Learn your Camera
One big, yet all too common mistake is not knowing your equipment before the big trip. Don’t open up your new camera once your plane lands at your destination. Whether you’re shooting with a simple point and shoot, or you’ve got a new 5D Mark III, knowing your way around your camera will ALWAYS be beneficial. On the cheaper point and shoots, test out some of the different style settings which can include action, portrait, landscape, macro and more. With higher-end cameras in the DSLR category, the ultimate goal is to be shooting in manual mode which lets you control all aspects of the shot. Start out shooting in modes like automatic, aperture priority, action or portrait mode. Make note of the settings for the photos you took, and it will help you learn what settings you want in Manual to reproduce that type of photo.
Rule of Thirds
A rather simple, yet incredibly helpful tip to improve your images deals with the overall composition, or framing of your photo. Think of the photo as broken into 9 boxes, (many smartphones even show these boxes when you open the camera app). Now try lining the subject up with one of the lines instead of being centered, or line up a horizon on one of the horizontal lines. Points of action or focus also look good when aligned on a “crashing point”, or where lines intersect. Of course, not all of your photos need to follow this pattern, but definitely give it a try and keep it in mind when taking the shot, and editing it later.
Go candid and shoot some photos of your travel mates without them posing, or looking at the camera sometimes. Activities like hiking, interacting with locals, enjoying landscapes, or really any aspect of a trip can be just as good, if not a better photo when the subject isn’t forcing a smile for the camera. If a kid is running around excited during the trip, stopping them to look at the camera and smile is kind of defeating the purpose, you’re going to want to remember their genuine excitement, so just shoot that! Even if all you get is a blurry smile as they run by, you’ll probably end up loving that photo more than a posed portrait in front of a roadside sign.
Don’t Delete until You’re Editing!
Media hoarding is not a good thing. Having 45 shots of almost the same photo is a waste, and also prevents you from having the time to edit the good photos. This can be taken too far, however. Right now memory is as cheap as it gets. You can buy a 16GB SD card for under $10 and that’s a couple thousand 24-MP photos. Once you get to your computer, it’s time to start narrowing down your shots in a heavy way, but while you’re out there shooting there’s no reason to keep your card overly clean and emptied out at the risk deleting a gem.
Editing and Retouching
There are tons of editing software choices out there and chances are your photo will be better if you touch it up a little (Keyword; Little) This tip comes with a warning, an over-edited photo, is worse than an unedited photo. Start out small until you get very comfortable. Slight cropping and straightening; red-eye correction, and very slight color shifts are the best way to go. (Of course, trying out some black and white is fun too!)
If you decide to use your phone to take your images while traveling, we suggest enhancing your images using the app Snapseed, one of many applications available in the app store. With an easily navigable layout, you can get as detailed as you would like from color adjustments to red-eye and blemish removal!
Hopefully, some of these tips will come in handy for your next adventure. In the end, they’re your photos. Shoot however you’d like, and edit to your heart’s content! The real goal is not to get the next National Geographic cover image, but to capture the way the adventure made you and your travel companions feel!
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