Create more than snapshots.

There are two sides to photography.
The technical side, and the intuitive emotional side.
These tips are to help you get in a space to work on the latter.


When traveling I find that how our family interact with and fits into the landscape we are exploring is so much more interesting than just a landscape.  It is my “why” (read on). Capturing movement, emotion, and scale all help tell the story of our adventures.  


5 tips to stronger photography.



1 – Find Your Why

What is it about this moment or scene that makes it worthwhile of an image?   Once you find your why, you can then use your knowledge about light and composition to draw the viewers eye to what you want in an intentional way.  But it all starts with wanting to say something.  There is no wrong answer here, just a path to making more purposed images.

Swipe through the images to view examples

A tactile experience

Slot canyons are a very tactile experience and I wanted to capture the kids running their hands along the walls.  This composition from above shows both of their hands, movement, and the texture of the space.

Finding humor

The wind was whipping at White Sands National Park. I got close to the subject and her makeshift protective gear.  The boys had hiking gators over their entire faces so I intentionally incuded that funny part of the story.

Include whats important

Fern Canyon in Oregon is all about the amazing green canyon walls, rushing clear water and the fun of moving through all of that without getting wet.  I got low to fill the frame with all of the important elements.

Travel Experiences

Traveling during the pandemic was both nerve-wracking and, at times, rediculous.  I took a lot of images documenting that unique experience.  History is my why for that collection.

From their perspective

Capturing the kids perspective while on family adventures gives a nod to their unique experience.  She crawled through this cave next to our RV constantly for 3 days.  I crawled in after her to see what had her so enthralled.

2 – Isolate Your Subject

The subject is what holds all of the emotion within the scene.  Draw the viewers eye to your subject by isolating it (or them).  You can do this by either placing the subject in a bright part of the image, framing them in negative space, or using rim light to separate them from the background.

A good trick for this in crowded places is either get low and silhouette the subject against the sky (or building, etc), or get high and find something on interesting below the subject (a shadow, reflection in a puddle, etc).

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Against the sky

Playing on the buttes in Sedona, the subject was getting lost when framed against the busy textures of the red rock.  I got below them to frame them against the sky.


space between

I waited until the subject had space between her limbs (even fingers!) and the foot creates space between the subject and tree.  Those spaces give the form interest and move your eye to the subject.

Against the bright spot

I wanted to capture how large and peaceful this space felt.  But the tiny subject got lost.  Waiting for them to walk through the negative space (snow) created room, and contrast, for the viewers eye to find them.

fill negative space

Here I got up high to create negative space then fill it with my subjects.  I waited for them to create a shape that mirrored the shape of the rock.

just whats important

This moment between father and daughter got lost in the huge waves behind them, so I got low to eliminate the waves.  The seafoam adds interest to the foreground and tells the viewer we are at a beach.

3-Eliminate Distractions

If it doesn’t add to your why, remove it from your image.

Anything that interrupts the viewers eye as it moves around the image should be removed (ideally, when the shot is composed but cropping afterwards works too).  Interrupting the edge of the frame or a carelessly cropped body part (hand, foot, or shadow) can also ruin a great image.

And of course, remove errant signs, cars, or people who don’t add to your story.  Most often simplicity means strength in photographs.

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Straight horizon

The distraction in this image was the crooked horizon.  I see a lot of images that would greatly benefit from straightened horizons, walls, doorframes, etc.

simplify your edges

The dog in this image distracted from the clean diagonal line of the kids.  I cropped her out, being careful to keep a clean edge on the bottom of the image by not cropping into the shoes or shadow.

Create a border

I used this downed redwood stump to shoot through and get one still, quiet moment that represented our day.

less is more

At Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley NP, you climb over these craggy sharp salt structures.  This image gives weight to the salt but moreso to the focused balancing it takes to move around on them.

Just whats interesting

At this state park in Austin Texas, I found the mysterious murky water caves more interesting than anything else around it, so thats all that was included in the frame.

4- Find Interesting Light

Travel photography for me means using minimal gear and creating images in all kinds of light.  Even when there is a lack of “good” light, there is always a way to use available light in an interesting way.  Look for shadows or reflections.  Experiment with shooting towards the light and then away from it.

The viewers eye is drawn to the brightest part of the image, so make the highlights an important piece of the story.

Swipe through the images to view examples

Quality of light

This is harsh light.  Dramatic and eye-catching, this kind of light is is fun to create images in but is not great for portraits.  Play with shadows, silhouettes or reflections instead.

Quality of light

This is soft, or diffused light.  Great for portraits and often flattering, soft light is easy to shoot in and the even tones are easy to edit.

Direction of light

Pay attention to where your light is coming from.  Highlights shape an image. Unflattering shadows can ruin a portrait. If you can’t move the light, move yourself and experiment. 

Intensity of light

Intensity of light changes the mood of an image dramatically, and often the contrast as well.  It changes throughout the day, with the weather, and with artificial light sources so experimenting will have you prepared when traveling.

Color Temperature

I love shooting with warm (artificial) light during blue hour (after sunset) to get dramatic colorful contrasts.  Experiment with lighting your subjects with different sources.

5- Shoot Through The Moment

Keep that camera up because what comes next – especially with travel, adventure, and kids –  can be unpredictable, unexpected, and wonderful!  Keep shooting through the moment, especially if you are shooting motion or emotion.

Editing tip: if you practice shooting through the moments, edit photos in reverse order – the best ones are always at the end! 

Swipe through the images to view examples

A funny twist

I thought it was so cute that he was watching the birds eat snails.  Little did I know his kidbrain was going to twist upside down and create an image with a comical edge.


Because there is no way to accurately predict this toes-pointed, fingers-spread leap perfecty.  High-speed shutter is your friend in these situation.  Keep shooting through the moment!

Multiple subjects

Take time to compose and get your settings, then keep shooting if multiple subjects are moveing through your frame.  I love how everyoe has their own space here.

Because - kids!

The light here is amazing.  I was photographing these two and he tossed the sand, creating an unpredictablly wonderful moment.

Authentic smiles

Anyone with teens knows you cannot fake a smile.  I had this shot framed with the blue, yellow, & red and the kids happened to share a laugh.  Shoot through these moments!

Playing games

Who can touch the cactus?  And if they play this game why wouldnt I get it on film?!?  
Just keep photographing.

Authentic Expressions

I love that you can tell just by their faces the rain started falling again.  The image before this is a boring look at the camera one.  This is so much better!  Always be ready!






h e l l o @


Somewhere new every two weeks-ish, more or less.  Boston is home-base.

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View Jess's portfolio of wedding and portrait clients.  Based in Boston, MA