Few people are willing to lug around cameras, extra batteries, lenses, and carrying cases when on vacation anymore. But you still want your family to look awesome in those vacation pics. Just because you’re relying on your smartphone to take the photos now doesn’t mean they can’t look amazing.
Be Aware of Light Sources
Bad lighting can ruin a photo, whether you’re using a smartphone or an expensive Nikon. Have family members stand at different angles to the natural light and take some test shots to determine where the best lighting is. Don’t rely on flash, because most smartphone flashes aren’t very powerful, and tend to wash out the foreground while leaving the background in darkness. If you can’t find acceptable lighting, try a black and white photo instead, which can do wonders with mediocre light sources.
Choose Unique Backgrounds
On vacation, you’ll be tempted to take photos in front of obvious landmarks and famous places. That’s fine for your own records and memories. For photos worth sharing, printing, and sending to people, focus more on the balance and color of the background than trying to fit the Eiffel Tower behind you. Be on the lookout for unique buildings or parks that will provide a textured background that you won’t mind cropping or altering.
Download a Camera App
The default camera app on most smartphones isn’t the best app for the job. Try an app like Camera Awesome or Camera360 Ultimate, which are designed with features specifically meant to help your smartphone take better pictures. Apps like these help your camera take better pictures in the first place, and they also offer a suite of editing options far more advanced than the filters on Instagram.
Take Advantage of Angles and Posing
You don’t just have to stand there next to each other smiling. Take time to find the right pose with all the family members. It may involve standing in two rows with the kids in front, or getting someone to take the photo from an angle above the horizon line, so they’re shooting slightly down. Don’t be afraid to try several shots until you get it right. Getting three or more people to look good in a photo can take a few tries!
Rely on a Good Smartphone
Not all smartphone cameras are created equal. Screen size, battery life, megapixels, and the ability to pick up contrast in low light are all important factors that will make or break your family photo. A thirteen megapixel camera is going to take a high res image that will be much sharper and much easier to edit than a smaller size file. The optical image stabilization camera is a fantastic example of a smartphone feature that helps you take a better picture by steadying your hand and preventing blur–even in low light. For the more outdoorsy families who love being near the water, the Sony Xperia Z1S has the world’s best camera found in a waterproof phone.
Utilize Photo Editing Apps
Many smartphone camera apps now have small editing capabilities as well, but to really bring your family photos up from good to great, download an app meant to edit photos. Adobe offers Photoshop Express, which brings some of the best basics from Photoshop onto your smartphone. Apple’s iPhoto offers filters, brushes, and a host of other effects comparable to Adobe’s popular photo editing apps. Download a few free ones and try them out to find your favorite, or splurge on a really good paid photo editing app.
Don’t Forget the Basics
A basic knowledge of photography will go a long way with finding good light sources, learning how to balance the elements of a picture, and finding good subjects for the photo. But there are a few basics for your smartphone camera as well. Make sure the lens is clean. Don’t use the zoom, rather crop the photo once it’s been taken. Avoid the flash unless it’s absolutely necessary. Give the phone camera a few seconds to adjust to the lighting before snapping photos.
A few simple adjustments can change your family’s vacation photos from awkward to awesome. The main thing is to keep snapping shots and learning from mistakes until you have the perfect picture.