Person taking sunset photo with smart phone in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Travel Photos

Travel Blog, Travel Tips

How to Get Better Costa Rica Travel Photography out of Your Smartphone

Unless you’re a professional photographer or a photography buff, you don’t have all the bells and whistles for fancy photo shoots while you’re traveling in Costa Rica. And, let’s face it, most people don’t travel with loads of specialized camera equipment; the gear is expensive and a pain to carry from place to place. But you can still capture great travel photographs on your Costa Rica vacation. All you need are a few affordable and simple to use accessories for your smartphone. That and a few pro tricks are everything you need to get outstanding photos.

Lenses for your smartphone photos in Costa Rica 

These days, there are a variety of lenses at various prices and TechRadar has published a list of its top 10 lenses. Their top pick is Olloclip’s XS Max Clip; it comes with a 180 fisheye and 15x, super-wide macro. The Olloclip set is suggested for intermediate and advanced iPhone shutterbugs. Moment’s Tele Lens, with a 60mm focal length, is a good start for beginners using either an iPhone or Android. If price is no object and you don’t mind that the casing is a bit ungainly, ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss Wide-Angle 18mm is a top-quality lens for iPhones. Nelomo Universal is an economical pick for iPhone or Android beginners: 0.65x super-wide angle, 15x macro, and 230 fisheye.

Check out Adobe Lightroom, for iOS or Android, to help you with organizing and manipulating your photographs. It has a host of capabilities beyond editing and the introductory tutorial guides you through its many features.

Play with your smartphone’s camera; does it have any advanced capabilities? Newer smartphone cameras have a lot of features that will help you compose pro shots. Try turning on the camera’s grid for help with photo composition. Find out if your smartphone camera has different modes: portrait, landscape, etc. Know what your camera can do before you start shooting, that way you won’t miss that one-in-a-million shot of a resplendent quetzal in Monteverde while trying to figure how to do what you want.

Tips for better Costa Rica photographs

If you don’t know some of the basics of good travel photography, there’s not a camera made that will give you the results you want. If you can remember a few simple rules, you’re sure to capture some outstanding images.

The best light for photography happens in the hour just after sunrise and the hour before sunset. It’s called the golden hour for the warm, rich lighting. You’ll avoid the harsh light and deep shadows that can cause contrast problems and hot spots in your photographs.

If you’re hoping to get a great shot of the vendors setting up at San José’s Central Market, go early. You won’t have crowds of people between you and your subject. Similarly, stay later in the day for fewer people in your shot of the last surfer coming in at Playa Teresa. Be there when the hordes aren’t.

It’s tempting and easy to put your subject dead center in the photograph. It’s a rookie mistake everyone makes at first. The solution is the rule of thirds; divide your image into thirds, horizontally and vertically.

Move your camera so that Arenal Volcano is to one side or another, up or down. That way you’ll emphasize how the volcano rises from the plain around it. Use the grid feature on your camera to help.

Play the angles. Be creative with perspective and move yourself around. For instance, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago has been photographed, usually from 1,000 yards away “to get it all in.” Don’t try to get it all, aim up at the tower, look for architectural features to shoot. A few steps to one side or forward can make all the difference in what you capture, look for the unexpected in your shots.

Avoid having a lot of open space in the foreground if you can, fill up your photo instead of trying to fit everything in and leaving space around the edges. Likewise look for opportunities to frame your image. Trust your viewfinder to tell you when you’ve got it right.

With practice and patience, you can turn your smartphone snaps into great travel photography.


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