Camera phones and compact digital cameras have revolutionized travel photography, and as a result we take an overwhelming amount of pictures – 350 million of which are uploaded to Facebook. Each day. But if we’re honest with ourselves, the vast majority of us could use some tips on how to take good pictures.
So how can we make our vacation photos that little bit better? We decided to chat with Thomas Søndergaard, one of Denmark’s most prominent Instagram photographers, to get 10 pro tips on how to take better pictures.
The best camera is the one you have with you
“I’m a huge fan of mobile photography and the possibilities it has opened up in regards to both shooting and editing, but also interacting with other photographers on Instagram. That said, a few months ago I bought a high quality compact camera which I carry with me most of the time for less spontaneous shots.”
Only use flash if you know what you’re doing
“If you don’t know how to use flash properly, then don’t use it at all. Flash photography is almost an art form in itself and it can be used with great effect, but it’s hard to get it right. If you do a lot of indoor photography get a dedicated flash and point it towards the ceiling – but it does take practice! You could get a really fast (i.e. light sensitive) lens for your camera and ditch the flash, or push up the ISO value of the camera to heighten light sensitivity. This can add noise and grain to the photo – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Make the most of fall
“Autumn is great for photography, especially if you like beautiful colors. The low light this time of year doesn’t have to be a problem, just try different things. For instance, shoot naked trees against a gray or blue sky for a nice silhouette effect. And those yellow leaves. Use them as the only color in an otherwise gray or almost monochromatic shot for a nice effect.”
You can’t go wrong with a 50mm lens
“If you’re into photographing people you can’t go wrong with a 50mm prime lens. It’s cheap and a great all-rounder. If you’re more into landscape photography then a tripod is very useful, as is a remote trigger (to avoid camera shake or to more easily include yourself in the picture). You’ll also need a wide-angle lens for this kind of photography.”
Challenge yourself with people
“Landscapes are very forgiving. Most of us can capture a good shot of a beautiful sunset as long as you remember to keep that horizon straight! Photographing people is hard as you have much less control and you also have to deal with your own inhibitions. How do you approach a stranger for a street portrait? And what if you get caught doing candid photography in the streets? Try it out anyway – you’ll be glad you did.”
“Shooting with your phone is particularly convenient when you’re trying to blend in and not influence the situation you’re trying to photograph. Street photography is a good example of this and some of my best shots from the streets were taken with my iPhone. For added stealth, plug in your earphones and pretend you’re listening to music while activating the shutter with the volume switch on the cable.”
“I guess Instagram is to blame for making cliché shots even more unbearable, and I must admit I’ve taken my fair share of those. If you go to Barcelona, you’re not obliged to do a selfie in front of La Sagrada Familia, and on your trip to NYC no one is forcing you to shoot the sunset from Williamsburg and the view from Rockefeller Center. Instead, use your curiosity and explore wherever you are on foot. Venture down interesting side streets and connect with locals for tips on prime photography spots. I often connect with local Instragrammers if I travel to a new place – it’s like having your own local (and free!) guide who loves photography just as much as you do.”
“When you go to a new place you’re naturally more alert and observant which will help you find interesting things to photograph. If you’re visiting a city, find a good spot in a narrow, busy street and just stand there. Compose the scene, adjust the camera (if you’re using one), wait for people to enter the frame and wait for the right moment for a great, candid shot.”
“Nothing connects you more with your photos than spending five hours in the darkroom and going home with only two finished photographs! Not everyone gets the chance to shoot with a manual camera and spend time in a dark room, but if you can – do it! It’ll teach you so much about composition, exposure and focus. The more you play and shoot, the more you’ll begin to think about composition, what worked before and what didn’t work, and the more comfortable you’ll be with it.”
VSCOcam for all that editing
“My go-to app is VSCOcam because of the way it emulates film in a very natural way. I also use Snapseed (for those minor adjustments that can’t be made in VSCOcam), and Mextures and Darkroom.”
Now nothing can stop you! Plan your next vacation, and get snapping!