Are you setting off on holiday this summer? If so, I hope you have a fabulous time and manage to capture some beautiful family photos, but even if you’re just popping to the park or having a day at the beach, there is so much you can do to improve the photos you take with your smartphone. Not all phones are born equal though; some do have better cameras, but the good news is you can really enhance what you can take by following a few photography tips.
1. Clean your lens
This may sound obvious, but a clean lens can make a huge difference to your pictures. Hands up ladies who have put your phone in your bra whilst doing something else, only for it come out a bit smeary and sweaty? I know I have! The camera lens is best cleaned with a microfibre cloth or lens wipe to avoid scratching the surface. I always have a box of Zeiss lens wipes as I swear they are the best at cleaning. I also use them to clean my glasses.
2. Use natural light
I’m not a fan of the flash that comes with a phone camera; it always makes the light look harsh and your subjects look startled. Wherever possible, optimise natural outdoor lighting for your family portraits as this will give a more flattering result. Golden hour is a wonderful time of day to get beautifully lit pictures. Golden hour is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, where the sun is low to the Earth’s surface.
Have you ever heard of the rule of thirds? You might have seen a grid that comes on your camera’s viewfinder that looks like a noughts and crosses board? By positioning points of interest along one of the lines or intersection points, you can create a more visually pleasing picture. Have a play and let me know in the comments what you think! You can turn gridlines on for your phone camera in settings.
For iPhone: settings > camera > grid
For Android: camera > settings > gridlines
4. Focus and exposure
Most phones let you tap on the screen to set the focus point and exposure manually. If you are photographing a person, the focus point must be on the eye. Once you have set the focus, check to see that your image is well-lit. You can tweak the exposure usually by sliding your finger up or down on the screen.
5. Experiment with different angles
Allow your creativity to play and experiment with different angles. Try lying on the floor for a worm’s eye view, then try shooting from above. Shooting on a tilt can provide another different result. But always remember the golden rule: the horizon must be straight!
6. Experiment with editing apps
Now you have your photos, why not try to enhance them using an editing app? I recommend starting with apps like Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed and VSCO. You will find that playing around with contrast, exposure and other features can really add the WOW to your holiday photos.
7. Utilise the burst mode
The burst mode feature on your phone can be a life-saver when photographing fast-paced holiday activities such as skiing or surfing, or even just your children running around. It takes a series of quick photos that you can later review and select your favourites from, often capturing moments that you might ordinarily miss.
8. Avoid digital zoom
You know how on your phone you have 0.5x, 1x and 3x? 1x is what you see with your eyes. 0.5x zooms out so makes your subject further away. The 3x zooms you in to be three times closer to the subject. Helpful, right? Actually not! By using the zoom function, the quality of your image will reduce significantly, so if you’re physically unable to get closer to your subject it’s better than nothing. However if you can move closer, it will result in a higher quality image.
9. Details details!
Don’t forget to capture all the little details that you see all the time but often won’t recall at a later date. I like to capture pictures of foods, footprints on the beach, my youngest children’s faces covered in ice cream…the little things that you often don’t notice you notice.
10. Capture candid moments for a personal touch
Holiday photos are not just about capturing the scene, but also capturing the relationships and bonds between people. I like to sit on the beach and watch my children playing without any idea I’m watching them, as I often capture moments that are completely natural. These authentic moments make for the best kind of holiday photos.
I hope this short guide on how to take better holiday photos has been helpful, and allows you to capture memories wherever you go. Just remember that while photographs are wonderful, nothing quite beats being present in the moment with your family. Sometimes I have to be strict with myself and put my camera away, because there’s no point capturing memories, if you didn’t fully experience those memories in the first place. Happy snapping, and let me know if you find any of these tips useful!