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Keeping Memories in Focus

July 30, 2014
It can seem like modern digital cameras make it hard to take a bad photo, especially when compared to the removable-lens film cameras of the past, or even the point-and-click consumer models popular just a few years back. But that doesn’t mean that travelers should settle for “okay” or “acceptable” images. Transcend merely “not bad” efforts and take photos that accurately reflect their once-in-a-lifetime settings and preserve lifelong memories by utilizing these travel photography tips on your next trip.
Icescating at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Icescating at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Landscape Mode: There are two orientations, or ways to position the camera. One is to hold it vertically, in what’s called “portrait” mode, and another is to hold it horizontally, in what is called “landscape” mode. Obviously, choosing one over the other will depend on the subject of the photo, but in most cases, landscape will capture more of the surroundings. Especially when taking photos of family members or travel companions, choosing landscape will allow the photographer to get the subjects and the background more effectively.

Apps: The top-end smartphones have on-board cameras that can take great images. But to turn them into great photographs, think about downloading and utilizing a photo app. While some, like the ever-popular Instagram, are built more for sharing pictures, others like Camera+ and Hipstamatic give the shooter a great deal of control over the final product. Pre-programmed filters can remove glare, fix minor (and sometimes major) lighting concerns and even make the images more “film-like” by playing with focus and adding film grain. Being able to effectively use one of these apps can turn a smartphone into a high-end consumer camera.

Practice: Travelers shouldn’t wait until standing on the shores of Bali or staring at the Eiffel Tower in person to figure out how to use a camera. If one is heading to the beach, try taking photos in the brightest conditions available – midday, perhaps. If the City of Lights is the destination, experiment with some evening photography involving man-made lights, even if it is just the marquee of the local supermarket. The best photographers are experienced photographers.
Shoot to Scale: A fun tip for those travelers exploring huge landmarks or wide open spaces: Try to get a human being in the frame somewhere, while still capturing the entire object or space in question. The presence of a person in the shot will allow viewers to have an idea of the scale of the photo’s object, whether it’s a huge waterfall or a downtown art sculpture.

Turn Off the Flash: In most circumstances, the light generated from the flash on your camera won’t illuminate the object of your photos. The maximum range for many on-camera flashes is 15 feet, and the tiny light on a smartphone usually travels an even shorter distance. If you’re taking photos of a still object at a relatively close distance in low light (like family members posing in front of a monument at night), flash works. Otherwise, it may be better to take a slightly darker shot and then “lighten” it later using an app or a computer program.

For more of these tips, check out Fodor’s excellent guide to travel photography.


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