Tips for Superb Travel Photography

Maybe it was an afternoon exploring a glacier in Alaska, or a morning strolling the narrow streets of Santorini. Or an even more spiritually significant event, like a worshipful boat ride on the Sea of Galilee or being baptized in the waters of the Jordan. Regardless of the setting, travel creates memories—and those memories can stay with us for a lifetime.

But memories can fade. That’s why we take photos. Simply looking at photos from a trip can bring back thoughts, emotions and even aromas. Documenting a travel experience is important to our passengers because it guarantees these amazing memories are captured. So, here are our favorite tips that will help even a novice ensure their memories are perfectly preserved.

DSCF3393 JSTip #1: Good photography isn’t about the gear. While a high-end digital SLR camera can certainly improve your photography, the truth is that today’s smartphones are better than they’ve ever been, and capture amazing images. Before your next trip, learn to use your phone’s camera with confidence. Most even include features designed to help you edit or improve photos. [Tips for iPhones. Tips for Android.]

Israel29Tip #2: Pay attention to composition. In the photography world, composition refers to how a photo is arranged. To ensure a sharp image, keep your hands still by bracing them against something solid—or even your torso if no other options are available. Tap your screen to focus on a face or the primary object in your picture. Make sure your horizons are straight. Remove clutter by zooming in or out (or physically moving toward or away from your subject) to remove extra people, trash receptacles, and other unnecessary or distracting elements. These details matter.

 Israel19 JSTip #3: Follow the “rule of thirds.” Every smartphone camera comes with an option for turning on a grid feature, which divides your screen into horizontal and vertical thirds. Professional photographers know photos are more pleasing to the eye when key points of interest match up to this grid. Why? Because this type of positioning makes the photo more dynamic and therefore more interesting to the viewer. So instead of putting a horizon in the center of your photo—splitting the image in half—align it with the bottom “third” for a more interesting presentation. The same goes for people.

Israel15 JSTip #4: Change your perspective. All of us experience the world from eye level, so photos taken at eye level can feel familiar, but to add visual interest, change your angle. Squat or kneel to take a photo from ground level. Or stand somewhere elevated and shoot down from above.

Mt Precipice jsTip #5: Catch the light. Light is the most important element of any good photo—if a photograph is a stage, then light is the main character. In photography circles, “golden hour” is the time of day around sunrise or sunset when the diffused light bathes everything in a warm, appealing tone. The light falls sideways rather than down from above, diminishing harsh and unflattering shadows. That’s why photographers will get up early—or wait a few hours—just to shoot in this appealing light. We understand this may not always be possible, but everything looks better in the light of a rising or setting sun.

Nazareth Village JSTip #6: Watch for shadows. If you’re paying attention to light, you also have to pay attention to shadows. This doesn’t mean avoiding them—a photo without shadows may seem flat or two-dimensional. Shadows add depth and drama to a composition. If you’re photographing a person, they can add interesting texture and shape to a face. Simply notice where shadows fall in relation to your subject, and determine whether that shadow benefits the photo. Does it add interest or does it distract? (Related, use caution if standing in a shadowed place while shooting a brightly lit subject, or vice versa. The automatic features of most smartphones don’t handle these differences in lighting very well.) 

 DSCF3379 JSTip #7: Edit, backup and professionally print your photos. All photos can be improved with a filter or some editing, whether you use features built into your phone or third-party apps like Camera+ or VSCO, cropping and adjusting color levels can make the difference between ho-hum and unforgettable. Don’t forget to backup your photos to the cloud or transfer them to another device such as a desktop computer. And, finally, don’t hesitate to have your photos printed professionally at an office supply store. Once framed, these prints make the perfect gift.

The final rule for would-be travel photographers? Take more photos! Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” His insight applies to photography, too. Never hesitate, when appropriate, to pull out your phone and capture a moment. The more you take, the better you’ll become—and the more memories you’ll preserve in the process. Happy snapping!

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