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Dez Smith is an influencer who knows how to take good Instagram photos for summer
These Secrets Will Help You Land IG-Worthy Vacation Shots This Summer

Two influencers share their best tips.

by Ciara Johnson
Originally Published: 

Your summer vacation and sunny days spent on rooftops are right around the corner, so it's time to start prepping. Maybe you've even booked some flights, scored a sweet villa, and purchased a cute swimsuit or two. Even if you haven’t and your summer plans are wide open, you're about to have the time of your life and finally cross some long-awaited experiences off your bucket list, so get ready. You'll want to enjoy every moment, but you'll also want to capture some enviable photos so that you can look back on your warm day memories. These tips for taking great Instagram summer photos will help up your IG game this summer.

How often have you scrolled down a lifestyle blogger’s feed and wondered how their photos look like a dreamy summertime magazine spread? Some people are crushing the Instagram game, and you're probably wondering how you can channel them this summer. I can't tell you how to be an Instagram celebrity overnight, but I can certainly help you take incredible photos with expert advice from style and lifestyle bloggers Dez Smith and Amber Dowty.

“Summertime is my favorite time for fun, relatable content,” Dowty tells Elite Daily. “I love the beach specifically for summer inspo content. The key to making good posts is to make them saveable and shareable. I feel like people are always looking for ‘vacation vibes’ photo inspo!”

If you want to take Instagram-worthy summer photos, the secret is simply taking the time to improve your photography skills and invest in the craft. It takes practice, but you'll leave your vacay feeling more satisfied with the stills you've captured of you and your besties (they will surely appreciate it). These photos will live on long after you depart from your trip, and you'll be able to reminisce on these tangible memories for years to come. Below, eight tips for taking good Instagram photos this summer.

Scope Out Your Location

The best Instagram summer photos take some serious thought. “My location all depends on what I'm wearing or what vibe I want to portray through the picture,” Smith tells Elite Daily. “Location for me is very important. I can't just take a picture anywhere. It has to make sense with what I'm wearing and what story I am trying to convey.”

Either scope out your destination before arriving so you can decide what kind of photos you want to take, or take photos in a place that fits your overall vibe in the moment. “I typically will base my location off of the outfit vibe,” Dowty says. “I spend a lot of time driving around finding good shoot spots, plain ones you can always rely on, as well as researching cute coffee shops and restaurants in the area.”

If you want to curate a great summer image, you can use Instagram's location feature to search for inspiration from other travelers or bloggers, as well as TikTok for even more aesthetically pleasing spots. Both can be a great resource for discovering photo-worthy spots you didn't even know existed. Going with your gut and finding a spot that reflects how you feel that day is the main thing to keep in mind.

Learn About Lighting

Lighting makes all the difference when it comes to landing that perfect shot. “Lighting is super important,” Smith says. “You can choose what kind of lighting you want (ex: shaded, direct, golden, etc). It all depends on how you want the picture to look. I love shaded light. I never want the lighting to be too direct because it can be harsh.”

Shooting in natural light is always a go-to if you can, but it really depends on the aesthetic direction you’re going for. “In my opinion the best lighting is in direct sunlight or golden hour,” Dowty says. “It gives photos a more warm, natural tone to them, making it look very natural with minimal editing needed. I won’t shoot if it isn’t sunny out!”

Golden hour, as Dowty recommends, is right after the sun rises or right before the sun sets, and it helps obtain an effortless glow. If you're taking pics outdoors, it's important to remember the sun is at its highest point midday, which can create really harsh lighting. Sometimes shadows can be artsy and moody, too. If you're indoors, posing for photos by a window might be an idea to capture a solid shot.

Practice Your Poses

If you're the subject of your photo, it can be helpful to have some go-to poses. This might take some practice in the mirror or in front of friends, but it's useful to get familiar with your own body movements in front of the camera. Once you have them locked down, you're more likely to take photos that you actually like. For Dowty, she uses a mix of both poses she has practiced and more spur-of-the-moment movements depending on what she’s shooting. “For example, if it’s a flowy dress, I will practice a lot of movement shots in the mirror to see what looks best,” she says. “The constant movement during photoshoots creates those effortless, Pinterest-y pics that everyone loves.”

Practice in the mirror or grab a tripod and try out different angles. Move your body around and figure out what you like best so you can nail your photos every time. Even if you don’t consider yourself all that natural in front of a camera, over time you’ll eventually feel comfortable and confident enough to pull different poses and body placements out of thin air.

Find Your Inspiration

Social media is full of inspiration to help you take pretty and fun photos. There is an overwhelming number of style and travel influencers, as well as photographers who have perfected their Instagram feeds if you’re looking for some examples to help you find your style. Not to mention, Pinterest and TikTok can show you some great ideas, too. “I do a lot of research on Pinterest and IG for inspiration on poses and locations,” Dowty says. Seek out inspiration before you get to your destination so you get an idea of what's possible.

Most importantly, connect to your own tastes and likes. “Figure out what creatively gets you excited!” Smith says. “I love making life look like art. It's fun for me to take aesthetic pictures doing things we normally do like getting ice cream, going to the beach, riding bikes, etc. Stay true to yourself and it'll come naturally!”

Learn How To Edit

Learning to edit can take your photos to the next level. Have you ever been frustrated when your camera failed to capture the beauty of what you were seeing in real life? The reality is that cameras don’t always capture the true hues and details that our eyes can see. “Editing is such an important part of the IG game,” Dowty says. “Finding a good preset you like and sticking with it is best for an aesthetically pleasing, cohesive feed. For example, something I always do to give my photos a brighter, airy, soft effect is turn the contrast down a bit.”

Of course, there’s no substitute for great natural lighting, but editing can help you curate the look and feel you want in your posts. “If I want a more moody look, I will turn the exposure down,” Smith says. “I also love to use editing to give my pictures a more retro look.” There's no need to over-edit, but some extra touch-ups and aesthetic direction can help bring your photos to life. Get creative with apps including Lightroom CC and VSCO.

Tell A Story

Summer is full of places to go, sights to see, friends to hang out with, and food and drink to enjoy (and pose with). Regardless of whether or not you’re going on vacation, the summer months seem to help everyone have a bit more fun outside. For great Insta photos, capture that fun you’re having by relaying the story of it all. “Understand the story you are trying to tell and embody that through your clothing, location, poses, faces, and props,” Smith says. “My favorite summertime photo ideas are summer picnics, fields, picking flowers, using fruit as props, ice cream trucks, and so much more!”

Lean in to the summertime tropes — it’s not all year-round that you can relax on the beach with a drink in hand under the sun or set up a picnic in the park with your besties.

Be Confident

Of course, the top tip for achieving enviable IG photos is to have fun with it and be confident in yourself. If you don’t enjoy the process, you likely won’t enjoy the picture. “My biggest tip is confidence,” says Smith. “Be confident in your outfit, hair, makeup, [and] creativity, and you'll take a great picture.” Going into photography half-heartedly will end with photos you don’t love. As long as you are feeling it and feeling yourself — in combo with some expert-backed photo-taking tips on the crafty side — the end result will be worth it.

With these tips, you'll leave your summer vacation with good times and the photos to prove it. Start practicing now to up your Instagram game before the sunny months even begin!

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