summer photos smartphones

Finally! Summer travel time is here.

Naturally, with the rise of social sharing sites like Instagram and Facebook, you’ll want to capture memories of your trip to share with family and friends.

But you don’t have to be a professional photographer or shell out hundreds of dollars on a great camera to take amazing photos.

Sure, you can use fancy filters to enhance your photos after-the-fact, but by following a few smart tips, you can make summer memories come to life for family and friends – without a single filter!

Here’s how…

Smart Photo Tip #1) The Rule of Thirds

beeMany smartphone photos include the subject matter dead center in the photo.

But according to the Rule of Thirds, this is “wrong”.

While it might sound new to you, the Rule of Thirds is perhaps the most well-known ‘rule’ of photographic composition.

The principle of this rule is to break an image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically – with nine parts total.

If you place your subject or points of interest along the lines, your photo will be more evenly balanced, which allows your viewer to interact with the image naturally.

If your smartphone has the option to turn on gridlines, your screen will be broken into nine distinct sections based on this rule, which allows you to easily position the subject in your photo.

(Of course, as many photographers would agree, this “rule” is more of a guideline since there are amazing photos that utilize other photography methods as well.)

Smart Photo Tip #2) Find Interesting Perspectives

beach negative spaceTaking a great photo isn’t as simple as pointing and shooting. What sets truly extraordinary photos apart from run-of-the-mill vacation pics is finding an interesting angle.


The use of negative space (i.e. empty space), particularly for travel photos can create interesting perspectives, evoke emotion and tell a story for the viewer.

In photography, negative space is the area around the subject, while the subject of the photo is referred to as positive space. Negative space is often open sky, water, beach, grass or any uncluttered portion of your photo that provides a simple background.


Reflections create interesting photos because you get two perspectives in phone photo – one from the photographer looking down as well as the ground up perspective of the photographer and the sky as shown at right.

While on your summer vacation, keep an eye out for these reflection opportunities:

  • Water (puddle, lake, pond or ocean)
  • Reflective sunglasses (see below)
  • Building windows
  • Dishes (wine glasses, bowls, stainless steel)
  • Metallic surfaces – sculptures

Sunglass reflections are a popular use of reflections. This creative technique can be used for anything from family photos to vacation photos.

sunglass reflection

Smart Photo Tip #3) Take a Clear Picture

Although it sounds obvious, there are several things to remember before taking a photo to ensure you get a clear picture with your smartphone.


Today, smartphones are basically an extension of our arms and we take them everywhere. Most people carry their phone in their pocket or purse when not in use. As a result, the lens can become dirty, resulting in a blurry image. Before you take a picture, wipe the lens to sweep away any dirt or grime that might distort your photos.


As tempting as it may be to zoom in when you are taking a photo from the distance, when you zoom, you also compromise the quality of the photo. Instead, either move closer or crop the larger image later on.


Very few great smartphone photos are taken with the flash on. They’re often overexposed and the colors look a bit “off”. Instead, take advantage of natural light (especially cloudy days) and even play with shadows or create a silhouette of your subject.

Smart Photo Tip #4) Take Candid Photos

candid photosWhile asking your subject to pose for photos can be great for memory’s sake, candid photos allow you to more effectively capture the emotion and essence of the moment.

And ultimately, they’re just way more interesting to look at.

Some great candid photo ops include:

  • Children interacting with animals, nature or each other
  • Couples showing affection – holding hands, embracing one another or giving each other an endearing look
  • Laughter – when you capture someone showing genuine happiness or laughter, it’s almost always a great shot

One of the best ways to take a candid photo is by taking many photos. The best photos happen when everyone’s eyes are open and when their laugh and smile is sincere.

You might have to step back from the “fun” for a bit and put your photographer hat on to capture one of these moments, but it will be well worth it!

Smart Photo Tip #5) Use Lines to Define the Photo

log linesWhen lines naturally occur in nature, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. In this photo at left, the logs naturally draw your eye into the frame and toward the house.

Watch for lines that naturally occur in nature such as roads, pathways, doorways, cliffs, tall grass, trees, bridges and boardwalks.

Usually, lines begin at the bottom of the frame and draw the eye upward toward your subject. Photos using this perspective create a feeling of motion or infinity.


Keep these tips in mind during your next vacation and always be on the lookout for unusual photo opportunities (hint: zoom in close or capture photos from in the distance).

Once you get back from your trip, if you still want to enhance your photos, but the filters on your phone are limited, there are a number of great apps you can use to take photo editing and filters to the next level.

Above all else, don’t lose sight of your main goal on vacation – have fun, relax and don’t forget to live in the moment (not your phone) this summer!

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