10 Top Tips to Getting Great Holiday Photos

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Do you ever get back from a fantastic holiday disappointed with the photos you've taken? Do your holiday snaps fail to live up to the exotic locations you visited? Blurred objects, wonky horizons, subjects with parts cropped off to mention but a few of the commonest ailments.

Well don't worry. With a little help and advice we can all take pictures of which we can be justifiably proud. It does not matter how basic your camera is, it is the person that takes great photos not the camera. Good results can be achieved even with the camera in a mobile phone if some basic guidelines are followed.

Over the last couple of years I have really come to appreciate the photos I take when I am on holiday. They bring back so many memories of the good times with friends and family and also of the places, people and things we have seen. If a photo captures the atmosphere of the time and location it can be wonderfully evocative of some of our happiest times.

This article is about taking better holiday photos but there are a couple of things I should mention first with regard to travelling with a camera. I'll be brief so here they are.

Make sure you have adequate insurance both for yourself and your belongings especially if you have an expensive camera, even basic digital models can be fairly pricey. Cameras are not affected by X-ray machines so you can pack them in hand luggage without worry. Make sure they are adequately protected if packed in your main luggage such as wrapping in towels and being placed in the centre of your suitcase, although if it is here it will not be available for photo opportunities en route.

Also, if you are travelling with a digital camera be sure to take enough memory for storing the photographs you take. A spare memory card and battery are a good idea in case of failures. Keep your camera clean and in good order by getting a carrying case and taking a camera lens cleaning cloth or glasses cleaning cloth.

So you have arrived and you have a clean, working camera with plenty of power and memory. Here are my top tips for great holiday photos.

Get sharp pictures by avoiding camera shake. Frame your shot, control your breathing - I find gently exhaling as I take the photo helps - and gently squeeze the shutter button. Steady yourself by leaning or resting on any available solid objects such as tables, doorways, walls, trees, fences etc. If there is nothing available stand with your legs a little way apart and tuck your elbows into your body as this will help stabilise the camera as much as possible.

Frame the shot carefully. How many times have we seen trees or lampposts growing out of people's heads or with the tops of their heads cut off by the frame of the photo? Keep objects, including fingers away from the lens of the camera. Easily done if you have a camera with a view finder where you do not see through the actual lens of the camera.

Compose your photos for added interest. Use strong lines within the composition to lead the viewers' eye into the shot, such as a path or road, to a focal point. Try to find something to add foreground interest in wider scenic views such as a plant or rock. Pretty much anything will do. Try turning the camera on its side for portrait format pictures or tilting it to add drama to your photos.

Look for details in objects and locations for example the texture in rippled sand or the patterns in local fabrics. Closer shots of objects that are common to the area you are staying in such as pottery, local plants or architectural details can often say as much about the place as panoramic postcard type shots.

Take photos in the early morning light or wait for the hour before sunset. The light at this time of day is much warmer than the harsh blue light of midday and will be much more atmospheric. Strong side lighting from a sun low in the sky can also produce interesting shadows within the landscape.

Get up early - I can hear you groaning - and capture the deserted beach or local town. Usually full of tourists, holiday destinations change character when empty of people and you may be able to take home some different photos of a well known location.

Move in closer to your subject. Really fill the frame with the object your are photographing. Many times I have ended up with a photo that does not capture the essence of the subject as it is lost within other distracting elements. So move in close and then closer still and photograph from different angles to get the most powerful image.

Take photographs of the local inhabitants but ask permission first. It can be quite daunting but it will avoid causing offence on personal, cultural or religious grounds. Most people are happy to oblige and interacting with the locals will enrich your holiday experience as well as provide you with great photos.

If the weather is bad get out and take photos. On many occasions I have seen beautiful atmospheric shots taken in dull rainy weather. It changes the character of a place and provides a different view than the normal one. If you are at the coast and the weather turns stormy you are in luck. Crashing waves and dramatic skies make for awesome images.

Use a frame within a frame. What I mean is use some thing like a doorway or a window to create a frame around your subject. Other ways could be to use trees or plants, the entrance to a street or opening to a square to frame a shot. These pictures can be very effective as they allow the viewer to place themselves within the photo and be part of the scene as you saw it.

Make a statement with your photos. Photograph the old and new next to each other. The modern and the traditional, decay and vitality, rubbish in a tidy place, poverty in the midst of riches. This sort of picture can tell the story behind the location and some are easily worth a thousand words.

Look for strong graphic images such as silhouettes at sunset or sunrise, dramatic combinations of colours, patterns of line and form. This sort of picture may end up being completely abstract but very interesting and satisfying all the same.

Use the sky. Very often the sky can be as interesting as the landscape beneath. Think sunsets and sunrises, storm clouds, fluffy summer clouds, single clouds, unusual shaped clouds etc. Balance the sky with what is in the landscape. It there is not much interest on the ground place the horizon low in the frame and include more sky and visa versa.

If you have a digital camera then you can check the shot that you have just taken and correct any mistakes as you go. Use this facility to edit your photos and delete those that you don't like to save storage space on the memory.

My final words are experiment, get involved, have fun. Don't be too stiff, relax and get into it. With digital cameras you can take as many photos as you want and just keep the good ones.

About the Author

Sean McCarthy is the marketing director of HelpMeTravel.co.uk a leading airport parking booking web site built to compare airport parking prices across the UK. He is also a keen amateur photographer currently living in the UK dreaming of making a living taking photographs.

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