Thursday, July 31, 2008

Photography tips: 5 tips for better holiday pics

Dear tourist,

I am sorry I insulted you by calling your pictures crappy (last weeks’ article). That wasn’t very nice of me. Let me make it up to you by giving you five tips to improve your holiday pictures. You may already know one or two of them, but that still leaves the other ones to improve your shooting.

Un-center your composition
Whatever it is, you are photographing, try not to put it in the middle of the picture. It yields boring pictures. Instead, use the rule of thirds: put your main object @1/3 or 2/3 of the width or height of your picture. This gives a natural feel to your pictures. Act likewise with landscapes: the horizon should be at 1/3 (for spectacular skies) or 2/3 (if there is a lot to see in the landscape) of your picture, not exactly halfway.

Shallow dof for famous shapes
So, you’re visiting the Eiffel Tower / Acropolis / Coliseum / Golden Gate Bridge / whatever famous landmark you can think of. We’ve seen zillions of pictures of these landmarks, how will yours be better? Well, since you are going to photograph your fellow travelers in front of the landmark anyway (that’s what tourists do, they seem to need some proof that they were actually there), photograph them using a shallow depth of field (dof). How? Make sure you are fairly close to John / Mary / whoever you are photographing and set a large aperture (low f-number, or use the camera's portraiture mode). Then focus on John / Mary / whoever and shoot. The landmark will now be slightly vague in the background, but still recognizable because of its famous features.

Use a polarizer
If you are going anywhere sunny and want to capture those clear blue skies, invest in a polarizer. See the earlier article on how to use it and what to expect.

Avoid crowds
This one is a real challenge. Since you’re a tourist at a tourist attraction, you are part of the problem. If you’re at a top attraction during the top season, there will always be crowds. But you can limit the effect. Check for camera positions where crowds are less visible. Wait for big crowds to pass. If you just have a little patience, you’ll note that crowds tend to come in waves. Shoot between these waves. Zooming in on the subject may also help, and shooting at a slightly higher angle (especially for buildings) can be useful too. Don’t forget to picture the crowds as well, to show the folks at home just how packed the place was.

Time your visit
You may also avoid crowds by timing your visit at not-so-popular times, e.g. in the early morning or around dinner time (check the opening hours though). Timing will also help you get better light. Generally, and especially in sunny conditions, the light is much softer in the early morning or late afternoon. The hour before sunset provides the best light, and is therefore also known as ‘the golden hour’.

I sincerely hope you are not mad anymore and I wish you a great holiday.

Kind regards,


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