1) PICK SOMETHING TO FOCUS ON
The brilliant scenes your eye sees are not necessarily what your camera will capture. Without realising it, our human eyes choose elements to focus on and compensate for lighting imperfections, creating the beautiful views you see in person. The camera on your phone does not function the same way. For landscapes in particular, they will look more dynamic and attractive with a foreground, midground, and background. Meaning? You should pick something to be your subject, and position yourself in relation to the subject. Buildings, people, and trees all function very well to easily give your image focus, while still showing the scene at hand. Your photos will look a lot less cluttered if the viewer’s eye can be drawn to one spot in particular, instead of darting all over the image. A great technique to convey a message is the use of silhouettes – you can still highlight the beautiful landscape in the background, but your silhouette gives a subtle nod to your presence or activity in the foreground.
2) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LIGHTING POSSIBILITIES
Standard rules for photography apply: overcast sunlight is easier to work with than harsh bright sunlight; natural light is better than artificial; your phone flash is most likely terrible and you’re better off getting someone’s help to shine a light on your subject vs using phone flash. But there are unique opportunities for using light, beyond the standard rules. Have you ever considered capturing an inverse silhouette through a stained-glass window? Instead of letting harsh sunlight ruin your shot, reposition yourself to see bright sunlight streaming down through vibrant trees or tall buildings. Glamourous lit signs can be great subjects all on their own, or provide light for your subject. Even when taking photos of souvenirs, wait until you get back to your accommodations and position the object near a lamp to get ideal lighting. Make use of mirrors to reflect light onto your subject (bathrooms can be great for that!) or even use a tissue in front of your camera flash to diffuse the light and make it softer. If a storm comes on your vacation and you’re stuck inside, don’t be glum, take the opportunity to get a great lightning shot through your window. If you’re really feeling crafty, you can even try making your own shaped bokeh (although it’s significantly harder to do this with a tiny phone camera vs a larger DSLR lens).
3) SNAP IT MULTIPLE TIMES
Or use burst (continuous shooting), especially for action shots where it’s hard to guarantee you’ll get it right in just one take. Even the pros take multiple shots, and if you’ve got a human subject, it comes in handy for accidental weird faces or closed eyes. As a bonus, you might capture something amazing that you wouldn’t have if you had to take the time to get your phone out. You can edit shots together too if you like separate elements of each. And if you’re trying to capture lightning or animals, it’s best to just keep that camera out and hold down the shutter button!
4) CHOOSE THE RIGHT APP
For a lot of phones and cameras, the stock (built-in) camera app is fine. Apple is known to have a great stock camera app. But not all apps are created equal, and you may want more control over your images, plus better processing capabilities. This is where you would want to download a new camera app (one of our favourites is ASUS Pixelmaster – it’s totally free too). Adjustments like exposure1, white balance2, ISO3, and HDR4 are some of the most common settings you’ll want to adjust, and you can go full manual, or stick to the automatic mode and make smaller adjustments to suit your style. If you’re a live-share kind of traveller, keep this in mind: photos taken within Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram may provide you with ease of sharing, but you will suffer loss of quality and loss of options. You’re better off taking your photos in a specialised camera app, then sharing them across your desired platforms. They are YOUR memories; don’t you want them to be the highest quality possible?
1 How much light is let in through your camera lens. A long exposure = lens left open for longer = more light. 2 Compensating for tint which may appear as a result of lighting. Camera flashes are notorious for tinting images blue-toned. 3 Your film speed, or in other words, the sensitivity setting for your camera sensor. Higher ISOs require less light, but also can result in grainier images. 4 High Dynamic Range. A technique used to compensate when parts of your image have significantly different brightness than others, so that all elements of the image appear the same brightness – with no washed out sections.
5) THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH EDITING
At some point in time, there became a perception that if your photos didn’t come direct from camera ready to share or print without editing, you were somehow lacking as a photographer. This is so not true. Before everyone switched to digital, there would still be editing involved with photography – in the darkroom. Pros edit their photos for lighting, sharpness, saturation, and you are allowed to too. The goal of photography is not to brag about your eyesight or ability to change settings on a camera, it’s to share what you’ve seen with your own two eyes as accurately as possible. Cameras don’t interpret light the same way as humans do – so if you want to increase saturation to match what your eye saw IRL, you go right ahead. If you’re realising your image is slightly too dark and the details you saw are shrouded in shadow – brighten your shadows! There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for photo editing, as long as the subject shines through. Some of our favourite apps for this are Snapseed and Darkroom. The best way to learn how to tweak your images to your liking, is by practicing! Stay away from filters and pre-fab effects.
Take these tips and use them on your next trip! Pick your next photo-worthy destination at travelcuts. Chat with a travelcuts expert and start planning your next vacation.
Written by Deanna Gregorio, Brand Specialist at travelcuts.