Expert tips from travel photographers to make the most of your camera, hone your skills and take home photos you’ll be proud to share and reminisce over again and again.
It has been a long, cold winter, and no doubt you are ready for the annual dose of sunshine, fresh air and mental break that the summer holidays bring.
Whether visiting family and friends back home, exploring to an exotic location, or enjoying a Dutch style camping trip, most will take the opportunity for some holiday snapshots.
The Power of Photographs
Photos are an evocative way to capture where you have been and what you have seen, and to come home with treasured memories for later on.
For those living away from family and friends, photos are a way to share life and experiences either online via social media or through more traditional prints and albums.
As a tangible medium, printed albums allow you to share photos in a more personal way: face-to-face with family and friends so that the interaction and story-telling becomes an experience in itself. They also make a thoughtful gift idea to take with you or leave behind, so it is worthwhile investing some time into taking great photographs.
The Right Equipment
Before you leave, consider which camera equipment is most suited to your type of holiday. If you anticipate a lot of outdoor activities like hiking or canoeing, it makes sense to take a small rugged camera instead of your SLR.
‘Travel light. Take a camera that you know well, and is easy to use,’ advises Daphne Channa Horn, independent documentary photographer from Amsterdam.
‘Get to know the weather conditions and seasons, is it damp all the time or do you need water or sand protection?’
With many modern travellers relying solely on their smartphone camera, it is advised to check the storage capacity and bring an external battery charge pack for extended trips.
The key is to be comfortable with what you are carrying and confident it can do the job, so you can focus on the photography and the experience.
Capture your Journey
Chicago-based photographer Kevin Kuster has travelled around the globe throughout his career. His number one tip is simply to always have the camera with you.
‘I know this sounds silly but, if you don’t have your camera you can’t capture amazing moments that just magically happen or appear right in front of you. This is one of the reasons mobile phone photography is so great, your camera is always in your pocket.’
Kuster mastered the art of telling stories through imagery as Senior Photography Editor of a top-selling international magazine. He suggests capturing different aspects of your journey from start to finish, including small detail shots as well as wide scenic shots.
‘Sometimes the trip to a location can be just as interesting as the destination itself. Shoot images that tell the story of how you got to your vacation destination. Shoot the local fruits in a farmers market or fishing nets on a boat dock or even trinkets in tourist shops that have the name of the destination. Small detail shots help to remind you of what you saw and tell your viewer a little about the location,’ says Kuster.
It is often the details about the place you’re visiting that make it unique; the food, architecture, landscape, or even street signs. Seeking out these details will open your eyes to discovering more about the environment around you.
The Best Lighting
It is widely acknowledged the best natural lighting occurs around sunrise and sunset, when the light is soft, warm and flattering. An added bonus is there are usually no crowds to contend with.
This is a great strategy to plan your day; get out early to shoot landmarks and scenery, spend the middle of the day visiting indoor museums, galleries or shopping, and head out again before sunset for more quality photography.
Lauren Bath, an ex-chef turned social media influencer and photographer in Australia, recommends a little reconnaissance for serious photographers and enthusiasts.
‘Check out the areas that you plan to shoot at during the day and set time aside to go back when the lighting is great (sunrise and sunset for example). Ask around, information desks and hotel staff can be a source on the best places to shoot. Try different scenes so you get a great overview of the place you visited.’
Lauren Bath www.instagram.com/laurenepbath
If you are short on time and need to take photos in the harsh midday light, Kevin Kuster offers a handy trick. ‘The high sun creates deep dark shadows on faces that don’t flatter people. Set you flash so it fires in complete sunlight. This is called ‘fill flash’ and it will fill in all those deep dark shadows on peoples face and create a more flattering picture.’
Of course there is every chance of cloudy, overcast conditions where sun position is irrelevant, especially if holidaying in the Netherlands. Don’t despair; these even-lighting conditions are perfect for nature photography (such as close-ups of flowers), portraiture, moody streetscapes and black and white photography.
Including photographs of the local people and their culture brings life to the story, however it is important to respect the local customs in regards to public photography, and ask for permission prior to taking photos. Use the international language of a smile, while gesturing to your camera; if they return the smile, go for it, and if they do not, respect their wishes and put the camera away.
Remember to get pictures of yourself while on vacation, especially when travelling alone. Aside from the notorious ‘selfie’ shots or asking a kind passerby, try creative reflections using building windows or mirrors. Lauren Bath encourages travellers to ‘think outside the square’, which she demonstrates through her popular Instagram account.
‘Social media photography is fun and a different challenge than regular travel photography. I sometimes mix up my travel photography by shooting some‘from where I stand’ style perspectives to really put the viewer in my shoes,’ says Bath.
Sharing photos online is something that comes naturally to Instagramers founder and manager, Philippe Gonzalez.
Not only are you keeping friends and family updated, it also provides backup and storage of your photos. As Gonzalez points out, a smartphone (or camera) is easy to lose when you travel.
‘If you are going to post a lot of pics and you are thinking about making a kind of full record, think first about a unique or funny tag that will be the reference of your trip.’ [for example, #joliepitt_hawaii2013]. ‘Don’t forget to write a short note about the places you´re visiting. You will need them for your titles.’ On this point, Gonzalez apologises for wrongly titling the photo below as PuebloAgosto. “It should be Thailand December 2010,” he sheepishly admits.
The final step when you return home is to select and edit the best photos. With digital photography it is easy to shoot a lot of pictures, however Kevin Kuster recommends to discard 95% of them. This sounds harsh, but will ultimately avoid mass storage of below-par photos which are never viewed again. A nice selection of prints is more satisfying than a digital mess.
‘The reason most people hate looking at family vacation pictures is because there are too many bad ones to look through. Only show your absolute best images to your audience. It has been said that the biggest difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is that the professional only shows their best work whereas an amateur shows everything.’
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Daphne Channa Horn: www.daphnechannahorn.com
Lauren Bath www.instagram.com/laurenepbath