If there’s one time of the year when you’re guaranteed to go snap happy, it’s on holiday. Thing is, for most of us, snap happy doesn’t ensure a ton of great photos. Quite the opposite, in fact. Lame landscapes, head cutting head shots and gurning groups abound. So what exactly do you need to take holiday pictures that don’t just showoff your great memories, but your great photography skills, too? We asked our resident art and photography pro, Adam Monaghan. Here’s what he had to say.
Some photographs have cliché written all over them, but that doesn’t make them necessarily bad. Even pro photographers will always want to bag a few ‘classic’ images for their archive. Black and white is the obvious choice and certain vistas unquestionably lend themselves to that ‘classic’ look.
Meet the locals
Photographing local people can be a tricky proposition since very often the best pictures are the candid ones and people can understandably get upset. However, there is nothing at all wrong with asking somebody’s permission and sometimes even just raising your camera and making eye contact will get you a nod of approval… or occasionally a scowl of ‘Don’t You Dare!’
Most cities have their own stunning landmarks and after you’ve got your classic shot, go looking for other ways to capture those famous monuments. Making abstract compositions is one easy way to bring a new look to a well known icon. Alternatively, get up close and think about tiny details and oddities that capture its spirit.
Explore the night
It’s always good to have a mini tripod in your suitcase; they take up no room and are great for getting shots that you otherwise wouldn’t get. (The bigger your camera, the sturdier the tripod will have to be though). Even mediocre street scenes can be brought to life by shooting them at night on long exposures. But even without a tripod, you can look for suitable level surfaces to balance your camera.
Shoot on the move
People always think that a camera has to be still to get a great shot, but that’s only half the story. If you move the camera at the same speed as the subject (panning), some great effects can be captured. Back in the days of film these shots were a bit of a gamble but with digital it is easy to immediately see whether a shot needs just a little more or less exposure time and have another go.
There are obviously bags and bags of gizmos that you can add to your camera, but there’s one simple (and small) piece of kit that no one should be without: a circular polarising filter. Using a polarising filter is one of those eureka moments. The first time you use one you’ll be amazed (and a little confused). Don’t worry about how they work, just accept that they do and have fun! Skies become bluer, clouds become fluffier and water becomes transparent… see, you want one already don’t you?
Get up early, don’t relax ‘til late
We all know that you go on holiday to relax and being awake (and sober) at sunrise and not already in a bar at sunset will generally be a tall order. But remember – dusk and dawn are when you’ll capture the best light. It’s at these times that the deep colours, the long shadows and the perfect silhouettes come out to play: three ingredients guaranteed to make strong photographs.
Those amazing shots you see in travel magazines are rarely ‘lucky’ and photographers will visit somewhere time and time again to get the right light and the right conditions for the perfect picture. Whilst you may not have that luxury on your holiday, you can always plan a little and be ready for ‘that’ moment. It might be as simple as just sitting in a café with a coffee for an extra hour until the sun moves into the ‘right’ position or maybe just waiting for the right person to walk into shot.
Go below the surface
Although it’s still possible to buy disposable underwater cameras, you can also get waterproof housing for your normal camera. With clear water and bright skies, this opens up a whole new area of photography. Just make sure you buy the exact housing specifically made for your camera model and then learn how to close it properly… really, really well.
Read the signs
OK, so this is a personal quirk, but I’ve always loved foreign signs. Whether it’s mismatched translations, ironic juxtapositions or crazy symbols, the inherent graphic element of signs always make for great photos.
Whilst everyone loves those holiday brochure images of perfect sunsets, white sand beaches and crystal clear water, at the end of the day, this will have been your holiday and not some generic idealised trip. That means taking photos of stupid things, funny things, your goofy friends, your annoying family, a terrible dinner, a brilliant cocktail… all the things that made the trip special to you and which, in years to come, will bring back all those memories.
Some fabulous tips from a man who’s not only been there, but done it, too. If you’ve got any techniques that you’d like to share, don’t be shy. Jot your advice down in the comments below.