Try Some Manual Shooting
Vary the Use of the Flash
Know When to Use Your Flash
Don’t Shoot at the Same Focal Length
Move with Your Camera
More Uses for a Tripod
Don’t Center Your Subject
Make a Bold Statement with Color
Think Like a Photojournalist
It’s likely when this PhotographyTalk article was written (late March 2013), you were thinking about or actively planning your summer vacation. Not only make this year’s a great experience, but also vow to improve your photographs as compared to previous vacations. You don’t need an expensive camera to bring home a much better set of images. Your point-and-shoot will do an excellent job if you take more control of your camera than you probably have during past vacations. The following 9 tips will help you become more of an accomplished photographer this year than just a snapshot shooter.
Your vacation is fun. You’re enjoying time with family and friends, so it’s easy just to leave your camera in the auto mode. Better photography, however, begins with being conscious of what you are doing and taking control of your camera occasionally. You don’t have to interrupt your fun, but schedule some time to shoot only in manual and you’re apt to discover you can capture more interesting images. It’s likely you only shoot in auto because you’ve never actually learned about the manual settings, and experimented with them. A clear sign that this is the case is if your camera’s manual is still wrapped in plastic. Now is the time to unwrap it finally and spend some time studying the manual controls and shooting a few photos long before your vacation starts.
The flash on many point-and-shoot cameras also works automatically, but, in most vacation settings, you won’t need it, since you’re likely to be outdoors most of the time. When do find yourself inside or it’s after sundown, keep the flash in the off position to create some new kinds of images. For example, allow the light entering from a window to illuminate a scene or purposely use the auto mode, so your camera will increase the ISO setting or select a slower shutter speed, allowing more light to enter the lens. Consider using an inexpensive tripod on which to mount your camera or place it on a solid surface, so you can shoot at slow speeds without holding your camera, which could blur your images.
Your camera’s flash can be a very helpful tool, but, as mentioned above, you don’t need to use it all the time. Sometimes, you will, however, to provide more illumination when photographing people or as fill light outdoors when the sun is very bright and causing deep shadows on people’s faces or it’s an overcast day or your subject is standing in a shadowed area.
Most point-and-shoot cameras come with a zoom lens, so try a variety of focal lengths narrowing the framing of your subject. This is another technique to practice before your vacation. You can significantly improve your pictures of people when you learn how to zoom close, but then take a step back. You won’t be so obtrusive when photographing strangers and you won’t overemphasize noses or foreheads.
You’ve likely seen a professional fashion photographer at work on TV or in a video, and one of the most important techniques to notice is that he or she doesn’t stand in the same place or shoot from the same height or angle. The photographer is constantly moving, trying low and high angles. Don’t be afraid to look a bit ridiculous and lay entirely prone on the ground to shoot up at your subject. Look for opportunities to stand on a wall or shoot from a second-story position to capture a street scene.
Tripods are not just meant to be used with DSLR cameras. Mounting your point-and-shoot on a tripod will allow you to capture a wider range of landscapes and interesting photos at night. Shoot the waves washing onto a shore at a slow shutter speed, so the water blurs, giving it motion. If you’re vacationing in a major city, then set your tripod where you can take long exposures of moving lights, such as cars or flashing signs.
There is no photography rule that says your subject must always be in the center of the frame. Move closer to a person, but position them to one side of the frame, so the other half reveals on interesting background or secondary object that complements or contrasts with your subject.
Look for opportunities where color becomes the primary subject of a photo. Maybe all the people in a group are all wearing the same color hat or someone dressed in muted colors is standing in front of a bright, yellow wall. A landscape or scene dominated by green surrounds a single object with a deep, blue color.
A photojournalist makes sure his or her camera’s settings are pre-selected for the environment in which he or she will be shooting. This is another reason you must be a “thinking” photographer. If you are excited about shooting in manual mode, then spend a few minutes before you leave your hotel or car to select the right camera settings. The night before or during breakfast, recharge your batteries, so you know you’ll have plenty of power for hours or an all-day shooting excursion.
It doesn’t actually take much to shoot better vacation photos with your point-and-shoot camera, if you spend some preparing and thinking about what you are doing. Now’s the time to do it, not when you arrive at your destination.
Image credit: ampak / 123RF Stock Photo
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