Ten Essentials to Producing Quality Tour & Activity Photos


Sounds pretty basic, eh? Just like in Life, you can’t do much without energy. If possible, have your back-up battery cell ready charged, as well. Depending on your location and time away from charging stations this can help you get those last shots of the day, often in waning hours of the day.  The last thing any photographer wants to happen (again…) is to have their best golden shot of the day only to have their equipment shut down.

Mark Crawford

You never know where the exploration will lead You. Be prepared. Charge Your batteries as well as Your gear + extra cells…


It’s harder to go places if You don’t know where or when You are. Setting file names, Date & Time, and Geographic Locations (i.e. Metadata) will ease Your workflow organization today, tomorrow and next year. It’s Your memory, don’t lose it. Your mind goes next…

Mark Crawford

It’s healthy to reflect on the journey, keep an accurate record of the travels and You can create a clearer picture in Your mind when reviewing Your images.



Exploration spurs creativity, and this can be a positive snowball effect. Discover the uniqueness of any location as a guide and You can frame a creative story around it.

Mark Crawford


“The quality of the photographs is in direct proportion to the quality of the relationship.” –Scott S. Stuckey. This was a journey with friends I consider family. A little trip just outside their hometown can reignite the creative side.



Life is all about perspective: what remains in our field of view is how we process the experience. Composing an image requires Framing a picture, and this is essential to telling the story of the experience.

Mark Crawford

One basic concept is the ‘Rule of Thirds’, dividing the picture into horizontal and vertical thirds and allowing the subject to fall across the four points of intersection.



One of Life’s greatest conundrums, eh? Just BREATHE and You will work through it. Managing it in Photography is handling the life skills of practice and persistence. Our breath is essential to life, so exhale when releasing the trigger to reduce the shakes. The highest quality photo is a combination of observation and anticipation. Observation is in the profession of Photography and Guiding; anticipation comes with practice and persistence.

Mark Crawford

You can practice your timing by adjusting the camera’s Shutter Release Mode to Continuous. It allows You to take multiple frames per second while holding the Shutter.



Life can move by at the blink of an eye. How long Your lens stays open to capture it is measured in a fraction of a second. To reduce blur in motion images, faster Shutter speeds are required. A higher number indicates a larger denominator in fractions of a second. 1/3000 is a faster Shutter Speed than 1/60.  

Mark Crawford

Faster shutter speeds will freeze motion, while slower shutter speeds will blur any motion.



Our depth of field determines what appears sharp and in focus. A camera’s “f-stop” refers to the size of the hole in your lens that allows a certain amount of light to reach the ‘film’. The larger the f-stop number, the larger the focal range. At f-22 You will create a larger depth of field than at f-5.6. A small f-stop number will bring more detail to a small focal range in front and behind the subject. How much of the subject do you want in focus?  

Mark Crawford


Taking a portrait of anything with a lower f-stop number will blur anything outside the focal range, creating the subject to ‘pop’ out of the image a little more.


8) ISO:

Clarity of what we see helps us appreciate it better. ISO Sensitivity processes the image clarity to come through in pixels, the tiny squares within Your image; essentially picture elements, or ‘pixels. The lower the ISO number the more light required to produce a quality image. Higher ISO numbers process the image faster and create and grainier, lower quality image.

Mark Crawford

Dark settings sometimes require a combination of settings on a DSLR. Using a higher ISO can sometimes help capture the subject at night, but be careful how high the ISO Sensitivity is set. These two images compare the graininess caused by higher ISO settings when shot at night.



Life is all about balance… In order to create a quality image to a general audience You must be able to balance your camera’s Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. Setting Your Priority Mode on the top dial of many DSLRs allows the computer to assist in letting You isolate these priorities; or the camera can control the variety of activity You are framing. Balancing this creates highlights and shadows, relative depth of field, and limited motion blur.

Mark Crawford

Portraits are a solid way to practice isolating each aspect of creating a quality image. Once I can isolate and control different aspects of the mechanics, I can then relax with the subject for better candid shots. 



Finally, Life is SHORT. If You don’t take care of Yourself or Your Camera gear, it and You could end sooner than You want. Cleaning and maintaining camera equipment is an essential for anyone. Reducing the amount of damage done to camera lenses is essential. Don’t scratch Your eye, don’t scratch Your lens. Cover Your gear with caps, filters, coats, and hoods. A filter can be one of the cheapest preventative methods for scratching lenses.

Mark Crawford

Take care of the gear and it will help take care of You. Look after those around You and the rest will fall in place. When it comes to getting quality images, discipline to gear and overall health goes a long way.


About the Author

Mark Crawford

Mark Crawford is professional photographer and guide. He graduated Magne cum laude from the University of North Carolina. He has worked throughout the world as a tour guide and was previously the Photo Editor at National Geographic. He provides photography consulting to PicThrive customers and is an advisor to the company.

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