How to Take Great Photos of your Semester Abroad

Jan 1, 2019 9:07:00 AM / by Payton Meyer

Whether you're snapping photos to share with your favorite people, keep for memories, or do it for the 'gram, there are simple methods you can follow for a great shot. In this week's post, Payton shares 3 vital tips to help you level up your skills and take a great photos of your semester abroad and travels. So, go out, experience your new city—and don't forget to take photos!

Here’s my take on how to get good photos of your experience while traveling/studying abroad, for your blog or just for the memories! 

1. Make Sure You’ve Got a Good Camera

Unique Shot of Il Duomo in FlorenceA unique shot of Il Duomo in Florence.

The best way to ensure you get great photos for your blog or your own memories is to use a good camera. This semester, I used my iPhone 8 plus to shoot all of my blog content, and a Canon EOS Rebel G to shoot some film so I can fill a photo album with all of my memories from my semester abroad. iPhone cameras generally take excellent photos, especially if you have the Portrait Mode functionality. There’s no reason that you need to have a bulky, expensive DSLR camera for your semester abroad, because it’s difficult to travel with and has the potential to get stolen, and phone cameras usually do just fine! Although I don’t have any experience with Android cameras, I’m sure they work great too! Just make sure you’re focusing your photos in order to get the highest quality shot you can, and avoid zooming on phone cameras at all costs, as zooming decreases the quality significantly. If you want to get a closer shot of something, move closer to it, or crop the photo closer when you’re editing it.

2. Focus Your Photos and Fix the Exposure

The Skyline from the Bell TowerPlay with the exposure feature on your phone's camera just to get the lighting right.

This bit might only be helpful for iPhone users, but your camera app actually allows you to have a decent amount of control over how your photos turn out. To get a good photo, tap on the subject that you’d like to focus on with your finger. A yellow box will appear, and adjust the focus on the photo to that subject. It should also adjust the exposure, so that the lighting is just right on the subject. You should slide your finger up or down on the little sun icon to either increase or decrease the exposure manually if you need to brighten or darken it a little more. Although Apple does a pretty good job with their cameras, I find that the exposure often needs some further adjusting, especially to keep the sky from being overexposed when you live in a bright place, like Florence! If the sky is so bright in your photo that it appears white or glowing, instead of its actual color, you need to bring the exposure down with the sun icon until the sky is blue again. Don’t worry if this makes the subject look dark, you can always fix the brightness when you edit the photo later on, which brings me to my next point!

3. Edit Your Photos

Ponte Vecchio Edited vs UneditedRight: Before Editing and without Filter, Left: After Editing with A6 Filter

The key to making your photos look blog-ready is to edit the colors, brightness, contrast, etc... after taking them. There’s a couple of ways that you can do this. Personally, I like to use the app VSCO. It allows you to put a filter on your photos, as well as adjust each individual aspect to make everything just right! My personal favorite filter is called A6—check it out! If you’re not big into filters, you can also try the photo editing tools in the photo app on your phone, they work pretty well too.

That’s all there is to it! Happy shooting!

Thanks, Payton!

Payton Meyer

Payton Meyer is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Strategic Communication major at  University of Colorado Boulder, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.

Payton's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Florence Program

Topics: Florence, Italy, Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations