Tips for Taking Better Outdoor Photographs

May 9, 2022

Make your phone’s camera work better for you.

Photography is one of the most popular hobbies going, at least in our opinion. Everyone’s an amateur photographer these days thanks to the great camera capabilities to be found on Android and iPhones. But are you making the most of your outdoor photo ops? You know, the pictures you take of the places you go, as opposed to the people you know?

Summertime Means Travel & Adventure

With summer fast approaching, and many people starting to think about their holidays and going places, we thought a few tips from some talented professionals might be in order to ensure you capture your holiday/vacation memories to their fullest. It’s one thing to just point and shoot. It’s another thing to point, compose, consider the lighting, capture the mood and then shoot. Especially if you’re taking outdoor photos.

Case in Point

A personal anecdote proves the above point. A few years ago, during a visit to Elbow Cay, Bahamas, we invited a couple of friends to join us. One such friend was the celebrated British photographer Jan Baldwin, whose work has appeared in Vogue, House and Garden UK and too many other publications to list.

Since the photo possibilities on Elbow Cay were exciting, we fully expected Jan to bring a full accompaniment of cameras and lenses along for the trip. Much to our chagrin, we were surprised to discover that the only piece of photography equipment she brought with her was her iPhone.

Using this deceptively simple device, Jan managed – through the use of composition and light – to shoot an astonishing variety of magnificent photographs. We were so duly impressed that an apparently accessible piece of photographic equipment could, used with a considered degree of patience and care, deliver such stunning results. From Jan, we learned a lot about using our own iPhones’ cameras and now love the convenience and portability they provide.

Every Picture Tells A Story, Right?

Travel and vacations are synonymous with taking pictures – of the locations we visit and the sites we explore. Yes, we all take photos of family, friends and fellow travel companions within the context of a trip, but often it’s the architecture, cultural artefacts, landscape and scenery, even the culinary experiences we partake of that we want to capture for posterity!

One of the beauties of today’s digital cameras is there’s no waiting until a roll of film is finished and processed to see what you got. Do you remember waiting with bated breath to get all your film developed after travelling only to find out that the film speed was all wrong or the whole trip was out of focus or overexposed? Worse yet, you’d maybe left the lens cap on and all you captured was a roll of black nothingness? We do.

SLR Cameras Still Rock

Just for the record, we’re still active owners of SLR (Single Lens Reflex) film and digital cameras and we acknowledge that they have not yet met their demise. However, most people use their phone’s camera nowadays – even, as we’ve noted, professional photographers like Jan Baldwin. They’re far more convenient, simple to travel with and way easier to master.

6 Tips to Improve Your Photographs

We researched some advice for the amateur photographers amongst us and selected 6 basic tips from some top photographers’ websites. Hopefully they’ll help us all to make our travel ‘vacay’ shots sing going forward!

  1. Get the horizon straight when shooting landscape photos: Use the grid feature that comes with the camera app. Simply open up the camera settings and click on ‘grid’ and use the lines to ensure perfect horizontal or vertical image orientation. Nothing’s more weird than viewing a landscape or architectural subject where the horizon is on a slant. If you’ve already taken a slanted shot, you can also fix it later using the camera’s rotate tool in edit mode.
  2. Get the lighting right: Shooting outdoor photos in bright sunlight is a big no-no. If you do, your pictures will probably end up with overexposed whites, lens flare, and harsh shadows. For better results try to shoot your subject matter just after sunrise and before sunset – often referred to as the golden hours. Your photos will be more dramatic and won’t turn out flat and lifeless. Try using supplemental lighting or a flash or strobe light for other effects too.
  3. Keep the composition simple: Frame your subject matter with a focus on just one or two elements if you want a more interesting and compelling photograph. Eliminate clutter for a more dynamic image. Less is more.
  4. The “Rule of Thirds”: Once again use your camera’s grid feature to help you when composing your outdoor photos (as well as indoor too). The rule of thirds technique states that the best compositions have key elements a third of the way into the frame. It’s a way to help you frame a subject and can help lead the eye towards a specific area in a photograph or highlight a particular feature.
  5. Add the human touch: Often a landscape can benefit from a human element somewhere in the frame. For example, two people silhouetted against a stormy evening sky can add an intriguing story line to your landscape photo.
  6. Change your perspective: Lay down and shoot your subject matter from below or perhaps through foliage or a rain spattered window, or from an odd angle; climb up high and shoot downwards on a subject to get more interesting compositions.

Have Camera, Will Travel

Finally, have fun taking pictures. Take lots of shots. You can edit them later. Explore and try different things. Not every picture will be perfect. Let happenstance play a role and allow for taking a road less travelled. Usually the best vacation pictures are of those least expected vistas, the out-of-the-way locations and often come down to pure chance – being in the right place at the right time.

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