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Photography Tips (from an amateur photographer)

Photography Tips (from an amateur photographer)
Photography Tips (from an amateur photographer)

Over the past year, I have really come to love photography and I may have a slight addiction to Instagram. Whether it’s capturing a sunrise mid-run, sharing a colourful and tasty meal, or taking in the views during a hike, I have a lot of fun taking photos. 

By popular demand (or because of the 4 people that asked) here are some photography tips I have picked up along the way: 

Your iPhone can do the trick

I don’t actually own a real camera. All of the pictures I take are on my iPhone6. It doesn’t do the greatest job at night but works well photographing during the day. I also run into problems with a green dot appearing on photos when shooting into the sun or at sunset. I’ll do my best to crop out the dot, edit the dot out (using the TouchRetouch app) or turn the camera angle a different way to avoid the dot.

Use an app to edit your photos

Full disclosure: over the past year I have not posted a photo on Instagram that hasn’t been edited. These are my favourite apps for editing:

Snapseed (Free)

First I will usually edit a photo in Snapseed. I love the HDR Scape filter (choose between the Nature and People options). Depending on the lighting, be warned the Nature option can make photos appear grainy. I will then Tune Image and adjust contrast, saturation, brightness, shadows, and highlights. I avoid making the contrast and saturation any higher than 25. You want the photo to look sharp, but not entirely fake.

A Color Story (Free with in-app purchases)

A Color Story has a great collection of filters depending on what you’re photographing, from everyday objects, to sunsets and hikes, to food. Generally the photos appear less edited than when I use Snapseed. I like using it for cleaner-looking photos, less contrast, or food photos that are already naturally lit and don’t require much editing.

Foodie (Free)

My sister told me about Foodie, a photo editing app created especially for food photos. It does a great job brightening up poorly lit photos (hello bad restaurant lighting). You can select filters based on the type of food you’re photographing (fresh food, sweets, meat, cocktails, etc.).

Other apps and filters that I use infrequently: SKRWT, VSCO, Instagram Filters, TouchRetouch

Don’t just take one photo 

If there is something I want to photograph, I won’t just take one photo of it. I’ll take many and from slightly different viewpoints or angles. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from when you go to edit the photo. Side note: pay for iCloud storage ($1.99 per month) to avoid the stress of running out of space on your phone.


Tilt your camera horizontally

A few months ago, a news station came to my office to interview my boss. I was taking a picture of the whole setup for our social media, and the cameraman gave me a life-changing tip. Tilt your iPhone horizontally, instead of vertically to take a picture. Ever since I’ve followed his advice and it really does improve the picture, especially now that you can post full-size pictures on Instagram (not just square-sized photos).

Focus on a single object instead of a vast landscape

This tip mostly applies to posting pictures on Instagram. Since the picture appears so small on Instagram, trying to shoot a vast landscape (without any distinguishing features) can look a little boring, as it is hard to make out any details. If I am shooting something in the distance, I’ll try and focus on a specific item or feature in the landscape, often to the left or right hand side of the picture. This also helps frame the picture.

Go explore and travel

Even I get sick of taking pictures of the seawall. What better way to get inspired than to explore? Whether it is exploring a new area of your own neighbourhood or city, or travelling to new a country, you’ll never know what you may find. The photography opportunities really are endless when you travel! Photography, hiking, and running have made me be more aware of my surroundings and notice the little things you often miss when driving by.

Take advantage of the light

Some of my favourite photos have been taken at sunrise or sunset, during magic hour (right before the sun is setting), or just as the sun is rising. Trying to shoot in the middle of a very sunny day can be tough and create some very strange shadows.

Look around and find those unique views

Trees and the landscape reflected in the water, the sky reflected in a puddle, fog peaking through the trees, a unique angle of a bridge, cloud and rock formations, winding paths or roads leading to an unknown destination. This is your chance to be creative!

Get inspired

Travel and exploring new places are great ways to get inspired. You can also turn to Instagram for inspiration. Some of my favourite Instagram accounts to follow:

Food: Erin Ireland, Green Kitchen Stories, Alpha FoodieThis Rawsome Vegan Life

Lifestyle: Dorrington Reid, Michele Mateus,

Nature and hiking: Ryan Hodgson, Callum Snape, Spectacular NWT, Explore Canada, Hello BC, The Hilary Ann, The Plaid Shirt, Vancouver Trails, Hecktic Travels, Mirae Campbell

Final tips from an actual photographer (my sister)

My sister, a trained photographer, shared a few more tips to help improve my photography:

Keep your elbows close to your body in order to stabilize your phone or camera

Follow the rule of thirds: in composition the photo is divided into 9 equal squares or rectangles. When the object you’re focusing on is in the middle of an intersection of the grid, it will be the best composition.

I’d love to know: what are your go-to photography tips? What accounts do you love following on Instagram? 

  • Great tips. I am so glad I got in the habit of taking photos horizontally. It’s so much better, especially trying to size them on a blog post. People get so annoyed with me when I ask them to take photos for me and then make sure they are taking them horizontally lol

  • Love your tips. Your photos are always so beautiful, it’s really impressive that you do it all with your phone!

    • Danielle @ Wild Coast Tales says:

      Thanks so much Sarah! I’d love to learn how to take pictures with an actual camera or DSLR this year!

  • Those green dots happen on DSLR cameras as well. It’s usually because the reflection of the sun on the lens. Any kind of photo with an intense light source will have them.

    I LOVE editing with A Color Story, it’s probably my favourite for filters. I typically use VCSO if I have a white balance issue and then use ACS for the rest.

    Now I’m off to download Foodie since it’s so hard to make food pictures not look crazy edited 🙂

    • says:

      I didn’t know it also happened with DSLR cameras! Good to know. Great tip for VCSO. I love Foodie! I do find it generally makes the editing of food photos look a bit more natural.

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