We just returned home from a 10-day vacation to South Carolina and I documented our trip using only my iPhone X, and y’all, no one is more surprised about that than me. I have been a DSLR girl for a few years now, and armed with two good lenses, I take my camera with me on all our memory-making excursions. I just didn’t pull it out of the suitcase this time. As the primary memory keeper for my family, I think photography is pretty darn important. Yet, on this vacation, I found that I could capture most everything with my phone. Sure there were photos that could have been better if shot with the DSLR, but the ability to use a small, handheld device was too enticing to pass up (and the camera on the iPhone X is freaking amazing). Today, I want to share some tips and tricks from my week of photography. Hope they are helpful. Happy travels!
Photograph People and Places – Remember going through all the photos from family vacations when we were kids? Sure, we showed up in some of the pictures, but often, our parents were documenting the location: a wide-angle shot of a canyon, a building or monument, the morning sky (sorta like a reel of photos on the ViewMaster). Now, the pendulum seems to have swung the other way—we parents are taking mostly shots of our kids without a lot of scenery. I think there’s a way to combine both philosophies. Certainly, there are some photos that truly deserve to stand on their own—the landscape is the subject. But there are also times when the landscape becomes a beautiful background for the subject. Our babies. People and places, guys.
See how I caught the sun coming through the Spanish moss-draped trees in the first shot and then my babies playing in front of those trees in the second? People and places!
The first picture of a bridge in Charleston at sunset is totally a stand alone. Can’t believe how gorgeous. But just a few minutes earlier, I had snapped my kids and niece with the same bridge in the background for a memorable shot.
Frame the Photo and Look for the Horizon – This is a tip that my good friend, Signe, taught me when I attended a photography class of hers last year. By using elements of the photo to frame the main subject, the entire picture becomes more interesting. A photography term called leading lines (using natural lines to lead the eye to your main subject) is also a tip that works really well at the beach when your leading line is the horizon separating ocean from sky.
It is almost too easy to frame a photo in Charleston. The oversize shutters and window boxes on colorful homes and businesses make beautifully framed photos super simple.
I took this last picture of the jellyfish a few different times, because the first few shots didn’t include the horizon line. It was just the jelly and the sand. By getting lower (on my knees) and pulling the iPhone up, I got a nice line in the background which allowed for more visual interest in my photo.
Work with the Light You Have (Or Create Your Own) – We all know about the golden hour, but how often does all your vacation action happen before 8 am or after 8 pm? With kids, our prime hours are somewhere between 10 – 6 when the light is super harsh outside. We also escape the heat and go indoors, which means that we must learn to work with the light we have. With an iPhone, you can tap the phone in camera mode to lock in on a focal point, and then move your finger up and down to adjust the light for times when a room is particularly dark, or you need to soften a harsh natural exposure. Playing with that before a memorable moment arrives means gaining some experience with those features. Photo editing apps are also a HUGE benefit for anyone who want to take their phone photos to the next level. I use Lightroom, but VSCO, Snapseed, and Afterlight are also favorites of both amateur and professional photographers.
Being inside a building with both natural and artificial light means getting creative with the light feature on my iPhone and also using a little photo editing.
Sometimes the picture is too memorable to miss even when the sun is straight overhead. Embrace it and keep snapping!
Go Candid and Capture Moments – If I had to pick the most important tip—and the thing I see people missing most often—this is it. As I have evolved as a mother and as a memory keeper (aka photographer), I have learned accept and embrace more candid shots in our digital photo albums. My kids prefer it. Frankly, they are over the posed photos, and I can spot a fake smile a mile away. But more importantly, candid shots make for better memories. Because your children may not naturally sit on the beach at sunset with their arms wrapped around each other, but they may ACTUALLY splash around together like crazy in the waves. So mix posed and candids together to capture your best vacation memories.
Here we all are above, posed as can be!
And here are candid shots with no posing! So fun!
I even captured my beautiful sis-in-law in both types of photos with her fur-baby, Oliver. I can’t decide which picture I like better.
Use Portrait Mode—Sparingly – Let’s be honest. I practically bought my iPhone X just for Portrait mode. Acting like a 50mm lens, Portrait mode is a wonderful tool for close up shots, food pictures, and anything else that stands. . . still. Which doesn’t seem to be entirely practical with children. Its slow shutter speed does not make Portrait ideal for action shots, and its shallow depth is best for subjects within 6 feet of the camera. There is no Live mode in Portrait, nor does it zoom. What it does do is take the BEST phone photos I’ve seen, so play around with it, and have fun!