Pro Tips For WOW Vacation Photography

[trip style = any]

Kirsten Alana {left} is a traveler, writer, and photographer on a quest to experience life to the fullest, and capture it behind the lens. When she's not snapping cityscapes in her home base of NYC, she speaks all over the world about travel photography and iPhoneography. Basically, if you want the 411 on how to photograph a landscape, dish, or subject, she's your gal, and was kind enough to share a few of her pro tips for taking WOWZA vacation photography! Knowing a lot of people are about to leave for fall getaways or are thinking about a winter escape, I thought today would be the perfect time for some vaca-tography 101 {which I'm definitely using while currently in Maui}. By the way, if you're on instagram, her photos make your eyes pop out cartoon-style they're so good...

1/ Your top three tips for shooting landscape photos? * If it is black and white, make it dynamic and high contrast. Seek to emulate Ansel Adams. You can get away with the whole scene being in focus {shooting at f/11 or even f/22}.

* If you want to capture a place in color, look for a way to give the scene depth, placing some part of your scene that is in the foreground in sharper focus than whatever is in the distance/background. For some reason, depth becomes far more important in color landscape images than in black and white, and is more appealing to the human eye when constructed in this way.

* Include a dynamic sky! The worst thing you can do is have an entirely flat, white sky in a landscape photograph. Fog is different of course, but images with no clouds have nothing to distinguish the sky as an important part of the composition {and usually fall flat}. A stunning sky can set the tone, communicate the weather, give a sense of place---even be the most important part of a photograph.

2/ Snapping people - how do you add depth and interest to the shot? I've studied Steve McCurry's work---think multiple National Geographic covers--- for a long time and I try to learn from the images of his that I really love. He adds a sense of place to his best images, making it more about WHO the person is than what they look like. Also, my best portraits have been of the people that I know at least on some level. Even when I was a full-time wedding photographer, my best portraits were of the clients who I had been able to know as friends. I attributed that to the fact that I was familiar enough to know them and then be able to express the best version of who I knew in a photograph because of that knowledge.

3/ Can you depend on your iPhone {or Smartphone} for wow-factor travel photos? Yes! That being said, not out of the box. You have to take the time to learn a smartphone just like you would a point-n-shoot or dSLR camera. Few people can get the most out of any device right away. A smartphone is a complex tool just like any camera. * To get WOW, you have to work for it and use your tool to its greatest advantage. * A beautiful image is created by the photographer, their skill and their imagination, it's not created by the device---only captured by it. There's a big difference!

4/ You shoot a lot with your iPhone. What are your fave photo apps? Currently, I'm really digging Hipstamatic again, I've discovered a love for VSCO CAM, my old standby Camera+ and I like Instagram for sharing but not as much for its filters. Additionally, I often use: * ProHDR * Filterstorm * Over * Diptic * moreBeaute2 * AutoStitch

5/ Snapping food, your bite-sized tips? * My golden rule is always use natural light. Food looks most appetizing captured this way. A steak lit by dramatic, high-contrast, noir style or candlelight does not usually look super appealing---and that's coming from a steak and potatoes kind of girl! * I like to think of breakfast or lunchtime as the meals that I photograph before eating and dinner is the meal I simply enjoy. * Also, if you're using an iPhone like I do, the Hipstamatic Foodie Snap pack is simply delightful.

6/ Going through hundreds of snaps at the end of a trip, are there any tricks {aside from using your gut} to decide what photos to feature? Think about building a framework for the story you want to tell, whether that's in a blog post, an album or a slideshow for your friends and family. Use a variety of images: detail shots, wide shots, maybe an image of you in the place or portraits of people you were with. A well rounded group of photographs has little repetition and a lot of variety. You shouldn't show, or even always keep, every photograph you take.

[photos by @kirstenalana]