So summer is finally here! This hopefully means holidays, which means some of the best photo opportunities you will see all year. My husband started as a keen amateur, before turning professional, so I have roped him into give some some top tips for taking the best holiday photos – enjoy!
Get a camera!
Ok so this is obvious, right? But I’m guessing most of you are still using your phones! Yes there are some great filters, apps, editing functions available and the camera phones are creeping up on cameras for quality, but if you want to get really good photos – buy a camera. Think about getting one before you fly off. Here are some options to choose from.
When traveling, one of your primary goals is to take in the sights. You’re likely to encounter many breathtaking views that you’ll want to remember, just as they were seen through your eyes. What this means on a practical level is that you should pack a wide angle lens. If you’ve been meaning to pick one up, right before a holiday is the perfect time to do so. When you’ve got a beautiful view in front of you, unfortunately that fancy zoom lens will kill it. Instead you’ll want something that can grab as much of the landscape as possible for you.
If you’ve got the budget, a good 10-22mm would be an excellent place to start. If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, consider a less expensive 35mm prime lens. These are small and lightweight and should do a fairly decent job of really stretching your field of view.
Don’t forget faces!
It is worth it to miss the shot of Mickey Mouse walking by if you can instead capture the expression on your three year old’s face as it happens. Scenery shots are fine and well, but the people shots of your nearest and dearest are the photos that will make you laugh and cry, twenty years from now. If you want great face shots like the one below, use a lens that can get fairly close and make sure your aperture is wide open. This will give you that nice blurry background that highlights faces so well. Just make sure your focusing technique is solid. With wide apertures, always focus on the eyes (or eyelashes!) as they’re the most important part of the composition.
For shots like these, I would recommend a 50mm f/1.4. These lenses are extremely affordable and will make it seem effortless to take professional quality images. Here is a great one for Canon cameras:Canon EF 50 mm-f/1.4 USM Lens and one for Nikon users this is a little more expensive but a cracking lens:Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Nikon. If you want to have a look at other 50mm lenses to enhance your portraits, there are some more lenses here.
Get the details
When you’re somewhere you’ve never been before, capturing the tiniest details has a way of making the trip seem more magical when you’re showing the pictures to your friends and family. Even if it’s something almost anyone could find right in their own back garden. Capture the weave of the hammock on the beach, the grain in the bamboo flooring in your bungalow, and the tiniest bubbles in the wake of the tide. All very ‘arty! 😉 Macro photography is all about displaying the beauty in the mundane. Any moment that impacted you on your vacation can be represented metaphorically through the things around you.
Unfortunately, many lenses won’t allow you to focus close enough to your subject to take a decent macro. If you want to go all out, you should look at a dedicated macro lens like Canons one here or the Nikon one here:Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens for Nikon DSLR Camera
Watch for wildlife
Everyone loves a good animal picture. One of the best parts of traveling somewhere new, can be seeing various living things that you would never see back home. Don’t hesitate to venture from the beaten path and explore any areas where mother nature still has the upper hand. Capturing shots like the one below is sure to earn you some photography respect points with your peers, and is a great way to end up on the “interesting” section of Flickr. Just watch out for anything with teeth and don’t get too close!
The best way to capture anything that might potentially run away from you (or eat you) is definitely with a zoom lens. Most wild animals will be long gone before you get close enough to get a good shot with anything else so be sure to bring the biggest lens you own if you think there will be potential for some photos like these. Ideally you’ll want something that can hit up around 200-400mm. Borrow one, rent one or buy one.
Capture the illusion
This tip particularly applies to theme parks, zoos and other attractions. When you’re taking pictures at these locations, watch how you crop the photos. Anything you can do to hide “the man behind the curtain” so to speak will help make the picture more believable. What I mean by this is to crop out any fences, walls, signs, tourists, lights, etc. that make it obvious that the giant dinosaur you’re shooting is part of an exhibit. As an example, when you come home from the zoo you can either have 300 images that look like a day at the zoo or 300 images that look like you went on an epic African safari. It’s all in the cropping.
Learn how to photograph in the dark.
While on vacation, you have much less control over lighting situations than you would on your home turf with access to all your equipment. Whether you’re camping in the woods at night or watching the fireworks show at Disneyland, the lights will go out and there will still be plenty of photographs you don’t want to miss. This can be extremely difficult if you lack the proper tools and ‘know how’. For starters, familiarise yourself with long exposure shots. If you’ve got room, pack the tripod, if not, look for a nice flat surface to set your camera down while it goes about the business of collecting light.
Obviously, if there is any sort of movement involved, long exposures aren’t going to work. In this case you’ll need a good low light lens (something with a wide aperture). Camera-mounted flashes tend to produce really harsh lighting that will simply ruin your photos. Diffusing this light allows you to take advantage of the additional lighting without all the ugly side effects. The other side of this is knowing your camera gear really well so that you know which button to press for ‘settings’ and where it is.
Avoid the cliché
As you visit new and exciting places, resist the urge to just throw people in front of something and snap a picture; or at the very least, just don’t stop there. Try to consider yourself an artist and therefore aspire to present content in a unique manner that reflects your specific style.
A couple of gigs of photos of your family plastering fake smiles on their faces while posing rigidly in front of monuments is nice, but nowhere near the potential of what you could be bringing home. Try instead to create clever poses and compositions that you won’t see in the photo libraries of everyone who has ever been to that place.
Life moves so fast – watch your shutterspeed
Whether it’s from a bus ride through the Italian countryside or your kids running around on the beach, vacations are filled with motion. Not giving serious consideration to your shutter speed can turn your collection of photos into a major disappointment.
Never assume that just because the photo looks perfect on your tiny preview screen that it won’t have any blurring when you see it full size. Instead, keep that shutter speed as fast as you can get it, in these situations (unless of course you’re going for intentional blur). Even if what you’re shooting isn’t really moving, remember that you and your camera are. To avoid camera shake, try to stay above 1/60th-1/80 sec, and if you are shooting movement, make it much higher.
Give everyone a camera
Just because you’re the photographer in the family doesn’t mean you should have all the fun! In fact, being the guy everyone has to constantly pull along because you stopped yet again to take a photo is a good way to ensure your family goes without you next time! Giving everyone a camera is a great way to integrate photography into the trip and help ensure your kids don’t get bored looking at scenery, when they’d rather be riding roller coasters. It’s also gentle nudge towards something that could turn into a great hobby.
It doesn’t have to be anything expensive, anything from a simple disposable ‘flash and trash‘ to something in the cheaper range will get the job done. You’ll be surprised at how many really great shots will result when you give a kid a camera. Just don’t be upset when you realise your six year old takes better photos than you!
The best camera is the one you have with you.
So my final tip is this. It does not matter if it is a small camera, big camera or even if it is your smartphone -always remember to bring your camera with you as you might not get another chance to take that picture.
If you have any questions, post them in the comments below and I’d be happy to answer them.
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(Husband of The Travel Expert)