When I launched this blog, it was never my intention to shoot so many photos or feature my own photography. But, come on. When you’ve got subject matter like this, how can you not?
To be clear, I’ve never considered myself a photographer. But having shot more than 155,000 photos over five years, I’ve learned a thing or two.
If you’re a pro photographer, the following may seem really basic. But if, like me, you’re an enthusiastic amateur, here are some super-simple tips that cost nothing, take no time and will make a big difference in the quality of your photos.
1 – Focus. I know. This should go without saying. But when you’re excited about capturing the perfect, once-in-a-lifetime travel photo, it’s easy to forget.
Hold the camera perfectly still, especially when you push the shutter button. Also, hold still for an extra second or two after pressing the shutter button to be sure the camera is finished recording the image before you move it.
Another thing I’ve learned, thanks to my camera-whiz husband Tom — the more you’re zoomed in on a subject, the more any camera movement/blur will be magnified. (Sometimes, to keep the camera perfectly still when I’m zoomed in on something, I will literally exhale and hold my breath while I shoot.)
2 – Watch your horizon. It’s such a simple thing, but it makes such a difference to the quality of your pictures.
Yes, you can correct the horizon later with editing software, but as you can see below, you’ll lose some of the image’s width and height in the process. Some cameras have a setting that shows you when your camera/shot is level — it’s a great tool.
3 – Check your background. When you’re focused on your photo subject, don’t forget to look behind them. A palm tree or flag pole (as in the photo below) can ruin an otherwise awesome shot.
In this case, I edited the flag pole out using Photoshop. But taking a few steps left or right could have helped the photographer eliminate the problem all together.
4 – Use Your Flash. Speaking of the background, if it’s brighter lit than your subject(s) — which often happens in sunny (or snowy) places — use your flash.
This may require “forcing the flash,” since your camera will read the overall lighting and decide there’s plenty of it and therefore no need for flash. But most cameras have a setting that allows you to override the camera and force the flash to go off.
Forcing the flash can also help reduce harsh and unflattering shadows on your subjects when you’re on the beach or in other really bright environments.
4 – Shoot at the highest-possible resolution. Yes, shooting low-resolution (e.g. 72 dots per inch or “dpi”) will let you take lots more pics before filling up your memory card. And if you’re 100% sure that all you want to do with your photos is post them online, that’s fine.
But if you capture the perfect family photo or sunset or wildlife shot and later want to print enlargements or use it in printed materials (Christmas cards, postcards, etc.) you’ll need an image with a resolution of at least 150 — and ideally, 300 — dpi.
Better to keep an extra memory card on hand in case you fill up the one you’re using, than to conserve space by shooting lower-res photos. (See, Tom, I do listen!)
5 – Hold your camera high. Tilting your head down gives you a double chin, which is why few of us look good when photographed from below. For more flattering photos, hold the camera above the eye level of your subject(s.) Even a little height can make a big difference.
And a bonus tip – crop, crop, crop. I’m sure there are people who shoot perfectly composed images every time. For the rest of us, cropping out extraneous items can make a big difference.
There are many ways to crop photos. You can do it on your iPhone or iPad or Android smartphone, in Microsoft Paint or other photo editing software, and even in your camera (check your manual for details.) Here’s a great article about improving your photo composition that I found really helpful when cropping photographs.
What about you? What are your favourite tips for better vacation photos? Please share them in the comments below.