These easy photo tips for your device will improve every picture you take. Your travel photography skills are about to skyrocket. I promise!
If you’re like many travelers, you don’t want to lug around a camera anymore…or at least, not every time. Yet, you’re nervous about relying only on your device (smartphone or tablet) to capture irreplaceable memories.
Let’s fix that fear, shall we? While serious and professional photographers will always prefer a DSLR or mirrorless camera–and the gadgets they require–the ability to take quality photos with a device is constantly improving. Experts predict that in 10 years, all we’ll need is a device. Even now, smartphones have wiped out the market for those compact point-and-shoot cameras that we all used to carry. (Exceptions: specialized cameras for underwater and extreme weather conditions.)
Your best camera is the one you have with you
We always have our phones with us. Even with upscale cameras, there may not be time to capture the unpredictable, perfect moment. But we can grab our phone, hold it up, and push a button.
As simple and handy as a device may be, there is still room for improvement. Just one or two of these photo tips for your device can turn a “hurry-take-a-photo” into one you’ll proudly share.
Photo Tips for Your Device: Easy, Peasy!
Before you do anything else, clean off that camera lens! All the photography tips in the world won’t will help if the lens is dirty. Carry a microfiber cloth or lens wipes and use them regularly. If you’ve been in a dusty place or at the beach, blow on the lens first to clear big particles. Enough said!
- Use natural light. I talked about this before in a post about taking food photos. It’s best to avoid bright sun and harsh shadows, but as a traveler, you don’t always have lots of options. When you’re at the Parthenon at midday, you can’t exactly wait or ask the building to move to the shade. (That’s where editing comes in.)
- Go for the Golden Hours. The short time just after sunrise and right before sunset truly are “golden.” The light is soft and everything looks prettier. (It’s like how candlelight is flattering…) Professional photographers swear by the Golden Hour. Get some pro tips here. There are even apps to let you know when they will happen at your location! BTW, sometimes the evening is called The Blue Hour.
- Remember the Rule of Thirds. Go to Settings on your device and say yes to grids. Now your camera screen has two vertical and two horizontal lines, making nine squares. When you take a photo, position the important element on one of the lines at an intersection. Not everything has to be centered–in fact, it can be interesting to do otherwise. But the Rule of Thirds will help you find the best spot.
- Don’t use ZOOM. I understand that we all want to get as close as we can to the subject…but you lose quality that won’t tolerate editing. Devices use a digital zoom, not the same as a DSLR. Instead, get as much of it as you can in the frame, then crop later. This is a hard habit to break, but once you see the difference in the final photo, you won’t zoom again. (Exception: iPhone X has two lenses and a 2X option.)
- Try Burst Mode. Hold the shutter down to get 10 photos a second. When something is moving, or someone is jumping, it’s impossible to predict when the perfect shot will come. Go ahead and take 40 photos–you’ll be amazed how they change over a few moments. Your award-winning shot may be among them. Just delete the rest.
- Become friends with HDR. High Dynamic Range (HDR) combines several shots–in the blink of an eye–to give you the best of each. HDR takes several versions of a single shot in super-fast succession, then merges them into a photo that looks better than each of the individual shots. Don’t ask me how this happens. I only know that it does. It’s not a “set-and-forget” technique; sometimes it’s not your friend. Learn more here.
- Keep it simple. When you travel, there are so many exciting things to see, you want to get it all. And you should! Just not in one photo. Try to stick with one main subject or object per photo. One door, one window, one castle, one person. Viewers like to focus on details, and it will be easy to do that with a simple composition. This effect can also come from cropping and editing, but when you leave out clutter, you can actually show more.
- Tell a story! You’re trying to capture an emotion, a person, or a place. Look for the photo that would explain it to someone who hasn’t been there. Experiment with angles, rainy days, black & white, or apps like Slow Shutter Cam, that blurs movement or creates light streaks. One of the benefits of taking photos with your device is that you can be sneaky. It’s much easier to get candid shots. Street photography is a cool thing, as you know.
- Pack an external charger…or two. If you’re really relying on your device to record your trip, don’t be disappointed by a low battery. Travelers can’t count on electricity–or outlets–so bring along your own power. Invest in a good one, while you’re at it. You won’t get these moments again…
- Have fun! What I really love about using my phone or tablet is that I can grab a spontaneous photo or quick shot of my meal without a hassle. You never know when you’ll see something new at a market stall or spot a group of men in a card game….or anything else that may cross your path. Like a cow. Yep, that happened.
There are many more tips to improve your travel photography. We’ll talk about them another day. For now, get out and snap away!
More travel tips? Sure!