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Want to learn how to take good photos for your family, travel, or your business? We’re going to share our process and photography tips for getting that perfect shot. These tips are super simple, even for beginners.
These techniques are the same for a point and shoot camera, professional camera, digital cameras, or smartphone cameras. We will teach you some simple techniques to learn how to take good photos.
How to Take Good Photos Tips
When grabbing a travel photo for the ‘Gram, we’re usually in a rush on our way to our next adventure. “Oh yeah! We need a pic for a thumbnail or Instagram! Hold up, kids!”
This means our process for taking better family travel photos needs to be quick and easy. We’ll get into some more detailed travel photography tips later on, but for now, let’s focus on the “Big 3” items we focus on during our family adventures.
Better Family Travel Photos Tip #1: Composition
Real quick, is your subject centered in your photo? STOP IT! Stop composing that shot with the subject in the dead center of the photo. This is the photography composition used by your parents on your old family vacations.
Instead, follow the “Rule of Thirds.” Break your photo up into 3 sections (using two lines in each direction), horizontally and vertically. This will create a grid of 9 “boxes.” See the image, below.
Now, place your subject or focus area (such as the horizon or sun in a landscape shot) on one of the intersections of the lines. Ideally, a subject’s eyes line up with a horizontal line and the middle of the eyes hits right at an intersection with the vertical grid line.
While an intersection is best, you can set the subject on one of the lines. For example, when shooting a landscape shot with a subject, set the horizon on the top or bottom line.
Note the edge of the lake and start of buildings is on the top grid line and Hunter is lined up with the bottom horizontal line.
That’s it! Nothing too complicated. Just pose your subjects (your family) a little off-center and either one-third or two-thirds from the top. Trust me, this will result in much better photos!
Occasionally, break the Rule of Thirds. Usually, you want to do this when you want to emphasize the subject and give them that POW! look. Make them really jump out at the viewer.
Note, however, that Pluto’s eyes are still on the top horizontal grid line.
To really make this effective, you’ll need a good 50mm lens or the Portrait mode on your iPhone. You want the subject to be the focus, not the background.
You may also have to deal with multiple subjects (such as with a family). In this case, try to line them all up on one of the horizontal lines or with only two subjects, just place one each on the vertical grid lines.
Family Travel Photos Tip #2: Lighting
Lighting makes all the difference in your photos. Common issues include backlit subjects, sun in the wrong position, dark locations, poor natural light, and wrong camera settings for the lighting.
To be fast, just let the camera determine the settings. It’s just not worth it (in a rush) to try to use any form of manual mode. You want that spectacular, star-filled sky, long exposure night shot, knock yourself out with manual. To get that great Instagram shot on the run, use the “green box.”
The “green box” on Canon cameras for auto mode.
As for the rest, there’s a few photography tips for good pictures we have with regard to lighting.
- Get up early or stay out a little later. Take advantage of “golden hour” lighting. This is the light that occurs for one hour before and one hour after sunrise and sunset. The lighting is softer, at this time and colors will really pop.
- Put the light (natural or artificial) in front of your subject. If you can’t get the light in front of the subject, at least get it from one side or the other. Never behind your subject.
- Natural lighting provides the best lighting for your photos. When possible, take advantage of the natural lighting through windows or the rays that shine through a tree.
Family Travel Photos Tip #3: Editing
Photo editing apps and software come and go. A new “hot” photo editing app will be developed, tomorrow that would make any of my recommendations obsolete.
That said, EDIT YOUR PHOTOS! Take the time to crop and edit your photos. Forgot to use the Rule of Thirds? You can fix that with a little cropping in a photo editing software app. Colors not just right? Fix it in editing.
One other thing that goes hand-in-hand with editing, clean your lenses! This includes your iPhone. Carry a little lens cloth with you and clean it. It’s been sitting in your pocket or purse for days. I guarantee it’s smudged, dirty, and will affect the quality of your travel photos.
Something to help keep your DSLR camera lens clean (and more importantly, protect it from damage) is to use a UV filter on the lens. They’re cheap and help with the quality of your photos without changing the colors the way another filter may.
Even though any app or software recommendations may be out-dated when you read this, there are a few we use, religiously, that have stood the test of time.
- Snapseed: This photo editing app from Google will amaze you with it’s ability to create spectacular photos from mediocre shots. It’s our go-to photo camera app.
- Lightroom: If I’m on my laptop, I will use Lightroom Classic to edit all our photos from a trip. It’s much more powerful than SnapSeed, but I still use SnapSeed on most of my iPhone shots and even some of our DSLR shots.
- FaceTune: Don’t get carried away with this one or you’ll look like you’ve had more work done than a Hollywood celebrity! FaceTune is great for clearing up those blemishes, whitening teeth, and smoothing out the wrinkles (what wrinkles??!!).
Travel Photography Tips
Travel Photography Tips #1: Don’t Over-Edit
I stressed the importance of editing. Clean up those shots. However, you will find it very easy to over-edit. HDR filters and over-saturation tend to be the biggest offenders. But, as I mentioned above, so can “healing” your images with apps like FaceTune.
Travel Photography Tips #2: Use Different Angles and Perspectives
New photographers tend to shoot every photo from the same angle and perspective. Great pictures involve creativity. Head on, centered subject, get the shot, and get on with your adventure. Use a little creativity in your photography to get better family travel photos.
How to Take Good Photos involves different angels and perspectives. Get down low. Get up high. Cut the shot off with a column. Take your subjects from behind.
Notice the difference in the two shots, below, just by changing the perspective?
Travel Photography Tip #3: Take Both Vertical and Horizontal Shots
We constantly need a horizontal shot for a YouTube thumbnail and all we took was vertical shots for Instagram. It’s a very common issue with today’s social media driven world of photography. Take different shots to get different perspectives.
So, make sure you take both horizontal and vertical shots with your phone of the same scene to get better pictures.
This sums up our process for taking better pictures while on our adventures. Do not go out and buy a new camera. Use the resources your currently own to improve your photography. We’d love to hear from you on your techniques on how to take good photos. What’s your process?