Summer is here!! In Arizona that typically means vacations (aka avoiding the heat!). We know that summer get-aways mean lots of photos, so we thought we should share some of our favorite quick portrait tricks on how to get images great enough to make all your insta friends wish they were there too!

1- Whatever camera you have is the best camera
Of course we could recommend all types of cameras (and there is a short list at the end of this article)- but in reality, ANY camera is better than no camera.  So learn to use your cell phone, it is always at the ready.

2- Look for the best light
Photographers love the Golden hour (the hour before sunset or the first hour after sunrise).  If you are shooting somewhere with water, early morning and just before sunset will capture the water at its most vibrant. The golden hour offers beautiful soft shadows, more vibrant colors, and a soft golden hue on the skin. You may have to stay out a little later, or wake up a little earlier, but I promise it will be worth it!

3- Flash, even in the sun 
Many people think using your flash is not recommended.  But how many times have you taken a portrait of your (insert family member, friend or pet here) and the background is beautiful and perfectly exposed, but your subject is a dark blob you can hardly see.  That is because your camera is going to expose based on the lightest part of the image.  If the background is brighter, it will
underexpose your subject.   There is an easy fix.  Turn on your flash! This will fill in the shadows on your subject, and balance the light of the brighter background so you will have a beautiful picture of both the scenery AND your subject.

4- Be Quick
If it is at all possible that your subject may move, run, fly away, or just stop smiling, shoot once right away.  Then take the time to think through your shot and try again.  Also, don't forget the candid moments! You have to be quick, but engaging with your environment and its people makes for a compelling image. Show what it “FEELS” like to be there.

5- Mix it up -- Try a different point of view
If you have ever watched ATJ shoot, you see her frequently laying on the ground or maybe even up on a ladder to get varying perspectives. Give it a try, get up high on a wall, or down low in the grass. Switch it up and try a new perspective to get a more interesting point of view.

6- Don’t forget the people
My mother-in-law always complained that her husband concentrated too much on the animals and scenery. They now have boxes of pictures, but few with their kids actually in them. Try to capture your subject interacting with the surroundings rather than just standing in front of it. Pose a group of people in the photo in an interesting way instead of in the typical line. Be creative and don’t be afraid to have fun.

7- Look at your surroundings
Take the time to look around and determine if any elements in the frame are not ideal – such as a car, a sign or someone photobombing you. You don’t want a palm tree that looks like it is growing out of mom’s head. Often just moving a little or adjusting the angle will get rid of any unwanted background items.

8- Zoom in, get close
Now even closer. Of course you want a wide picture of your beautiful surroundings to give you a sense of place. But then pause, zoom in close on your child’s face, a butterfly, or a flower. Or even just pieces of a beautiful hand painted tile or an interesting seashell or your baby's toes wiggling in the sand.

9- Watch your horizon
I am the queen of shooting like a drunken sailor. But always be aware of your horizon line. Holding your arms tight against your body while you are shooting will also help with camera shake and blur. If all else fails, get a tripod. Additionally, watch for distortion. T
his one is especially true for improving your smartphone photography. With the super-wide angle lenses on smartphones, it’s really easy to make buildings look cockeyed and distorted. You want to keep the smartphone facing straight and not angled up. This is especially hard in cities where you want to capture entire monuments or buildings. Try backing up, or even crossing the street so that you can keep your phone (and the buildings) straight.

10- Look for the unusual
Don’t forget to look for something unusual, quirky or colorful in your location.
Look for repeating lines, vibrant colors, fun shapes, and interesting people.

11- Rule of thirds
If you want to really make your photos stand out, try the artistic rule of thirds.
When you look through your viewfinder or at the LCD screen, imagine a tic-tac-toe grid over the scene. The rule of thirds says that the points where the lines intersect are the best places to position your subject. The goal is to place important parts of the photo into those sections and help frame the overall image in a way that’s pleasing to the eye. For example, placing a person along the left grid line rather than directly in the center. Or keeping your horizon on the bottom third, rather than splitting the image in half.

12- Pass the camera around
Make sure that you are actually documented in your vacation too.

13- Get out from behind the camera
Don’t forget to enjoy the location or event you are at. Play with the kids, run into the ocean, sit and watch that wedding ceremony. Take life in! AND ENJOY THE LOCATION OR EVENT.

And last but not least, as promised  here is a short list of 2021 travel camera Options: 

  • Sony RX100 VII: Best Compact Travel Camera $1,298
  • Sony A6600: Best Value Travel Camera $1,398
  • Panasonic Lumix ZS70: Best Budget Travel Camera $298
  • GoPro Hero 9: Best Action Travel Camera 399
  • Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II: Small zoom Compact $528
  • Olympus Tough TG-6: Super tough for adventure addicts $379
  • Panasonic Lumix TX200/ZS200: Classic long-zoom compact $598
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99: big zoom in a small package $473