Photography Basics & Composition

I don’t know about you, but I find myself in constant awe of this paradise we call Puerto Vallarta—which means I just can’t stop taking pictures! If you can relate, here are some tips on basics and composition for all levels of shutterbugs.

First, choose the right time of day. While still lovely, in mid-day the sun is high and harsh, which can make for challenging conditions to shoot in, and reflections on the water are usually unflattering.
An exception to this rule are days with cloudy conditions—bad weather can make for great photography! So if it looks like it’s going to be a hot, dry one, try shooting in the early morning or near sunset instead.

Improving your composition can make a big difference in the quality of your images! 
• Remember the Rule of Thirds. Meaning, when shooting landscapes or seascapes, place your horizon on the top third of the photo to allow the majority of the frame to showcase the scenery or the bottom third for dramatic skies. Additionally, for other subjects, such as people and flowers, place them off to the left or right third of the photo. Save centering your images for symmetrical subjects, or when shooting reflections.
• Look for leading lines like roads, pathways, rivers, bridges, etc. to help guide the viewer’s eye throughout your photo. You should also be searching for framing elements within your scene. Place your subject in a doorway or shoot through a window for a natural frame within a frame.
• When you find a subject you like, explore it from all angles. Pay attention to what is happening in the background and change your perspective to avoid distractions.
• Look for complementary color combinations. In photography, these are red and cyan (light blue), green and magenta (pink), and blue and yellow. A pink hibiscus flower framed by green leaves is an excellent example of a complementary color combination!

Tips for Camera-Phone Photographers: 
• It is extra important for phone photographers to include foregrounds as you are shooting with a naturally wide lens. Be careful not to get too close to your subjects, or you will start to distort them.
• If you place the foreground very close to your phone but focus on the subject in the back, this will help you mimic a shallow depth of field and create some blur. This technique is especially effective in portrait mode.
• Try shooting with vertical, horizontal, and square frames to force you to find and create different compositions.
• There is no shortage of applications you can download on your phone to enhance or edit your images. Try Snapseed for image editing, TouchRetouch to remove unwanted elements from your photos, or Enlight for creative editing effects, to name a few.

Tips for Point-and-Shoot, DSLR, and Mirrorless Photographers:
• In addition to composition, try adjusting your white balance. Choose the best preset for your environment to get accurate colors or experiment with them and change the mood of your photo with the different color shifts. Experimenting with this is especially fun for sunsets photography!
• Practice shooting with your tripod. It may not be necessary for your exposure, but it will help you slow down and compose a better image. Remember to try a new angle and don’t shoot only at eye level.
• Use a polarizing filter when shooting outdoors to help reduce glare and enhance colors.