You’ve gotten yourself to a great spot — one of the Brainerd lakes or the Champs Elysees, for instance — and you want to capture the moment. Out comes your camera or smartphone. But how do you take a photo that transcends all those fading Polaroids your parents took of siblings lined up in a row (charming though they may be)? I follow the advice of the pros near my desk: Star Tribune photographers. Here’s a snapshot of what they’ve taught me.

Understand your camera: Reading the owner’s manual — and experimenting with the camera as you do so — will help you get the most out of your equipment and maybe even inspire you to try new tricks on your next trip.

Take lots of shots: In our digital age, it’s easy to take many photos of a subject, which means that you can try different angles and exposures as long as the subject is game.

Find the light: The soft lights of dawn and dusk are a favorite time to shoot. Even when that light is elusive — say you like to sleep late on vacation or stop at a lovely sight at midday — pay attention to the light. Is your child half shaded by a tree? Move him, unless the shadow provides a dramatic effect. Backlighting, usually an enemy of good photography, can make stunning silhouettes.

Watch the background: Pay attention to all elements of the photo. I recently saw a photo of a waiter with a flagpole seemingly stuck in his hat. The flag was actually several feet behind him, and if the photographer had stepped to the left or the right, the oddity would have been avoided.

Enjoy yourself: If you are comfortable with the camera, chances are your subjects will be at ease, too.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.