. And, you probably don't even want the woman in the photograph.

Or, maybe those things don't sound like what you're looking for. Maybe you just want some nice snapshots from your vacation. In that case, don't worry too much about the photographic merits. They're perfectly good snapshots, great to share with your friends on social media or to look through later. If your model — and presumably your friend or significant other! — is interested, you can spend some time and energy making these real situational portraits. (Plan on at least an hour to get a good photograph.) Or, you can buy photos of the landmark by a local professional or enthusiast, and you can take more technically advanced portraits some other time, when you're not busy enjoying your trip.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm doing photography for 20 years and I learned something today! I have always considered these photos waste of film (storage). But now I realize I was wrong. Your point ("In fact, they're pretty great...") is something I have never payed attention to. The purpose of these photos is not to create a masterpiece of technicality, but to capture a memory. A reminder of good times, places they have been and etc. I have been so involved with technical concerns that I forgot about this equally important aspect of photography. Thank you for this excellent reminder dear sir. I would +10 if I could. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pouya
    May 20, 2014 at 11:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pouya: The last couple of times I've been abroad I've ended up classifying my photos into two albums - one for the more artistically ambitious (landscapes/street/etc) photographs and the other for fun memory type captures (of course the latter may still have technical/artistic merits - a well-framed, well-timed photo makes for a better memory too!) \$\endgroup\$
    – JohannesD
    May 20, 2014 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Of course, it's best if you manage to shoot a pleasing photograph that both includes a person and the scenery. It's difficult, but that's what I'm always trying to do when on travel with my family. \$\endgroup\$
    – ziggystar
    May 20, 2014 at 20:28

Move the girl in front of the post to get her out of the middle. Have her turn her body a little to make is more slimming. Balance the light on her face...probably have to do in post processing.

Otherwise, is is a nice travel picture. Pretty girl + pretty place = good memory :)


The answers above really do sum up the technical issues, although with travel images I would keep the background in focus and simply light the person better than the landscape to make sure that is the highest contrast area in your image. That allows them to become the main focus of this image instead of the beautiful landscape behind her. Fill flash is great but a bit of a pain when traveling to set up and carry off camera flash. A reflective surface can do nicely in this situation. A piece of white paper used as a reflector just outside of the frame would bounce light onto your subjects face and allow for a better exposure.

Making good pictures is also about where you stand, so in this case change your camera angle and go for a higher position to remove the railing and clutter. Something like this:enter image description here


I'm a photographer so I hope my feedback will help. First thing to consider is the back drop and where the person will be placed. Once you have that worked out it's time to make sure the lighting is beautiful. Without going into to much detail, off camera flash would be something to consider.

The hat is responsible for casting some of the shadow on the face as the light source (the sun) is over head. To fix this is post open the image in photoshop and lighten just the area of the face using levels, brightness or curves. In future you could consider spot metering with your SLR if that is what was used to take this picture with?

As for the rest of the picture, well it has a lot of distractions. When a viewer looks at it the eyes are moved away from the main point of focus (the girl) to the interesting and competing background (which you could have put into soft blur using your aperture) and the trees in the top left and right of the image. Also the bollard draws the eye away.

For a good portrait, consider a non competing back drop and off camera flash.

I hope this helps alghough it may be a bit technical. Problem for me as a photographer is that I miss out on the snap shots, that are so important. My wife keeps on nagging me to take them and I reluctantly agree but as soon as I am home I totally adore them! For shots like this one don't worry about getting to involved in the photography as you will miss the moment unless you are very very experienced and know your equipment. The shot is great and will serve its purpose as a memory for years to come : )


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