I see a lot of amateur photos. I think that’s inevitable, as a photographer. People hear that I am Noelle Neff, the photographer, and inevitably they want to show me a few shots that they’ve taken. This is especially true of my friends who are interested in photography and want to hear my opinion about their work. I love seeing amateur photos, and often I see so much potential in it! But usually, it is missing something key. So, I wanted to take a moment and write out my tips for taking better photographs. I’ll start with vacation photos because they are such a source of joy for people and present a great opportunity to capture fascinating memories. With a few tweaks here and there, you could end up with some gallery-worthy images!
Don’t Forget Candid Photographs
Out of the thousands of vacation photos, I have seen, I am struck by how many of them are made up of posed pictures. Vacations are exciting times when families and friends can explore new locations. There are so many pure and camera-worthy moments. Try to capture the wonder and apprehension on your child’s face as she sticks her hand into the touch tank at the aquarium for the first time, or your father-in-law’s joy when he hugs his son. These moments are not your typical, arms-around-each-other, beaming-smile photos, and that is a good thing! You don’t have to ditch the posed photo’s all together. One here or there is great! But make sure to mix in some candid shots as well.
Experiment with Your Exposure
Many photographers rely on their cameras to come up with the exposure setting that will be appropriate for the shot. This is usually fine, but if you want to take your vacation photography to the next level I advise you to start experimenting with those settings. You can start by setting the aperture and shutter speeds to just under or over what your camera advises. Some modern cameras have a bracketing feature, which means that it will do this on its own. These experimental shots might turn out to be your favorite images from the trip! This method is especially useful for capturing natural beauty like a colorful sunset or misty waterfall.
The other day my friend showed me a nice picture of a sunset that he had taken while at a wedding in Hawaii. It showed the beach, waves, and a gorgeous pink and gold sky. But there was something missing! This average shot could have been exceptional if he had captured some interesting features in the foreground of the image. So, my advice is this: when you shoot a sunset, try to include an interesting silhouette in the foreground. This could be people, a tree, a rock outcropping, or a mountain range. This will give your image unique qualities that make it stand apart from other sunset photos.
Capture the Little Things
This is something that I learned in wedding photography, and I have found that it certainly applies to travel as well! When you are on vacation, look for and photograph the little details that stand out to you. This gets you looking at things you might have missed otherwise. Find a gorgeous shell, flower, or artifact and zoom in on it! There is so much information and emotion that a close-up shot can transmit. The little details can be very telling about your trip. Consider taking a photo of your sandals half buried in the sand, or a lovely cup of espresso on a vintage table cloth. I guarantee that you will love the way this practice makes you more aware of these precious details.
Think Outside of The Box
When you take your photos, look for an angle that is a little bit out of the norm. You might have to climb up on a rocky outcropping or kneel to the ground in order to get the right angle. That’s okay! Look a little weird and go after those magnificent shots that will show off your ability as a photographer.