21 February 2010

Five Simple, No-Cost Travel Photography Enhancements

If you're like most people, you must be just like my dad. He loves his little Canon PowerShot I bought him last Christmas, and absolutely cherished its older, larger, and now retired cousin, also a Canon. He takes loads of photos, some purposeful, but most random, and never really leaves the house without his camera.

He is also the type of person to never second guess a shot, or edit shots once they have been taken. I don't blame him, because like many people, he believes that it doesn't have to be perfect, but it must capture the moment he desires to be captured, in whatever raw and/or unsightly form necessary.

I have had a lot of alone time with my camera... meaning I've spent weeks, months, and years with this thing, around the world and back, and have come to appreciate the simple things I can do to improve upon the mediocre. It's nothing special, a tiny Cannon Digital Elph, small enough to fit in my pocket, just the way I like it.

So here are a few of my simple, and non-professional tips that you might find yourself using next time you whip out the digital and "shutter" at the memory of last year's Christmas party photos...

1.Flash. The first thing I do when I switch on my camera is check that the flash is OFF. Unless I'm in a dark room in a pub, or its pitch black outside, flash will almost certainly ruin a great photo. Don't let the smarts of your camera's brain fool you, you'll get a better shot with a steady hand and no flash:

2. Angle. The angle of your shot can do wonders to enhance your photo. For example, you see an object, such as a person, or the Eiffel Tower, to snap.Instead of centering the shot, and capturing it straight-on, eye-level, try moving the object to one or the other side of the frame, maybe you could crouch down and get the shot looking up at your subject:

3. Time of Day: Lighting plays such a huge roll in the quality of your photographs. The middle of the day is generally the worst time to snap your shots because of the high light intensity, which is a bummer because it's probably the most likely time you'll be out and about while traveling. In the later part of the afternoon, the sun's rays dim down, and colors in your shots will appear more vivid versus the midday, when colors can get washed out. Photographers often call the afternoon light "sweet light". If it's nearly impossible to avoid taking midday photos, I suggest you continue snapping away, but if you can come back later in the evening, plan to retake a few of your favorite shots again, and you may just have some better photos to choose from:

4. Background: Although you don't always have a choice when it comes to your background, you can try to use what you have to your advantage. For example, step back from your subject and notice what's going on around it. Maybe you can snap it from a different angle, or maybe include more sky than ground in your shot. Always remember that your frame is larger than just the subject you are capturing.

5. Experiment: Do not be afraid to try something weird if you are not getting the photo you desire. For example, below you will see the same two images of the "famous" sunset in the town of Oia, on Santorini island in Greece. I was seeing the image on the right, a beautiful purple sunset, when my friend commented that the experience was not what she had hoped... then I realized it was my sunglasses that were creating such beauty. I simply removed the shades and photographed the sunset through my purple lens.