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With the impressive quality of smart phones these days, you really don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to snap amazing shots of your travels. This is double good news as there’s no longer a need to spend a couple hundred dollars on a separate camera and you don’t have to lug around burdensome equipment anymore—hooray! (Pro tip: Use that extra moola to plan another trip.) Since your trusty iPhone will be with you on every trip, make sure you know how to use it to the maximum potential. Here are 7 ways to take professional level photos with your just iPhone.

ALSO: 10 off-radar towns for a perfect summer escape

Old Orchard Beach Pier, Maine at sunsrise

Lighting, camera, ACTION!

Lighting is everything. Well, actually, sun lighting is everything. Good natural lighting should be the number one goal of every shot, so turn off the flash and plan your shots accordingly! Generally, you’ll want the sun a little behind you to really bring out the colors and details. So if you’re scoping out a brilliant shot of your hotel in the morning, but you’d be pointing into the sun, just wait until the afternoon to get the shot. For water shots, say the ocean or a pool, midday is usually the best—when the sun is directly above you—for capturing the truest blues! Last but certainly not least, you can almost NEVER go wrong with any shot taken during “golden hour,” the last hour of the day around sunset. During this time, the harshness of the sun has waned, creating a softer setting with less contrast and shadows with amplified vibrant hues of pinks, purples and tangerines.

Click down

We’ve all struggled for that perfect selfie or group shot, reaching out with a shaky arm in a valiant attempt to find a flattering angle, fit everyone in and not miss that electric sunset in the background. Once you’ve found find the perfect position, you might realize you can’t move your thumb down to hit the screen’s camera button without messing things up. Total fail! But fear not: Just press the “volume down” button on the side of the camera instead. When in camera mode, the iPhone’s volume down but works the same as the on screen camera button. Total lifesaver. You could also use your Apple earbuds to click: Just connect them to your phone and use the button to take stealthy shots or to ensure a steady shot if you’re using a tripod.

iPhone portrait mode

Use portrait mode

Portrait mode helps everyone look like a professional photographer. Using portrait mode helps you auto-focus on the subject by blurring out the background a bit. Photos taken in this mode look sharp and clean, even before you edit them. Within portrait mode, you can also adjust the lighting. Settings like “studio light” or “stage light” can really amp up the professional-ness of your content when used correctly.

Back view of young woman walking on sand dune between desert and blue heaven in evening in Maspalomas, Spain

Change up that horizon line

Don’t be afraid to change up the position or framing of the horizon in your shot! Ninety nine point nine percent of people just point and shoot from eye level with the horizon line running across the center of the photo. For some fresh and “like-worthy” photos, adjust where you position the horizon. For a brilliant sky or sunset, set the horizon line low in your framing to focus on the sky. Also consider that some of the most captivating pictures have no horizon line at all. Capture a photo from above, like from your hotel balcony or up a hill, and point and shoot downward towards your subject. With no horizon line as a distraction, the image’s sole focus will be on the subject.

Hair blowing in the wind, a beautiful young woman rides in the back of a truck on a roadtrip with friends through the Utah desert

Get closer than you think is necessary

Sometimes we don’t need to see a subject’s entire body from head to toe. And there’s certainly no need for an entire third of a photo to be the ground beneath their feet. Try taking a few steps forward and watch as the entire composition changes! You’ll see the nuances of facial expressions more and notice little details you would not have seen from far away.

Tourist friends on summer holidays in Europe having fun riding retro scooter by the sea

Capture movement with burst mode

What happens when someone with a camera starts saying, “Okay, one… two…three…”? We’ll tell you! Everyone stands rigid, maybe tilts a head or bends a knee, flashes a grin, and that’s it! Instead of the “same ole same ole,” try adding some movement to your photos. Have your subject jump in the air or give a fun twirl. If you’re shooting a cute café or building façade, don’t wait until it’s all clear of cars or people in front. Sometimes you’ll get a better shot with bicyclist zipping by in front. A little motion can make a picture so much more interesting. But here’s the key for these shots: burst mode! Instead of taping the camera button once, press down and hold. This will put the camera in continuous shooting mode or “burst mode,” taking multiple photos in a short amount of time. This will leave you with plenty of photo options to choose from in your camera roll, without having to have your friend jump in the air over and over again until because you keep missing the perfect shot (unless you just want them to!).

Happy smiling woman looks out from window traveling by train on most picturesque train road in Sri Lanka

Obey the rule of thirds using the iPhone camera grid

This is a handy little trick to help with framing basic shots, and you don’t even have to be good at math to get it! Go into Settings on your phone, select Camera, and turn on the Grid button. Now when you’re ready to take the shot, go into your camera and you’ll see the screen is broken into thirds with a subtle grid overlay. It you’re shooting a person, line them up directly with one of the vertical lines, so they’re situated only one-third into the overall composition of the frame, rather than directly in the center of the picture. This helps create a visually pleasant proportion for the photo, without focusing too much on any one thing. The same goes for horizontal thirds; place your subject (or the horizon line) along the top or bottom horizontal line, then the rest of the image will be spaced out properly.

Shot of a young couple using a mobile phone on a road trip

Use quick, app-based photo editing software

Sure, social media has a plethora of filters you can slap on a photo before posting, but sometimes those can be over-the-top and overused and sometimes even make your photo look washed out or fake. Plus, every photo needs its own unique application of edits. Used by professionals and amateurs alike, Adobe’s Lightroom app lets you edit every detail of the picture to whatever degree you like. You can even create presets in your own editing style and apply them to photos quickly when you’re really in a rush! VSCO is another favorite photo app with loads of filters and individual adjustments to choose from.

Close up of a young couple using their phone to take a selfie

Ask someone else to take a photo—and be bossy!

It’s 2019. Just about every human on this planet is into photography and social media now, so there’s no need to be embarrassed when asking someone to take a photo. Not only will you be happy you did, but they’ll probably ask you to take one in return! And what just happened here… Did you just make a new friend? Passing over the iPhone means the control is now out of your hands, but you’re still going to want a great photo, so don’t be afraid to be a little bossy. Along with your “pleases” and “thank yous.” it’s okay to also add, “Could you come in a little closer?” or “Could you get that beautiful lemon tree in the frame with us?” We all appreciate a little direction!

Tagged: Cheap Tips

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