Travel Photography – Tips to Take Better Pics!
Travel photography happens in all manner of ways. From happy snappers with smart phones, to those trying to master the nuances of the new digital SLR they bought in duty free as they left the country, right through to professional photographers, the intent doesn’t change: everyone is trying to capture a memorable moment in a single frame. And each of those moments are equally precious to the person capturing them.
Here are some tips for snapping pics you’ll be proud of – regardless of your mode of capture.
The quality of photos that can be captured on phones these days is truly remarkable. You simply don’t need to lug around a DSLR when you’re on holidays. It’s easy to take good quality photos that you can edit using any number of amazing apps available to transform your happy snaps from great to breathtaking.
One of the main attractions of using your phone to capture memories of your holiday is the convenience and the spontaneity. It’s much easier to capture a moment with the small, portable camera on a phone . Often by the time you’ve set up for a shot with a big lens, the moment has passed. If you’re looking for inspiration and you’re already into Instagram, search for hashtags like #iPhoneonly or #shotoniPhone to find some feeds to get those creative juices flowing.
It’s easy to forget to clean the lens on your smart phone. It’s not like you’re looking at it all the time. But our phones are in our hands so often, it’s easy for the lens to get dirty. Make sure you clean it regularly with a soft cloth to ensure your images are always crisp and clear.
Despite its convenience, the front camera (the one where you ‘flip’ the lens so it points at you, and you can see yourself on the screen - usually used for ‘selfies’), doesn’t have a very high resolution. Use the rear-facing camera for higher quality photos.
Similarly, the zoom function – when you enlarge the subject of your photo using your phone touch screen – doesn’t deliver great results either. When you use this method, the quality is reduced, resulting in a grainier image, it’s much better to just take a few steps closer and crop it later.
If your phone has a grid feature, turn it on. It will help you to take straighter photos and makes it easier to follow the rule of thirds.
On an iPhone, you can use the volume buttons to take pictures. This allows you to keep a firmer grip with both hands on the camera. You’ll almost always get a better shot firing the shutter this way. Using the digital shutter button can cause the phone to move, making pictures blurry.
Keep the HDR function on by default. HDR stands for ‘high dynamic range’. The dynamic range of cameras is limited, making it difficult to manually choose the best exposure and capture all the features of your subject in a single shot. The HDR function takes multiple exposures across the whole dynamic range, combining them to get optimal exposure. So you’ll be able to see the details in the shadows without overexposing the brightest parts of your image. Be aware that images of moving subjects using HDR may be blurry.
There is now an amazing array of apps to help you take your smart phone photos from good to great. Some have a small cost, but completely worth it for the results. Here’s a small selection to help you start exploring. A quick internet search for ‘best smart phone apps’ will also deliver a huge range to investigate.
Taking photos using the Camera+ app lets you control exposure and focus, proving the ultimate control of your shots. It also has stabilizer and clarity features. You can use Camera+ for editing after you’ve taken the shot too, and it comes with various filters and frames like most other photo editing apps.
VSCO – which stands for ‘Visual Supply Company’ – is ideal for social sharing. It’s available for iOS and Android and helps you edit alignment, saturation, shadows, and grain with a simple slider tool. There’s also an active VSCO community that’s a bit like Instagram, but it’s also great to access for tips, advice, and inspiration.
Tiffen Photo FX has 76 filters containing 878 pre-sets organised in 8 different filter groups. For those who know their photography gear, the app simulates Tiffen glass filters, specialised lenses, and laboratory processes. It provides colour correction and allows you to introduce natural light, as well as a whole bunch of other effects.
Afterlight is a popular app that you can use to take photos or edit them afterwards. With a huge range of filters and editing features, it allows you to play around with exposure, contrast, and more, with an easy-to-use interface.
Some general advice applies to any kind of photography, whether on a phone, a simple point and shoot, or a super-serious DSLR.
The presence of truly beautiful light will take your photos to the next level. It’s not necessarily something you can have much influence over, but its worth being mindful of. Sometimes just a slight change of angle can make an enormous difference to how the light is falling on your shot.
When it comes to getting the right light, photography indoors can be tricky. Whenever possible when you’re shooting inside, make sure there is plenty of natural light. But don’t worry if the exposure isn’t perfect – especially if you’ve taken the shot on a phone camera. Editing apps like Afterlight and VSCO can help to lighten shadows and generally tweak exposure
Sunset and sunrise are known as ‘the golden hours’ for photography for a reason. The diffused, soft light at sunrise and sunset – and even late afternoon –makes for truly beautiful images that won’t need a lot of adjusting.
Colour, as well as light, is another impactful element in your photos. It is a powerful method of setting the mood and evoking emotion. Choose colourful subjects for vibrant, energetic images. Don’t be afraid to play with the colour saturation when editing – it can turn something very average into a vibrant, sunny piece of art. Also consider no colour at all. Converting your pictures to black and white makes them more solemn and intense. It’s a great way to draw the viewer’s focus to the subject and perfect for capturing those special ‘human’ moments.
Look for frames within the environment to shoot subjects through. Branches and foliage can form the perfect frame when you’re shooting in nature. Urban landscapes also have many lines and features to set up a frame for your shot in-situ.
When photographing landscapes, try to include something in the shot that demonstrates scale. This might be done by including people or wildlife, or finding the vantage point to demonstrate the vastness of natural features like waterfalls, cliffs, lakes and canyons.
The rule of thirds really is the fundamental rule of photography composition. Stick to this as the basis for well-balanced photos that capture and hold the viewer’s interest.
Sometimes it’s the raw humanity of a scene that we inadvertently stumble upon that captures our imagination. You don’t have to try for perfection – you’re capturing precious moments and memories. The beauty of these are in the imperfections and the humanity of our world. A branch or bird or person in front of a landmark, or a completely spontaneous shot of people on the street can make the most authentic memories.
Food is such an important part of any holiday – particularly when you’re overseas and immersing yourself in a different culture. Think about photographing beyond the beautifully plated food you receive in restaurants, and consider the environment in which food is gathered and prepared.
Think about the colours, patterns and symmetry of fresh food markets. Or the energy in kitchens, and street markets. Experiment with capturing the whole experience of food and its journey to the table. If you are snapping plated meals, it’s usually best to take the photos from directly above.
Anyway, take these tips with you and snap away on your next trip!