Often when we think about travel photography, the first image which comes to mind is that of someone walking around with their high end DSLR and their expensive lens. Thankfully you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on high end equipment to take good travel photos.
In this post we will be focusing on how to take good photos with a compact camera.
How you compose your photo is more important than what equipment you are using. Yes there are things that a high end DSLR can do that a compact camera can’t. If you understand what your camera can and can’t do then you will be able to take good travel photos.
Here are my 5 top tips for taking a good photo, and as you will see the common theme is how you compose the photo.
How to take good photos with a compact camera
1) Keep the camera stable
Your compact camera will usually need more light to take a photo due to the sensor size than a DSLR. This will mean that the camera will be looking to use a slower shutter speed. This means you will want to provide as stable a platform as possible when taking your photos.
The temptation with a compact camera is to hold the camera in one hand with your arm extended in front of you. Instead hold the camera in both hands, tucking your elbows into the body to provide a stable base for the camera.
Alternatively lean against a wall, or use a tripod or monopod to give you that extra stability.
Pay attention to the quality of light around you, learn how to use the light to your advantage. In general you want to have the light behind you as you photograph your subject, move around so that the light is in the right position.
Early morning and late afternoon is your friend. Often referred to as the “Golden Hour” the hour after sunrise and before sunset is usually a wonderful time for photography, particular if you are shooting landscapes.
Warning, avoid shooting portraits of people in the middle of the day, the bright light often creates harsh shadows on the face. If you are shooting people in the middle of the day look for where the light has been diffused, by clouds, trees or window curtains.
3) Composition and Rule of Thirds
The “Rule of Thirds” is probably the most well know method of composing a photo and rightly so as you will find that following this rule will allow you to take well balanced and interesting shots. You are looking to break an image down into thirds both horizontally and vertically so that you have 4 lines.
Now if you compose your photo so that you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced. Studies have shown that our eyes are naturally drawn to these points where the lines intersect.
Most modern compact cameras will have a setting where you can turn on the “Rule of Thirds” lines in your viewfinder. If you have this option turn it on, as it will make composing your photos so much easier.
4) Focus first
If you follow the “Rule of Thirds”, one thing you may find is that your subject is slightly (or is some cases massively) out of focus. This is because most cameras focus on what is in the centre of the frame.
This is easily overcome, point the camera at your subject and press the shutter button half way. This will get the camera to focus on the subject and while the shutter button is pressed will keep the focus point locked.
Then reframe the shot so you have the composition you are looking for and press the shutter button the rest of the way to finish taking the photo.
5) Candid Photos
You will find that some of your best photos you will take of other people is when they are not aware of you. It is human nature to pose for the camera, given the photo an unnatural feel.
Some tips for taking good candid photos include: using your zoom (this is one occasion you don’t want to get in close), kill the flash, shoots lots (you are looking for a cheeky smile or sly look), you want people doing things, mix up your perspective and frame images with foreground elements.
Some of the best photos I have of my son are when he is not aware that I have the camera out 🙂
6) Children and pets
Bonus tip, one that I have mentioned before and I am certain will mention again. When photographing children and pets, get down to their level. If it means you have to lie on the ground so be it.
Too often people shoot down on children (and pets) and all we see is the top of their head with a glimpse of their eyes. You want to get down, eye to eye, this way you are capturing their facial expressions, bringing the photo to life.
Do you use these tips in your photography? Are you going to try something new next time you head out with the camera? Let me know all about it in the comments below. Good luck and happy snapping 🙂
Thank you for such a great post, lots of good information here. I especially like the one about keeping the Camera stable. I see so many people with there hands way out in front of them holding their camera.
Do you have any handy hints for being able to see the screen when it’s bright outside? I often struggle with this and photos don’t get composed correctly.
Great question, and a problem that a lot of people have. For myself, I use cameras with a viewfinder, so I am getting my eye as close to the screen as possible blocking the sun. If you like many people, my mum included, who likes to use the screen on the back of the camera to compose your photos thats not an option.
All I can suggest is turn your screen brightness up as high as possible (though this will drain the battery quicker), where a hat or cap with a big brim and bring the camera up so it is just under the brim of the hat. Putting the screen in a bit of shadow. Its not ideal, but all you can do in there circumstances is try and block out the sun.
Good luck with it
Thank you Brendan that’s is very helpful.
My pleasure Mark, have a wonderful day 🙂
Hi, Great post. I do shots only with a compact camera or mobile phone. I guess the same tips count for mobile phone. The evening photos I like the most, the colors are so bright and it almost looks as if you use a filter.
Thank’s for the update on my knowledge and have great time
Thanks for the comment Stefan.
Yes the same tips can be applied to any camera. Unfortunately too many people believe that they need a DSLR to take a good photo, where all you need to do is compose your photo properly.
No need for filters when you are taking photos around sunrise and sunset, the light brings out the magic all by itself.
Hope you get some great shots
Sadly, I am a lousy photographer. Anyone who’s ever passed their camera to me, hoping I’d take a decent group photo, has been sadly disappointed.
I look trustworthy. I want to do the right thing, but I have no camera skills. (Shaky cam was my invention. I created that, but I didn’t make it cool.)
I had never heard of the “rule of thirds.” Perhaps with your advice on holding the camera still and this rule of thirds I will do better.
Thank you for the comment, no-one is a lousy photographer. There are those who need some practice and those which don’t. If you follow the tips in the post, you will probably surprise yourself. I wouldn’t worry about the “Rule of Thirds” to start with, just focus on keeping the camera steady and go from there.
Good luck, I know there is a photographer in there waiting to come out 🙂
I love this. Quick and concise. I am a blogger myself and struggle with taking photographs. For whatever reason I thought it would be better to take photos during the middle of the day. Thanks for this! It’s going to cut my photography times WAAYYYY down.
Thank you for your comments. Its a common misconception, a lot of people think that the middle of the day will be best, but the light is just to harsh, which results in hard shadows and photos which don’t look quite right.
Get out during the Golden Hour, either morning or afternoon, or when there is a bit of cloud cover. You will be surprised just how much of a difference it makes.
Great Post Brendan… Being a photographer myself of many years.. I understand the problems involved with shooting with point and shoot cameras. If I am on a serious shoot I will always use my DSLR and a tripod shooting in the “Golden Hour”… So, that said.. You have hit all the important stuff very well… Thanks for the help in reminding me of these great tips… Sometimes I forget and/or am in a hurry and don’t think to do some of these.. lol…
Great stuff… thanks
Thank you for joining the conversation. I am the same, often out there with my DSLR, tripod and that morning light.
But in the end what you are using doesn’t matter as much if you get the basics right, and as you say it is easy to forget when you are in a rush.
Thank you for dropping by.
I have never been good at getting the shots I hoped for – good advice here from a professional – very helpful.
Thank you for joining the conversation. The only advice I can offer is take more shots. Follow the tips and you may be surprised at how well the shots turn out.