Travel Photography with a Smart Phone Camera

Jul 23, 2014 | Australian College

Every time we go on holidays we generally use our smart phones or tablets to take shots to remind us of our trip as well as show or post them on Facebook, Instagram or blogs for all to see and envy. Sometimes the photos come out great but other times they don’t quite match up.

In the past it was often necessary to purchase an expensive camera and equipment to ensure that the shots that we took were of a professional standard.

With the quality of the latest smart phones and tablets the hardware is there to take great shots but what is lacking is the expertise to use the camera. Some of the greatest professional shots are now taken with these flip type or smart device cameras. So what do we need to consider when taking great travel shots with our smart phone?

What about composition?

To make sure you get exactly what you see it is important to capture the image just as you see it. Focus in on one specific image and use it as the focal point of the picture. This is why we have seen in movies when the director makes a square with his/her fingers and tries to imagine the picture within this frame. If you are too far away from the image you want to shoot and can’t get closer place the image in a corner of the viewfinder so that it can be seen as part of a bigger picture.

Where the light is coming from

If you shoot a picture with the sun directly in front you will invariably cast a dark shadow over your image. It is always better to shot with the sun behind you or if the shot can’t be made this way come back after the sun has moved and shot the picture. If you are shooting on bright and sunny days avoid shooting white or highly reflective objects, as the shot will be overexposed.

The same can be said when you attempt to take pictures in the evening as the sun is setting. If there is too little light the pictures will come out grainy. If you are intent on taking pictures at this time be sure to take a few so that one might be perfectly clear and useable.

Different angles

Shots don’t have to be taken from directly in front at the same eye level. Try different positions to take the shot so that each time you look at it looks different yet it is the same image that you are shooting.

Use color correctly

Some pictures are taken from the same angle and with a kaleidoscope of contrasting colours making up the shot. While this seems like a good idea at the time it can cause too much confusion in the picture with the image losing its impact. For greater impact contrast some colours but keep them limited. For a shot to be made that conveys order, group together objects of the same colour scales or variations or shades. Always pay attention to the colours in the picture and decide if it is producing the image that you are attempting to capture.

Be creative

Most people see an image and shot the picture the same way as every other tourist do. While travelling it is not unusual to see “hordes” of tourists taking exactly the same picture from exactly the same spot. Are they cataloguing having seen the image or are they attempting to present it in the best possible way. Look for different ways to capture the image that is different from the way other travellers see it.

A picture paints a thousand words

It been said that a picture paints a thousand words. At times we shoot just an image. Why not look at the surrounding culture and integrate it into the picture. Include people walking past, sitting close by, vehicles etc. Rather than capturing an image capture a moment in time.

Your smart phone cameras limits

By using smart phone cameras you have the advantage of portability, but lose many features. Smart phone cameras generally will not sharpen an image when zooming in and out. The image can become blurred. If you are focusing in on a specific object zoom in on it rather than the whole picture. This way you can highlight the object even though that which it surrounds might be a little blurred. This creates a sharp image contrasted against a less than focused background and can be quite striking.

Ditch pictures

The key advantage in using our smart phone cameras is that we can see the result in real time and trash it if we don’t like and then re shoot the image. We can take multiple pictures until we get the one that we want.

You can use a photo-editing program

For the really serious travel photographer you can purchase software programs that you can import your image in and change aspects of it to make it more appealing. Most smart phone images are captured on auto mode, which means that while you are shooting the image there is nothing you can to change the settings. For example, with a smart phone camera the only times when you can really capture vibrant colours is when the light is exactly correct.

Display your pictures according to the media selected

Don’t let those great pictures from your holidays stay in the photos file of your smart phone. Print them off and display the good ones or post on your blog, Facebook page or Instagram. Make sure if you do post them that they are cropped correctly to fit the space you have selected for them.

By using different programs to display your pictures you might have to readjust each one to fit the requirements of the platform. Some great pictures have suffered and lost their impact by posting the same picture without any adjustments according to the layout of the different forms of media.

There has never been more opportunities to display your images in public. At least relatives and friends can turn the computer off if they have had enough of your holiday snaps!

Australian College Faculty of Design and Photography

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