Now that people are traveling again, it’s time to brush up on our photography skills. I’ll caveat this blog post by saying that I’m not a professional photographer. I’ve not studied photography. I don’t even take that many pictures, to be honest.
But my pictures are better than most when I choose to take them.
So how do I do it? Easy! There are just a few tricks you can use to take incredible photos that will put Ansel Adams to shame. OK, probably not that good, but still pretty dang awesome.
The camera doesn’t really matter
Reach in your pocket. Is there a cell phone in there? Unless you’re still using some old Nokia camera from 1998, there’s a good chance the camera in your phone is better than 99% of cameras in history. You can take a really bad picture with an amazing camera, and you can take great pictures with an OK camera. Your cell phone is just fine.
Don’t worry about the Fibonacci spiral
Some people swear by the Fibonacci spiral in photos. This rule states the focal point should be in the middle of one of the quadrants and blah blah blah. You don’t have to get that fancy with it. But you should…
Pay attention to the composition
Composition is everything in a photo. Think about it this way: you wouldn’t take a picture of the Eiffel tower with half of it not in the picture would you? No, of course not. Composition matters. What’s that mean? Well, don’t always put faces in the middle of your pictures. Don’t cut off people’s legs all the time. Offset the main object to one side or the other. See how this lighthouse is fully framed, but just off to the side? Try it!
Use your zoom
Zoom can have awesome effects. Ever seen pictures like this? They work because of zoom. You can really mess with the perspective if you have good enough zoom.
Also don’t use your zoom
Sometimes you don’t need to use the zoom. Just leave the camera as-is. See this picture I took of the Tetons? It’s one of my favorite pictures ever, and I didn’t use any special effects. I just used my iphone, pointed, and clicked. Also notice that I didn’t make the top of the mountains the top of the picture? It makes everything in the photo look bigger and grander by giving the objects space to breathe.
Learn the chin trick
If you’re going to take a bunch of selfies, learn the chin trick. You can thank me later.
Selfies are ok sometimes
Take some selfies! They can be fun! Who doesn’t like a good selfie? Here’s one of my favorite selfies with my sisters! Yes, our heads are hanging over a 500 foot tall cliff! Or just take a foot selfie! Notice, though, that I said selfies are OK sometimes. Every picture you take on vacation should definitely NOT be a selfie.
Give objects room to breathe
Most people have the tendency to make the main object take up the entire photo. Sometimes that’s great! Sometimes, it’s better to let it breathe a little. Look how the lake, the mountains, and even the trees have some space in this picture of Mammoth Lakes. They’re not all squished at the borders of the pictures. The photo can breathe a little.
Try super close ups
Close ups are great for textures. For example, check out this closeup of tiny waves on the shore of a high-Sierra lake in Yosemite. You can almost feel the cool water on your skin, can’t you?
Move the shooting point
Changing perspective can be really cool. One of my favorite pictures is this one of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s so moody, and it’s just because I changed the location where the photo was taken. Or even this one with the waterfall peeking out behind pine trees! Think about it this way: if a person who’s 6’5” takes pictures of toddlers, but takes them with the camera up by his chest, you’re only ever going to see the top of the toddlers’ heads. That person would need to squat down to get on the toddlers’ level. Its the same sometimes with other photos. The camera doesn’t always have to be eye-level.
There you have it! Even though my pictures aren’t amazing, they’re not bad either. The reason is because I make sure I place the objects in the photo to make them look better. By leaving some sky above the mountains, you make them look bigger. By zooming in, you can change perspective. Close ups can add really cool textures.
All you need to do in order to take better vacation photos is be a little more intentional. Don’t take every photo with the camera at your eye height, and think about where you’re placing stuff in the photo. It’ll make all the difference in the world!