These 6 tips took my smartphone pictures to the next level. You can do too!

I admit, I'm a sucker for travel pictures. Besides writing, pictures are the best way to keep memories alive. And with a life of fulltime traveling, I have a lot of experiences every single day that I want to remember. 

Although I love taking pictures, I don't have a proper camera. Pretty much because I don't want to carry the weight and it doesn't really fit in my backpack. So all the pictures you see on this blog, on the NoMadBelgian facebook page and on my Instagram account are taken with my Samsung S4And I think they are ok. Not brilliant, but definitely better than the average holiday picture.

But never have I even considered to look for advice on how to shoot better pictures. I don't read blogs or books about it, I'm not interested in any editing programs and all of that stuff. The approach is: I take a picture. I think it's good? I keep it. Otherwise it goes in the bin (almost 90% of them do). 

So when I was looking for a food tour in Santiago on the magical know-it-all internet and found a photography tour instead (run by Foto-Ruta), I wasn't quite sure if this was 'a thing' for me. "Should I ask a real photographer with a real camera to give me advise about taking smartphone pictures?" Maybe that's an insult, I thought. But Cat, who runs these tours, was amazing. She makes great pictures (check her Instagram portfolio here) and wanted to share a bunch of great tips & tricks with me. If you want them all, you should go on a tour with her! But here are a few tips I got out of the tour:

  1. Get closer!
    I take too many pictures from too far away. The result is too much in the frame.  
  2. Get in weird positions!
    Bend, tilt, stand on your toes in order to get a different angle. I was too static.
  3. Focus!
    Or not. But play around with it. Focus on one item in the frame you want to draw attention to. 
  4. Change the settings!
    Which I did but not enough. Learning to play with the shutter time resulted in way better pictures during that harsh midday light.
  5. Don't zoom!
    Either get closer or crop afterwards. The zoom of most smartphones, including mine, still sucks.
  6. Use the rule of thirds!
    I knew about this, thanks to my cousin's girlfriend An. But maybe you don't, so here it is: divide your screen in 9 rectangles of the same size (3x3) and place the object you want to focus on in one of the intersecting lines. Most smartphones have a build-in rule of thirds. Use it!
But hey, you know how the saying goes, right? 

"The proof is
in the eating of the pudding."

So here are a few of my 'before' and 'after' pictures. The day before the tour I went to the Mercado Central and took some shots of the vendors, the stalls and the produce. As you can see, they pretty much suck :-) There is a lot violation of the rules I mentioned above (too bright, too many things in the picture, no focus point that attracts your eye,...).

So I asked Cat if she could take me to the market again to shoot some more pictures, this time with her tips & tricks fresh in my mind and the woman herself by my side for any emergency first-aid-help. Here are a few of the shots:

First time ever (!) I managed to take a picture looking straight into a light bulb, without having just a blur. The picture still has warm, vibrant colors of the fruit. I love how the light reflects in the scale too. What do you think?

I love how the watermelon is the center piece of the picture. But everything around it, makes sense too, it needs to really be in the picture so you can get the context: the stall, the prices on the pieces of paper, the Chilean flags, the man on the left looking for all the fruit juices to pick from. I'm really satisfied with this picture :-)

My pics have gone to a new level thanks to Cat and I'm really excited about that. If you ever get your ass over to Santiago in Chile, meet up with her and push that picture button! Otherwise, just use the above tips to get some amazing holiday pictures this summer.

I've published more of the pics from my tour with Cat
on Facebook and Instagram.

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