PUBLISHED WORK > Connected Traveler: Take Better Vacation Photos
PC Magazine October 2008
Take Better Vacation Photos
A few simple tricks can make your digital snapshots pop.
By Eric Mohl
Let's face it, looking at others' vacation photos is often a complete bore. Why? Because the phot
os just aren't very good. Blurry or poorly composed images can turn the most exotic adventure into a yawn fest. Follow these few tips to make sure your trip gets the stunning record it deserves.
Forget megapixels. Most digital cameras have at least 6 megapixels—more than enough for the average user. So if you're in the market for a new camera, spend less on megapixels and more on a good-quality, faster lens with an f-stop of f/2.8. This will allow you to shoot in lower-light situations without always using the flash—which is generally only effective within 12 to 25 feet of the camera anyway.
Follow the sun. Make sure the sun or your primary light source is behind you (not behind the subject of your photo) to avoid washed-out colors and shadowy faces.
Background check. I've seen people meticulously line up family members for a group shot at the Grand Canyon—with nothing but the parking lot behind them. Put the camera down and survey the scene before you shoot. Moving a few feet can also help eliminate ugly elements like power lines, garbage trucks, and billboards. Also make sure there are no random passersby in your shots.
Get In Close. Zooming in on your subject to block out a distracting background or foreground (such as in the photo at the left) puts the focus where it belongs (right).
Kill the countdown. Every so often, break away from hollering "1, 2, 3, smile!" before you shoot—it's annoying for everyone around you and mortifying for the people you're photographing. More important, opting for a few candid photos of family and friends will help tell the story of your summer vacation in a much more compelling way.
Stop centering. It feels natural to put the subject of your photos in the center of the frame— and there's nothing really wrong with that. But a more interesting photo often results from applying the "rule of thirds," which states that an ideal location for the subject is one third of the way into the frame either horizontally or vertically (see the photos below).
Shootin Out Of Center. Instead of centering your subject in the frame (left), you can often take more compelling shots by using the "rule of thirds" (right).
Hold steady. Image stabilization isn't just a gimmick to get you to spend more on a camera. It really does help compensate for hand-shake so you can take sharper pictures even when you're shooting at slow shutter speeds (necessary in darker situations) or when you're extremely zoomed in. Try using a tripod or mini-tripod, or at least stabilize your hand on a rock, wall, or other stationary object.
Copyright © 2008 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings, Inc.