How to Save Gloomy Travel Photos

A beautiful sky makes all the difference between a pretty travel photo one and a dull one. So what do you do when you’re in London (for the third time) and the weather still won’t cheer up?

Switch the photos to black and white.

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I’ve been reading the Digital Photography School blog, after recently purchasing my first DSLR camera. My favourite article so far is about making the most of the weather during any shoot – as it turns out, rainy or overcame weather is great for capturing your subject in soft, diffused light rather than the harsh midday sun (another photo wrecker).

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I dug up my old photos from a summer’s day in London, which I’ve hardly looked at since I took them in 2012. Despite the gloomy weather we spent most of the day, cold and wet, outdoors on a sightseeing tour bus. I was travelling on a day trip from Paris with new friends from my exchange and most of them had never been to London and wanted to see the major sites. Unfortunately, this meant 90% of my photos were taken outdoors and an ugly, white sky.

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A white, featureless sky can be a real deal breaker for a good photograph.

So I started switching some to black and white – and loved the results! I didn’t change all the photos to B&W, but I chose a few and started cropping and tweaking until they were photos worth keeping.

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Some perks of B&W photography

  • Removing the distraction of colour, you can crop more intelligently to frame interesting shapes and textures in your photograph
  • Awkward photos taken from a zooming bus can be chaotic, with too much going on. Taking it to black & white puts a focus on the major shapes and people in the photos
  • I started noticing faces in the crowd I hadn’t noticed in colour, giving the photos more character
  • Dull photos can become moody photos, capturing your destination much better
  • The stark white sky is no longer stealing the spotlight in an otherwise colourful photo – your eyes focus on objects & people, not block colours
  • The colours of London were pretty drab and not well-coordinated, creating pretty ordinary photos. Removing that ugly factor really helped
  • I didn’t always need to go full B&W – sometimes fading the colours was enough to show signs of life, without clashing ugly colours

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I used iPhoto to crop, adjust the shadows and highlights, contrast and rarely, the exposure. I know I can take better photos of London, but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve salvaged from a forgotten photo album. Breathing new life into travel photos makes me very happy!

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PS – A sightseeing bus sounds boring, but it was a great way to see major sites in a very spread out city. I really liked taking photos from a greater height, giving me a better perspective of buildings and people.

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