Editor’s note: This article was originally published on July 15, 2012.
After the vacation glow has faded and you’ve gone back to the daily grind, photographs can be a pleasant reminder of your trip and an inspiration for journeys to come. We’ve put together some tips that’ll help you make even better vacation pictures.
Before you even pick up your camera – certainly before you take your trip – thoroughly read your camera’s owners manual. Even the most modest cameras today offer a remarkable array of sophisticated functions that may serve you well. If nothing else, it may spark some bit of creativity. Several years ago, a Nikon technical adviser came to The Sacramento Bee to teach our photo staff Nikon’s latest technology. At the conclusion, he said that if everyone read the owners manual, he’d be out of a job.
So many potentially great photos are lost in a sea of unnecessary elements. By moving closer to your subject, you usually can increase the impact of the shot you’re actually after. Think about what you are trying to show in the photo and move closer until there is nothing unnecessary left in the frame. Think about how many times you’ve had to explain your photos as you show them to friends. “It’s kinda hard to see here, but that guy standing in front of the building is holding up the world’s rarest dime.”
USE LANDMARKS WITH DISCRETION
If you take a photo of the Eiffel Tower with your spouse standing next to it, you will have a static photo of the Eiffel Tower, and no one will notice your spouse. It will look like every other postcard view you’ve seen before. It is your presence that will make your photos different from all the postcards. So shoot a close photo of your spouse and let the Eiffel Tower remain a small storytelling element in the background. That will make a photo worth looking at more than once.
TRY A DIFFERENT ANGLE
Most people shoot all their photos from the same vantage point – at eye level, standing upright. You can add a tremendous amount of variety and interest if you change it up once in a while. If you are shooting children, for example, stoop to the child’s level. Try holding the camera over your head, or place the camera on the ground and point it up. Shoot a street scene straight down from a balcony. Remember that the camera can shoot pictures even if it is not pressed against your face.
SHOOT A LOT
Often the places you go on your vacation are destinations you may never see again. If you want memorable photos, don’t waste the opportunity by being economical with your camera. Digital media can hold a vast number of photos so don’t scrimp. I had a teacher many years ago who suggested this approach: Take a photo and then ask yourself what it was about that scene that interested you. Now, move closer and take another shot of just that portion. What’s interesting about that photo? Now, move closer and shoot just that portion, etc., until you’ve exhausted the possibilities.
REMEMBER THE DETAILS
Don’t forget to include some shots of the finer details that can help tell the story of your visit. If you are shooting pictures of an outdoor market, take a few close-ups of the items at the market. At the beach? How about a shot of a seashell, or your toes in the sand? When I’m shooting assignments for The Bee I generally think about groups of three shots: an overall or wide shot, a medium shot and a detail. Remember that you’re trying to tell a story visually, and it’s the details that make a story richer.
When I was learning photography, I would shoot what I thought were spectacular scenic images only to be disappointed by the resulting photo. I eventually realized that I had been shooting backgrounds, and with nothing of interest in the foreground, the photos were pretty dull. After that, whenever I found a scene that interested me, I would wait until someone – anyone – passed in front of my background. A woman walking her dog, a kid on a bicycle, a stray cat – anything at all that was alive would make the photo work.
LOOK FOR INTERESTING LIGHT
Sometimes a scene is interesting simply because the light hits it in an interesting way. Shaded streets with shafts of sunlight through a tree, the amber-colored street lamp that skims across the bricks on the side of a building, or the halos created by light shining from behind your subject can make ordinary scenes artful. If you have the patience, look for the interesting light and wait for something to happen there. Photos like these can be real magic.
DON’T LET BAD WEATHER STOP YOU
When talking about photos there really is no such thing as bad weather, just different weather. Overcast skies create flattering light for tight, close portraits. Wet weather provides mood, reflections and deeper colors. Keep shooting no matter what nature hands you, because it’s all good.
Human faces draw viewers into a photograph. Make an effort to capture expressions of the people in your photos. Your photos will look livelier, and they will better convey a sense of your visit.