Capturing the beautiful views you see at your golf course with a camera isn’t easy. The main issue is that cameras don’t see the world the same way the human eye does. You’ll need to make use of good photography tips and techniques in order to capture the true marvel of your grounds.
The best way to do this is to hire a professional photographer who has expensive equipment and the knowledge required to show off your property in all its glory. However, photographers are expensive and most golf courses don’t have thousands of dollars lying around to cover the fees necessary for multiple shoots and editing.
The good news is, smartphones are now equipped with amazing cameras that can get the job done when it comes to building a library of pictures that you can use for your social media pages. That being said, even the best camera on the market won’t take good photos if the person taking them is not using proper technique. That’s where these golf course photography tips come in. We’ll go over the important points you need to follow in order to take beautiful pictures with the phone in your pocket.
Taking the photo
1. Composition (leading lines vs. rule of thirds)
Composition is described as the way you place, include or exclude elements in a photography. For your golf course, those elements might include landscape, flags, signs, fences, trees, bunkers, water hazards, carts, cart paths as well as anything else you see around your operation. There are a few different ways you can divide up the elements in your photos.
If you’ve got a subject you’d like to show in your photo, don’t just place that object in the centre. Instead, use the rule of thirds to give a much more interesting composition. To do this, turn on “Grid” in your camera settings so that your screen will be divided in thirds. Place the subject of your picture at the cross-section of two of these lines. Following this rule will lead to more natural-looking pictures compared to putting your subject in the centre. Take a look at the picture below, the sign is placed at the intersection of the left and bottom lines.
Another composition technique is the use of leading lines. If you’ve got a trail, bridge, entryway, or any other lines that you can find, use them to lead the viewer’s eye. Take a look at the example below, you’ll notice that the fence is the leading line. It starts at the edge of the screen and draws your eye towards the centre and to the back. This also gives a much greater impression of depth in your photo as the perspective you receive from the fence will show the distance between the foreground, middleground, and background. Without leading lines, a picture like this might look flat and boring. You can also use a similar strategy if you’ve got straight lines, which you can find on some paths and buildings. However, instead of having those lines come across your screen, centre your frame on them so that the lines are perfectly squared up.
2. It’s all in the angles
The way you hold your camera is directly tied to the results you’ll get. Don’t just extend your arms and hold your phone at eye level! One of the best ways to capture stunning photos of a landscape is to get low to the ground or try different creative angles. Position your camera so that the subject is in the foreground, the area closest to your camera, and follow the composition rules we outlined above.
Make sure that the middleground and background are also filled with interesting elements as well. In most cases, this will actually be your golf course, so try to capture the area around your subject that has the most interest. For example, if one side of your subject is a forest and the other side is a fairway with sand traps and a small lake, you should definitely opt for the latter. Having more interesting features in your pictures will keep people eyes on them for longer and not lead them away. It will also help to convey a sense of discovery to your audience.
The background will most likely include the sky, which is why it’s recommended to take pictures as the sun rises or sets. You’ll get much better colors than in the middle of the day, when the sky colors and shadows are flat.
3. Find good light
On your iPhone camera app, adjusting the exposure is usually automated. If you’re not happy with the way the picture looks when you first look at your screen, try tapping in the brightest part of your photo (usually the sky) to manually adjust exposure. This will adjust the exposure to match the light coming from that part of the picture, by reducing the highlights. You’ll notice a yellow square pop up on your screen, if you’d like to turn the exposure down, drag your finger downwards. If you’d like to turn the exposure up, drag your finger up the screen.
The goal with lighting is to be able to show everything in the photo without having the highlights blasted out and having the shadows be completely black. In your iPhone settings, make sure you have High Dynamic Range turned on. What HDR does is take multiple pictures at once, all at different exposures, and blends them together to give you a balanced image.
You can play with lighting to give an artistic edge to your pictures. If you want a more somber and moody photo, turn the exposure down. If you want something more bright and happy, turn the exposure up.
You also need to take into account the natural lighting you’ll have depending on the time of day. The best nature pictures are taken at sunrise and sunset. At these times, there’s more color variation in the sky and because of the sun’s position, all of the shadows will be longer, giving more depth. Alternatively, a picture taken around noon usually is more “flat” because of the sun’s position.
Edit your photos to make them shine
Even the best of pictures will need some editing. Some of the colors may be off, the alignment may be crooked, or it might need additional sharpening and cropping. Professional photographers take hours to edit photos, but for your purposes as a golf operator, you can follow these basic editing guidelines to take your photos from average to extraordinary.
There are a number of free photo editing software suites that you can choose from. Some of the best ones that you can download right to your phone are Lightroom and VSCO. Check out the video below, where we show you how to get a quick but effective edit of your pictures.
1. White Balance (blue/yellow, green/pink)
White balance is the overall adjustment of intensity of colours so that objects that appear white in reality also appear white in your pictures. Usually you only need to adjust how “cold” or “warm” the picture looks. The pink and green channels can be useful for adjusting skin tones in weird lighting conditions. Different sources of light create different colour hues in your camera, so you’ll need to adjust that temperature to bring those hues back to what your own eyes saw.
2. Exposure (reduce highlights, increase shadows)
Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the sensor of your camera. A well-balanced exposure should properly display highlights (a sky with the sun, for example) and shadows (shade under a tree, for example). A picture is overexposed when there is too much light; making shadows appear very clearly but reducing the definition of highlights. Alternatively, a picture is underexposed when there is not enough light; making shadows appear too dark but rendering highlights with clear definition.
3. Framing (crop or align)
Sometimes you may take a photo that is slightly misaligned. This can show up most if you’ve got some man-made lines in your picture, like a building or a straight pathway. A crooked structure can make your entire photo look off, so if you’ve got a straight line in your picture, you should make sure that it is parallel to the edge of your frame. The overall alignment is also important – sometimes having only 1 specific element aligned is worse than giving the overall elements a common alignment.
Cropping a photo is useful to remove some of the unnecessary parts of a picture or to get a closer look at the focus of the photo. When viewing a landscape, some parts might not be interesting and will take away from the rest of the image. Having too much sky or too much open field on one side of the frame will bring the viewers’ eyes to those areas instead of what you’re trying to highlight. Crop these parts out so that you show off the better parts of your images and not the bland ones.
4. Last touch (sharpening, contrast, colour filters)
After you’ve adjusted white balance, exposure and framing – you can add your final personal touch.
First, you might want to sharpen your pictures to make the subjects pop. Sharpening will increase the contrast between the edges of the different parts of your image, giving you a more crisp result. Make sure you don’t sharpen too much though, you’ll end up with a picture that looks unnatural.
Second, adjust the contrast to make the colours more dramatic. Adding contrast will make the lighter colours lighter and the darker colours darker. You’ll be able to make your photos more vibrant, but make sure not to over-do it.
Third, if you wish to give your picture a “special effect”, add a colour filter to spice things up! This can be done easily in VSCO and Instagram.
How good is my phone’s camera?
Shopping for electronics is difficult. Specs are often just thrown at the average consumer by tech reviewers and advertisements, and most of the time, people don’t understand the information they’re being given. We’re going to give you a quick rundown of the camera specs and available features that you’ll see when shopping for a cell phone so that you can make the best choice for your needs.
Megapixels are a measure of camera resolution, or of the visible sharpness and detail of the photos. 1 megapixel is actually 1 million pixels. Obviously, you’ll want a camera with the highest number of megapixels, but there are other specs that you need to look at when making your decision. A good mobile phone camera will have around 12 megapixels. More than 12 is not necessary because of how limited the size of the sensor is (you may actually end up with lower quality pictures). Any less and your images will be less sharp and not as detailed.
2. High Dynamic Range
High Dynamic Range is a technology that has found its way into many modern smartphones. In short, it takes multiple shots when you press the capture button, all at different exposures (one that is exposed for highlights, one for midtones, and one for shadows). Your phone then blends these pictures together to produce one photo that is more balanced than it would have otherwise been. It will use the lighter version of parts that were too dark and the darker version of parts that were too light, all to give you a nice, well-exposed image. In your settings, make sure that you have switched on the ability to keep the original photo as well. That way, if you don’t like what the HDR feature produced, you can edit the original to your liking.
3. Dual Cameras
Dual cameras are popping up all over the smartphone industry. The second lens usually has a portrait lens that is using a longer focal length (ex: 50mm) with more depth-of-field potential. This is great for taking pictures of close-ups (ex: food at your restaurant) and personnel.
A dual-lens camera is not needed – but if you have it, make sure you use it to its full potential. The results you get will look a lot more professional, as if you had a much more expensive camera where you could properly adjust the focus.
Get some help with hardware
Mobile phones can be limited in their camera features because they need to perform so many other tasks. If you want to get serious about photography without paying the serious prices that come with professional equipment, consider buying these accessories:
1. Attachment lenses
The lens that comes on your camera is not a zoom lens, so you are limited to one focal length. You can completely transform your photos by buying a new lens that’s longer or wider. These lenses easily attach to your cellphone and can drastically improve the quality you get. You can find some cheap solutions for around $20, but because you’re running the social media for a professional operation, we suggest that you opt for something more in the $100 range.
This price may seem a little steep, but for the quality that you get, it’s well worth the investment. The cost is also relatively cheap if you compare it to the fees that photographers charge or the thousands of dollars that good-quality cameras cost.
These lenses are easy to take on and off, and they don’t require much setup at all. Here’s a list of some of the products that we recommend:
2. Mobile tripods
Tripods are a cheap but great investment that can be useful for all of your content creation. They’ll hold your phone steady while you use your camera, reducing the amount of shake in a video and the amount of blur in a photo. They can make it easy for a head pro to record a swing tutorial video or just a quick clip showing the first tee off of the day. If your pictures are coming out a bit blurry when you take them, it may be because your phone moves slightly when you press the capture button. Using a tripod will reduce the amount of shake you get and lead to much sharper pictures.
Following all of these tips will help you get much better pictures that you can then post to your social media. Quality posts will lead to many more followers and help build your brand image. What’s more, most of the things that we covered are free, so with a little bit of effort and not a large investment, you can seriously up your golf marketing game. Feel free to ask us any questions you might have or share your results!