How to Take Better Travel Photos

By Jeremy Del Nero on 22 August 2019
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Today’s smartphones come with excellent digital cameras yet many travelers lament the poor photos they end up with after a trip. The truth is, it isn’t the camera as much as the photographer behind it, but that can easily be corrected.

Here are four essential photographic techniques and tips that will ultimately surprise and delight you with the results.

1.)       Rule of Thirds.  The simplest way to explain the Rule of Thirds is to first divide what you see in the viewfinder or your smartphone’s display into nine squares of equal size, with two horizontal lines intersecting two vertical lines.  Then place the most important elements of the image along the intersection where the imaginary gridlines cross. The result will be a more natural and well-balanced photo.

A great example of using the rule of thirds is a sunset where you compose the shot with two-thirds sky and one-third land.  Whatever you do, don’t center the sun.

Sunset over Manhattan, photographed while landing at JFK

Sunset over Manhattan, photographed while landing at JFK

2.)       Try different angles and positions.  When taking a photo, don’t let the camera look down on your subject.  Instead, bring the camera to a position that is lower than your current eye level (crouch if necessary!) to avoid a lot of distracting background and to focus more on the subject.

3.)       Lighting  Before you take another photo, turn off your flash.  Today’s smartphones take excellent photos in low-light conditions and photos almost always look better if the flash is off.  Using a flash, to quote Cartier-Bresson, is “impolite…like going to a concert with a pistol in your hand.” The beauty that natural light affords will also result in far more striking photographs.

When shooting outdoors, unless you are shooting a setting sun, shoot with the sun behind you to avoid glare, although judicious use of glare can add dramatic impact to a photo. The best lighting conditions are in the so-called golden hours around sunrise and sunset. Get up early and explore the marketplace, the town, or wherever you happen to be to get great photos and spend the rest of your day enjoying your visit, just snapping the occasional shot.

4.)       Enhance your photos.  Some people spend hours on post-productionbut there are much faster ways of getting similar results.

The iPhone Photos app has a magic button called Auto-Enhance that automatically improves a photo’s exposure, contrast, saturation, among other adjustments.  To use, open the Photos app, select the desired photo, and click on Edit.  Then click on the icon for Auto-Enhance that looks like a magic wand.  Other options in the app include a simple cropping and tilting/straightening tool as well.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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