How To: Take the Perfect Holiday Photo (Part 2 – Experimentation and Editing)

Following on from the first part of our guide to taking the perfect holiday photo, travel writer Frances Atkins is back with the second and final part of the guide, which looks at experimenting with your camera and the editing process. Over to Frances!

Step 4: Always be Aware of Light Sources


Part 2 Step 4 Always Be Aware of Light Sources


Aim to use natural light to give images a real holiday glow. Follow these simple rules for a diverse set of well-lit memories:

  • Counteract the harsh light of a midday sun; find a shaded spot for your subject to prevent the image being overexposed. This will also prevent dense and ugly shadows.
  • The light at sunrise and sunset is soft and creates warm images without anyone squinting. So get up early and enjoy staying up late! You can also soften light by using a white scrim if you’re willing to invest.
  • If you’re on the beach at sunset, use the narrow light source to your advantage by backlighting your subject. With their back to the sun, they’ll become an arty silhouette.
  • Generally speaking, you want the light to be broad, so no direct sunlight, but experiment and let direct light enter the frame at unusual angles whilst your camera is set to take multiple shots. Pick and choose from the results.

Keep an eye out for reflective objects in shot; think mirrors (a big no if you’re using flash), glass doors, windows and even dinnerware that’ll cause flares and red-eye. You can edit them out back home, but why make the extra work?

Remember, light is your friend, not your enemy – use it for effect.

Step 5: Experiment with Your Settings


Part 2 Step 5 Experiment With Your Settings


People often rush to capture a moment without considering their options. Planning a shot leads to success, so experiment with your camera settings to see what choices you have.

For any digital camera, there are three settings to pay close attention to: shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Shutter speed and aperture control how much light your device detects, whilst ISO is in charge of how fast it responds to the light.

Here are tried and tested rules for quick success:

  • Avoid motion blur with a shutter speed above 1/80, ideally going for 1/100. This may come in useful if you’re in a tour group with little chance to stop, or if you want an action shot.
  •  Increase you aperture (using the highest f-number) to blur your background and focus on one visual, such as a particular flower or a sea shell. Alternatively, decrease your aperture (using the lowest f-number) to get everything in focus, from the background to the foreground. This is best when shooting architecture and objects with finer detail.
  • Implement best sensitivity (ISO) settings for low light conditions, where a flash isn’t the best option, such as photos of wildlife.
  • Alter your exposure settings to match your environment, especially in snow (manual, +1, +2), which works as a reflective surface, to avoid underexposure. This is where the lens tries to average out the light, which leads to dull images. See Step 4: Always be Aware of Light Sources to keep your images well-lit.

Don’t be scared to take multiple photos of the same subject until you get it perfect (the right one might only be found afterwards when viewed on a computer and manipulated). With a few extra clicks, you could get that stand-out shot.

Step 6: Edit and Show-off Your Images


Part 2 Step 6 Edit and Show Off Your Images


Some of the best images don’t become obvious until after they’ve been edited. This is your final stage and should be completed after you’ve organised your digital files, perhaps in the week following your travels. Remember, however you manipulate the image, you can’t go wrong if you save the original and make a working copy.

  • Convert photos to black and white for dramatic effect (using programs such as Windows Live Photo Gallery).
  • Remove red-eye, if not done by your camera in the first instance, and shadows. This generally improves the aesthetics and goes back to the principle of balancing the ‘weight’ of an image; red-eye steals attention and needs to go, whereas shadows lead the eye away from your focus.
  • If, on inspection, your ratio in the grid wasn’t right, crop an image to correct the focus. With large image files, you’re able to do this without affecting the quality when it is viewed at full-size.
  • The majority of image editors, including GIMP, let you remove unwanted items, so edit out anything you don’t like the look of, such as a piece of litter.

Now you’ve done all the hard work, be proud of your skills and share your results.

  • Share your work online with fellow enthusiasts and holidaymakers. Try the Facebook page to get feedback and inspire others.
  • Create a slideshow (available on programs such as Windows Photo Gallery) as an efficient and fun way to show your images. Consider attaching your computer to a large TV screen to entertain all your friends and family.
  • If you’re more traditional, print-out your images either at home on photography paper (easily ordered online), or by getting them professionally developed. It’s less convenient for sharing, but with a physical copy you’re more likely to see your labours framed and on permanent display.
  • If you look to send your images out via email, perhaps to friends and relatives abroad, you should compress them into a zip file. This stops large memory files bouncing back to your email account. Also, your chosen viewer will be able to load them faster and be more likely to view them all as a result.

A Final Word

Of course, holiday photos are personal and you need to ask yourself with each click of the button: what am I trying to capture? Having these guidelines on hand is a way to ensure you truly have something memorable to look back on and share.

Now we’ve got the expertise out of the way, I’ll leave you with one last bit of advice my sister gave me after we were caught short on a trip to Lake Louise, Canada: always remember to head out with your battery fully charged!

Leave a Reply