How to Improve Your Instagram Travel Shots

*This article first appeared in Endless Vacation, September 2017.

A Pro shares ways to up your game


With 56,000 followers watching her feed, travel writer and influencer Erica Firpo(@ericafirpo) knows how to make an Instagram post pop. We asked her to share her tips—follow the advice below to help reap likes, comments and Insta-envy.

Shoot It Like You Mean It

Hold the smartphone steady and with authority, making sure to align the camera perfectly parallel with the subject. Shoot horizontally for more range in the picture plane and then double up with vertical shots for your Instagram Stories.


Timing Is Everything

Early mornings and late afternoons, also known as the “golden hours,” are some of the best times to take photos because the light is warm and soft. For uncrowded shots, get up and out at sunrise to have the sites to yourself.

Get Some Perspective

Change up the vibe with a change of place. Head to higher ground for sweeping views, or kneel closer to the floor for action shots. My favorite, high or low, is to find a vanishing point for a stylized shot.

Keep It Natural

And as much as I like to frame a gorgeous golden ratio, great photos come when you don’t force the scene. Let the natural elements play out right in front of you, and shoot away. For help on where to shoot, you can research locations in advance with Google Earth and Instagram.


Sometimes a little editing (like cropping, alignment and light and/or color correction) can upgrade a photo from nice to amazing. For Android* and iPhone,** I like Snapseed(iTunes/Android; free) for overall editing; VSCO(iTunes/Android; free) for its tilt-and-level tool (which helps with photo alignment); and A Color Story(iTunes/Android; free) for adjusting color balance. Editing rule of thumb: Be as authentic as possible.

Bonus Tip:Bring an external battery so you don’t miss out on a shot.Mophie(cases, from $60)makes cases that can extend battery life by more than 100 percent while protecting your smartphone.

Fotografia Moderna and Me

I hardly ever get to be in front of the questions, but this time, I am flattered to be the subject of Fotografia Moderna's Interviste series, in Italian.  For a quick read, I thought I would translate it for you to English:

  • How did you begin?  Good question. I started as a journalist in high school, writing as a beat reporter (sports) for a regional newspaper, and from that moment I didn't stop, writing art, travel and lifestyle for newspapers and magazines.  In 2006 with Twitter and 2011 with Instagram, I quickly realized taht social would be the next step for journalists and that I could "speak" without with limits, writing an article, a tweet or sharing an image, I had many possibilities.
  • Are you a  #travelblogger disguised as a journalist or a journalist disguised as a #travelblogger?  What is your goal when you publish a photo?  I am journalist with a blog and strong respect for bloggers.  A photo should make me smile. If that happens, I publish it.
  • Your point of view on museums?  Ever since I was little, museums have been my playground, refuge, sanctuary and dream. I could walk across centuries and worlds in a few minutes.  I would love for everyone to have even just a second of that sensation and because of that my collaborations with museums are very important.  If my [#empty] photo is a success, I am happy for the museum.
  • Photography and social media? Social media has broken barriers- to be precise, social gives opportunities to everyone, especially those who would have never thought they could even be creative.
  • Your Best Photo?  It is impossible for me to pick a single photo, I love them all and for different reasons.   With Instagram, I never think "I am doing a great job", mainly because I don't consider it a job but a pleasure, a way to express myself.
  • You are one of the Top Influencers on Instagram for Italy, that is wonderful but at the same time dangerous?  I didn't expect it [Repubblica article] and I am very honored.  My objective is not to influence someone to buy something, I like to believe that I encourage people to have the desire to know more, travel more, share with them all the amazing culture that is around to uncover. And because of that mentality, I don't see anything dangerous.
  • How do you see your Future?  What do you have coming up? There is definitely going to be an evolution, I don't know exactly but I already feel I am changing.  Coming soon- I have a series of projects that combine journalism and social media, and this year, I'd like to do more  “behind the scenes”, i.e. consulting for editorial projects and campaigns.

Let's get empty . . . me + you and #emptylagallerianazionale

I was raised to be a museum geek.  When I was child, my mom would take us to the Philadelphia Museum of Art almost every Saturday afternoon and said it was our playground-  Sol Le Witt's On A Blue Ceiling was our sky, Cy Twombly's Fifty Days at Iliam our playfround, and Peter Paul Ruben's Prometheus Bound our babysitter.  She'd let me cut school for a morning at the Barnes (original location), and my parents would rev us up with weekends in Washington DC, (my sisters and me fighting over what order to visit all of the Smithsonians) and New York (name a museum, we were there).  If anything, we wanted to live in museums like Claudia Kincaid, so my latest obsession makes sense:

Mornings in a museum all to myself.   Or better yet, organized visits to La Galleria Nazionale with you during hours that are normally closed to the public.   You read correctly:  closed galleria, all yours, but you have to let us know--  aka the next evolution of all these Emptys in Rome and Milan Darius and I have been hosting.  All you have to do is send a message via Instagram direct message to @LaGalleriaNazionale.


12 December 2016


Wanna see what La Galleria Nazionale looks like empty?


For past  Empty projects I have hosted...

Meditation in the palm of my hand

Photo by Cappiello via Instagram

The other day, my younger sister asked me about Instagram. More specifically, she asked me why I felt the urge to post photos (low res, unplanned and primarily for my pleasure only) that the Man-- at the time of said questioning-- may or may not feel like taking advantage of. I laughed and told her that much like our long ago afternoons of yoga and cigarettes, Instagram is my meditation so who cares.

"Meditation in the palm of my hands" may have been my exact phrase, stated slightly condescendingly as only an older sister can.  But it's true, hand-eye coordination has been the only way I've ever been able to slow down the mind and just relax.  This is just the first time I've done it with my phone.  Part visual game, part thrill seeking, I love losing myself in photos.  And when I'm in the deepest throws of insomnia, I've taken to traveling the world on a magic carpet of hashtags-- which answers another question I was also asked "will I write a follow up to Traveling via Instagram"?  Here's the six month skinny:

Instagram has so many great photographers and photographs on a variety of levels, themes and perspectives, that I am either recycling, reviewing or discovering.  I constantly change my mind on who I love, like and follow, like a 15 year old watching the varsity soccer team for the first time.  True, I'll always have a crush on the photos of @SamHorine and @Cucinadigitale, who bring New York and Rome to my phone on a silver platter, but there's always room for more.

Tags:  #typography #artwatchers #bicichic #jumpstagram #puglife

Users: cappiello,  shaynabatyatomwhite_, Gummytingallimcbutterlegojacker (and anyone else creating sets with Lego figurines), swerved, and unique_lapin. And oh yeah, my kid sister, Itinerantme, so I can keep tabs on her as she meanders around Southeast Asia.

PS. Instagram provides a lovely Suggested Users List with an ever updated rotation of  favorites.




Art Appreciation

*Experiment: i've decided to double-thumb this post from my iPhone. Please excuse lack of cohesive thought. I'm all thumbs today.

A conversation sprung up over Thanksgiving dinner at friends' house, just before the pumpkin pie-ettes were served. 

Contemporary art doesn't really exist in Rome, I was told. Nor is there really any contemporary art in general. I was overly emphatic in my disagreement, perhaps giving Rome's art scene too much of a hard sell but I'd do again all the same.

After centuries of holding on to its Renaissance and Baroque heavy weight titles, Rome has finally entered the contemporary art ring, albeit as a bantam.  The reality is that compared to New York, London and Paris, Rome is just shadow boxing.   And rightfully so.  Think about it, Rome has been living off 25 centuries of culture, history  and art- unfortunately, that's all many see.

Gallerias, foundations, museums and exhibition spaces are all over the city.  Open your eyes and take a good look, Rome's a contender.

Four tips to "appreciating" contemporary art: 1. Have a sense of humor, most artists do - whether intentionally or not 2. Have patience. "Getting it" may not happen immediately, if at all 3. Have a drink. Openings are all about the scene so socialize 4. Forget about the summer- most galleries shut done for at least a month before bringing you that back-to-school special

Daniela Edburg, through February 12, 2011
Via d'Ascanio 20 (Pantheon)