Everybody wants to come home from vacation with striking photos. As a travel writer I’ve been lucky enough to sample incredible experiences across the world from scuba diving in Boracay to training as a samurai in Tokyo. Capturing moments like these is part of the job, and often stills from my smart phone even make it to print in national magazines.

It goes to show that you don’t need to be a professional photographer or have the right equipment to take amazing travel photos. You just have to make the most of two things – your smart phone and your subject. Want to make your IG pop? Here are eight ways to take better photos on your next trip.

Think about your angles

There is more to a photo than point and shoot. When it comes to famous landmarks take a minute to think about how it is you want to portray it. Do you want to show off the scale of the Great Wall of China? Find a spot where distance is in full view. Fancy The Leaning Tower of Pisa from a new angle? Try shooting it from the floor. A little bit of thought is the difference between an IG post and an IG story.

Use props

Even if you’re the body twin of Ronaldo, sitting on a beach in just your boohooMAN swim shorts probably isn’t going to be the most exciting of photos. Add a giant inflatable if you want your pics to say fun, or pick up a glass of champagne to say beach life luxury. Make props relevant to your surroundings and no, Starbucks cups are not props.

Make weather a deciding factor

If you plan on visiting the Eiffel Tower and you’re in Paris for three days, then it’s a no-brainer to prioritise the scenic activities on dry days, and bash out the not-so photogenic activities – like theatre shows or shopping – on wet or grey days. Then there is always what is known in the photography world as ‘magic hour’, the golden sunset at dusk. Don’t just wing it and hope for the best, plan your itinerary what’s happening upstairs.

Be patient

Times Square is going to be busy no matter what time or day, so capture your best shot with a symmetrical composition of crowds and taxis. This may take a bit of waiting around but your patience will pay off. Travel photography is all about waiting for moments and this is especially practiced in nature photography. If you’re out on safari don’t expect to get great shots with quick clicks.

Loose the raised hand, invest in a Bluetooth selfie-stick

There are phones like the Samsung Galaxy, which answer to voice commands when taking photos, but another way to get great selfies without your right arm sweat patch in shot is to get a selfie-stick. Not the wobbly metal ones with Hello Kitty on the handle, we’re talking the awesome high-tech Bluetooth variety. It’s quick and easy to connect and there is no need to plug your phone into anything.

Avoid the zoom

Don’t be lazy – home in on your subject. Zooming only reduces image quality and this really shows after filtering. If you can then get close, and if you can’t then well, accept you’re not going to have a magazine ready photo of Drake in concert and get over it.

Bursts can work

You’re navigating through tourists on the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo or swimming with dolphins in Dubai you probably have very few chances to nail the perfect shot. Have your accomplice take a burst. On most phones these come out fairly clear and with so much movement going on you’ll be able to capture the best of what you might miss than if you had them taken individually.

Become an editing pro

There are many tutorials for third party apps like VSCO, so experiment and learn how to make your images come to life. Even without the add-ons, IG has enough to improve the dullest of images. Just be careful not to go overboard and end up with a sketch. One tip is to screen shot the image and take a look at it 10 minutes later. If it looks heavily filtered on second inspection you’ve definitely gone too far.


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