Journalist Hillary Federico and cameraman Matt Andrew have it pretty good right now. The couple won LifeProof’s Unleashed Summer Road Trip contest and are now on the ultimate road trip, cruising around the country in a custom EarthRoamer Expedition Vehicle visiting National Parks and catching up with fellow LifeProof ambassadors at events like the X Games Austin and the Vans US Open of Surfing. Their main task: Take—and share—great photos along the way. How are they doing that? We rang them up for some advice.
1. Be Quick on the Draw
“The best camera is the one that’s with you,” says Hillary, a freelance writer and social media consultant. “Which, for most of us, is our phone.” Matt, whose regular gig is a camera operator for televised sports like NBA games, suggests using the burst mode for action shots or wildlife. “On most phones, simply hold the shutter button down for a motor-drive like series of shots.” About to miss the shot of your dog jumping off the raft? Access your camera quicker for candid shots by bypassing the phone’s password with the swipe-up toolbar.
2. Get Down and Dirty
Matt advises you shoot lower or higher to stand out from all the standard eye-level shots. “Climb a tree or put your camera right down at beach level to catch that crabs-eye view of the wave crashing on the beach. A good drop-proof, waterproof case”—Matt prefers the LifeProof FRĒ—“is key here.”
3. But Don’t Zoom
“Moving yourself or your phone closer forces you to be more intimate with your subject,” says Matt. Plus, most smartphones have mediocre to bad zoom functions—zooming in just pixelates the image. Pixelated, low-resolution images look awful.
4. Consider the Composition
Use the rule of thirds, says Hillary, turning on the screen’s grid feature for guidance. Put your photo’s subject where lines intersect or use them to keep a horizon line straight. “Your eye is naturally drawn to the lightest part of an image, weather that’s a sun flare or a brightly lit leaf,” says Matt. Use that in your composition. With a landscape, create a foreground, middle ground, and background and make the viewer look through the whole image.
5. Make Deliberate Choices
Take the scenic route and always pull over if you see a bizarre road sign or interesting roadside attraction. And take the extra time to figure out what the hero of the photo should be. “Is the subject of your photo the fish in the foreground or the mountains in the background? Make it one or the other and your photo will be a lot stronger,” says Matt. “Be open to the image. If the light is hitting the mountains just right, that’s probably a stronger subject than the foreground fish.”
6. And Know When to Hit Record
Some scenarios naturally lend themselves to video, like when your buddy is working up the courage to jump off a big cliff. (Hint: Hit record earlier than you think. The footage of him psyching himself up might prove to be even better—and funnier—than the actual jump.) When you do start filming, all the same rules that apply to still images apply to moving images. Look for the light. Compose using the rule of thirds. If you are interviewing someone, get close to him or her so their face fills most of the frame. Have them talk to an interviewer just to the side, says Hillary. “It yields more natural footage than trying to make them talk into the camera.”
7. Move Around
Shoot a wide, medium, and tight shot of each subject and for B-roll so you won’t have to repeat shots in your edit. “Shoot a lot more footage than you think you’ll need,” says Matt. For their road trip, the couple is using a LifeProof Suction Mount to get exterior windshield shots and to stabilize the phone for dashboard shots.
8. Do Selfies Right
“Selfie sticks can be embarrassing if you use them too much or at the inappropriate time, but they do allow for more background and context to your shot to tell a bigger story,” says Hillary. Alternately, use the up-volume button on the top of the phone to reduce camera shake and blurry selfies.
9. Choose Wisely
When you edit, Matt says, “select for the ‘apex of action’—the dog running with all four feet off the ground, or the snowboarder with a plume of powder covering his face.” Use downtime—like riding shotgun—to trash subpar shots, and also store photos and video footage on the cloud to save phone memory, says Hillary.
10. And Always Go Golden
“The number one hashtag seems to be #sunset,” says Hillary. “We like getting up for sunrise, though, because fewer people are out there to clog up your shots.” Other bonuses of shooting first thing: better chance of getting mist on a river or lake and increased likelihood of wildlife shots (most animals are most active a first light). “But the bottom line is that if you go at either of the golden hours, you can’t really go wrong. That’s when you get the best light and most interesting skies.”