Let’s talk about photography for a minute. In addition to being an editor and blogger for The Times-Tribune, I also own a photo studio (I’ll abstain from shamelessly plugging Two Sticks Studios, which offers stunning, one-of-a-kind images for weddings, portraits and businesses).
So yeah, I’m one of those guys who goes on a hike and takes photos. Judge me if you want.
I also want to help you take better photos because I see a ton of them on Instagram. Ya’ll obviously like taking photos, so let’s take them to the next level. Here are a few tips that will help punch up your images. By the way, I NEVER take a camera with me. Everything I shoot on hikes is with my phone and goes through a little editing when I get back.
1. Straighten the horizon. Nothing is more off-putting than a beautiful photo that is weirdly tilted. All phones come with a basic photo editing function that allows you to straighten a crooked image. Take advantage of it.
2. Don’t overdo the editing! Instagram has all kinds of cool filters and stuff. Any time I edit an image I walk away for 10 minutes before posting it. I go back and look and almost always realize I’ve done too much editing. The colors will be overly vibrant or the contrast will be way too high. Less is more. Trust your eye.
3. Be patient and look at other people who post photos you like. I bet you will find they have developed a style that suits them. Develop yours by trying different looks until something speaks to you. After some time, you will find yourself taking photos that marry well with that style.
4. Don’t take eye-level photos. EVER! OK, ever is harsh, but one of the things that is magical about photography is showing people things they wouldn’t normally see. You are already out in the woods wandering around, so hold the phone way above your head or get down on the ground and take the shot. You will be amazed how taking photos from anywhere but eye level completely changes the scene.
5. Get a Joby. Drop $20 bucks or so on a tiny, bendable tripod that has a phone mount. I can’t even begin to list all of the cool shots you can get with this little piece of gear. As an example, I’ve wrapped mine in tree limbs and set a timer to get a shot that would otherwise not be possible.
6. Be selective in what you shoot. This is tricky because you are walking around and seeing all kinds of cool things, but the great part of hiking is there is usually better stuff right around the bend. Take your time when you come across something that catches your eye and work a little on the composition. I guarantee you will be rewarded. It’s way more satisfying than shotgun shooting every colored leaf you come across.
7. Pay attention to the light you have. This one is a pet peeve of mine. The woods are a weird place on sunny days. You get all kinds of fractured light and sun and shade. It’s splotchy and unattractive. Your best photos will be clean photos, generally devoid of that harsh, splintery light. So wait for some cloud cover. It will give you much better light. Or, if it is just brilliant sun, look for places where the whole scene is lit evenly.
Here’s an example of just an awful photo I took. The light is bad, the composition is bad, the idea was bad. Don’t do what I did! Lol
8. Put something in the foreground. As one of my colleagues told me, I used to tell photographers to stop thinking two-dimensionally. Put something between the camera and that amazing mountain you are shooting. Look for something that can be in the foreground to add depth and perspective.
9. Use your exposure control. Both iPhone and Samsung phones basically guess at the exposure of the photo, They both also have a slider on the screen when you are composing your shot. I’ve generally found that all camera phones make your image too bright. Use that slider to make your photos a little darker. This is especially true when you are taking photos of waterfalls.
Keep shooting, friends, because I love seeing the stuff you post. There are a bunch of hiking photos on my Instagram. Feel free to go check it out @chaddsebring.