by Laurence Norah
My name is Laurence Norah, and I’m a professional travel photographer, travel blogger at Finding the Universe, and teacher at Travel Photography Course. Today, I want to share with you five quick tips to help you take better photos when you are on vacation.
Getting nice shots from your travels will create lasting memories that last a lifetime, and that you’ll love to hang on your walls, display in a digital photo frame, or share on your social media channels.
But if you aren’t getting the quality of shots you want, there are some quick and easy things you can do to improve the quality of your photos, no matter what type of camera or smartphone you are using.
Photography is a skill that I firmly believe everyone can improve with practice, and by focusing on some key principles. Here’s what you need to do to start taking better photos for you next vacation.
1 - Consider your subject
The first thing you need to think about before you take a picture, is what your picture is of—your subject. I know this might seem obvious, but it’s actually very common for folks to take photos without a clear subject.
You need a clear subject in your image because it gives the person looking at your image something to focus in on. The subject can be anything— a person, an animal, an interesting architectural feature on a building, or footprints on a beach. The main thing is to have that first clear focal point to spark the interest of your viewer, to draw them in, and to then have them explore the rest of the image.
It’s important to remember that other than you, no-one else looking at your image is going to have the context and memories of the moment you took the shot. So you need to give them a reason to look at your shot and linger on it for a while.
2 - Learn some rules of composition
Once you have chosen your subject (or subjects), it’s time to compose your photo. What this means is that rather than just pointing and clicking, you’ll spend a little bit of time thinking about the scene you are trying to capture.
Composition is all about how you place the different elements of your shot to create a pleasing image for the viewer to enjoy. There are a number of different compositional rules you can use as guidelines to help you create a more visually interesting image.
These include the rule of thirds, leading lines, and the use of framing. These are different compositional techniques that can be used separately or together, and should give you better results than just pointing and shooting. The idea should be that you pause for a moment, consider where your subjects are, ensure simple things are right like everything is in the frame and the horizon is level, adjust as necessary, and then hit the shutter button.
3 - Learn how to use your camera to its full potential
Whatever type of camera you have, be it a smartphone, action camera, point and shoot, mirrorless camera, or DSLR, it’s important to know how to use it properly. As a photographer, your camera is your tool, and to get the best results you need to know how to operate it.
Depending on the type of camera you have, you will have different levels of control and options available to you. My suggestion would be to learn the essentials, like how to select a focus point, how to adjust settings like the flash, and how to compensate for overly dark or overly bright scenes.
If you are not sure what the different buttons do and what your camera offers, I’d recommend first getting a hold of the camera manual. If you don’t have a physical copy, these are usually easy to find online.
As you develop your photography skills and start using more advanced cameras with more manual controls, you’ll want to learn about concepts like the exposure triangle, and how to adjust key camera settings like the aperture, ISO and shutter speed.
4 - Start editing your photos
Composing and taking a photo is the first step in photography. In my opinion, the second step, which is almost as important, is editing your photo. Learning how to do basic edits to your photos is how you’ll elevate a good photo to a great photo.
From basic fixes like cropping and leveling your images, through to more advanced changes that balance out the light in a scene and make it pop with color, editing is a skill every budding photographer needs to learn.
There are loads of tools you can use for editing. On desktop, my go-to is Adobe Lightroom, whilst on mobile I love the free Snapseed app which is available for both Android and iOS smartphones.
5 - Take a course to improve your skills
As I said at the start of this guide, photography is a skill that I think anyone can learn. Like many skills, one great way to improve your photography and master the key concepts is to take a photography course or class. You can take one in your local area in person or join an online course.
I actually teach an online travel photography course, which covers absolutely everything you need to know about photography in one place. From the basics of how a camera works, through to composition and editing, the 10 week course has everything I know about photography available for one great price.
The course comes with access to an exclusive Facebook group, over 60 lessons worth of content, lifetime membership and updates, and direct feedback from me in the form of assignments and answers whenever you have questions. I think it’s a great value course, and I’d love you to check it out.
And that’s it for my guide to taking better vacation photos on your next trip! I hope you found it useful.