I’m not a photographer.
But over time, motivated by this blog, my photos have improved. I've discovered some simple ways to take better photos.
It’s not been thanks to any major upgrade in the technology I own but rather to a better understanding of some pretty basic principles which I’m happy to share.
In fact, almost all the photos I've taken in the last couple of years have been on my phone. I use my DSLR for landscape shots as a phone can't achieve the same definition as a proper camera. But for anything in a city, indoors or outdoors, I use my iPhone.
If you are a photographer, please check out another post on Solo Traveler – this one will have little value for you. OR, even better, add your best tips in the comments.
If, on the other hand, you are a traveler who simply wants to return home with better photos, read on. I have some very basic tips that, I hope, will improve your pics.
How to Take Better Photos
All these tips are based on using your camera on automatic or your smartphone.
- Camera+. This is my favorite photo app for my phone. It gets much better results than iPhone's camera alone and has built in editing tools that are very effective.
- Shoot RAW. When using my DSLR I want as much clarity as possible. I shoot in RAW rather than jpeg format. This creates an image with much more detail. A RAW image can be cropped further than a jpeg image without losing definition. It allows me to travel with one lens and still get good results by manipulating the image after the fact.
- Rule of thirds. This is my favorite tip. Divide your camera’s view into nine squares and place your focal point at the cross-section of one of the thirds. Look at the top photo on this article. Basically, you want the focal point of your photo to be on any of the red Xs.
- Horizons. Using the rule of thirds, it is best to lay a horizon line on either the upper or lower third line rather than in the middle. It's your choice. If you have a lake and sky scene, decide whether you want the focus on the lake or the sky and choose the upper or lower third line accordingly.
- Direction. Another rule of composition is to have more space in front of a moving object or the direction a person is facing than behind. In the photo below, my subject is on the right third with space in front of her (not behind).
- Give your subject depth. This is particularly important for landscape shots. If you are looking at a spectacular landscape that you want to capture, try to find a tree or something else of texture to put into the foreground so that your photo has depth. A bit of foreground framing on one side of a photo will improve the result dramatically.
- See what the camera sees. We are all accustomed to looking at a great view and eliminating the hydro wires that are crossing it or the smoke stacks in the distance. Unless they're really intrusive, we don't notice them with our eye. But take a photo of the same view and they will stand out and ruin the souvenir. Sometimes a few steps in one direction or another can improve a photo significantly.
- Lighting. When using available light for people photos, side lighting is usually the most flattering. Unless you want a silhouette effect, make sure that the light is not coming from behind your subject. For taking photos of landscapes and cityscapes, go out early in the morning (when there are fewer people around) or late evening when the sun is at an angle to the earth and therefore adding interesting shadows and dramatic highlights to your photos.
- Give it a fix. Even the most basic photo management program can improve photos greatly. Didn't get the rule of thirds right? Crop it. Is the lighting off? Adjust it.
Photo Storing Tips
Losing your travel photos would be a very sad occurence. Whether you're traveling or at home, back up your photos on either a hard drive or in the Cloud so that they won't get lost. Here are a few options.
- Time Capsule. At home, I have a Time Capsule which automatically backs up my entire computer (or at least any changes on the drives), including my photos, every couple of hours. It's a solution you activate and then forget about, which I love.
- Tablet and SD Card Connector. When traveling, I use my iPad or computer to be fully connected on the road. I back up the photos from my phone and SD card onto whatever device I'm traveling with and I keep the original photos on their original source so that I have photos in two places.
- Cloud Services. In addition to having the photos on my iPad, I back them up on Dropbox, which is a cloud solution. Even if I lose all my technology, I won’t lose my photos. Dropbox offers 2GB free. To get more free storage, check out:
Photo Sharing Tips
Sharing is easy and natural in today's social media environment. Here are a few of my favorite sharing platforms.
- Dropbox I share photos of family and friends and the like by uploading the pics to Dropbox and sharing the Dropbox folder link with select people. I'm careful about what I upload onto social networks as some people have a low tolerance for having their image shared.
- Social platforms Because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, etc., change their terms and keep for themselves such things as “non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide licenses to use the Content,” I share photos on them but not ones to which I want to retain exclusive rights and ownership.
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