Simple tips to improve your holiday photos.
Knowledge of your camera’s controls and storage media, coupled with planning and preparation can help you take holiday photos you’ll enjoy sharing with friends and family. Here are nine key areas to focus on.
1. Match the ISO Setting to the Subject
Regardless of whether you shoot on film or with a digital camera, better pictures are obtained by using an appropriate sensitivity setting for the subject. If you”re using a film camera and holidaying in Australia in summer, choose an ISO 100 or ISO 200 film for best results (faster films, including the popular ISO 400 type, are not really suitable for beach shots or pictures taken in bright outdoor lighting as they are too sensitive for such conditions). Most digital cameras let users choose from several ISO settings, which control the camera”s sensor sensitivity. Best results for brightly-lit subjects will be obtained at ISO settings of 100 or 200, which minimise digital noise in the pictures you take. If in doubt, set the ISO control to auto”. This will automatically adjust the sensor”s sensitivity to a lower setting in bright conditions and boost sensitivity in dim lighting.
If you”re holidaying in the Northern Hemisphere when it”s winter, the opposite advice applies: use a fast (ISO 400 or ISO 800) film or set your digital camera”s ISO to its highest level. This will let you capture sharp photos with good shadow detail and a printable distribution of colours and tones.
2. Take Scenic Photos Early or Late in the Day
The most attractive scenic photos are those taken in the early morning (before about 9 am) or late afternoon (after about 3 pm) when the sun is fairly low in the sky. This produces a more directional style of lighting than the sun around noontime, and the well-defined shadows give a degree of modeling to elements in the landscape (or cityscape). Your pictures will have more depth and look more lifelike and interesting.
Note: the colour of the light changes in the first 60-90 minutes after sunrise and in the last hour or so of the day (depending on latitude). When the sun is near the horizon its light is redder, which accounts for the colour of sunset and sunrise shots.
Shoot at noon if you want to achieve a harsh lighting effect, with little in the way of shadows. Noontime shooting can also be handy in cityscapes, when you’re surrounded by tall buildings as the noon light is more likely to penetrate down to street level, which would otherwise be in deep shadow.
3. Check Your Pictures ASAP
This advice is particularly relevant to digital camera owners, who can usually replay their shots immediately after taking them and re-shoot if they aren’t happy with the image they see. Many cameras allow you to magnify the playback image so you can check focus and exposure levels in highlights (bright areas) and shadows. This control is well worth using.
Film camera users should have at least one of their films processed near the start of any trip to make sure their camera is working properly. Note: Don’t expect the results to be as good as the pictures you get from your local lab because processing conditions can differ in different regions of the world – as can printer operators” tastes. In some places, photolab printers are adjusted to warm up” skin tones, while in others the opposite is the case. Films purchased overseas can also produce slightly different colours from those that have been designed for Australian conditions. In most cases, these variations are extremely small – but they can explain some otherwise inexplicable quality discrepancies you might encounter.
4. Use the Correct White Balance Setting
This advice applies only to digital camera owners because film cameras don’t provide white balance adjustment. Although the auto white balance settings on most digital cameras works well under most types of lighting, if you really want accurate colours, matching the white balance pre-set in the camera to the type of lighting you’re shooting in will usually give better colour reproduction. Most cameras give you settings for incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy and bright sunlight conditions. Some provide several fluorescent settings to cope with variations in the colours of fluorescent lights. Others may offer a flash setting or a custom control that lets you adjust the colour to suit the ambient lighting. These are well worth using in difficulty lighting conditions (such as mixed lighting).
5. Where Possible, Avoid the Flash
On-camera flash units can often cause portrait shots to look flat and uninteresting and can cause the subject’s eyes to appear red (due to light reflection from the retina at the back of the eyes). You’ll get more-natural skin color, less harsh glare, and more consistent lighting throughout the photo if you shoot without the flash.
Cameras that let you adjust the flash output have a real advantage because you can cut back the flash output to counteract these problems. Best results are usually obtained by reducing the flash intensity by one or two steps.
If you have a digital camera, increasing the ISO setting will allow you to take better advantage of low ambient lighting for indoor portraits. You will also be less reliant on the flash.
6. Use a Tripod for Low-Light Shots
Put your camera on a tripod if you want to take photos after dark or in dim room lighting. Tripods are also a must for taking shots of firework displays and holiday lights. A good tripod will hold the camera steady while the shutter is open, ensuring your photos are not blurred by camera movement. Experiment by shooting the same scene several times, with different aperture settings or different shutter speeds.
Note: if you don’t have a tripod (or would prefer not to carry one), look for a flat, immobile surface, such as a window ledge, table or wall, on which you can place the camera. The vital thing is to keep the camera rock-steady while the shutter is open. How you achieve this is immaterial!
7. Keep Your Camera Readily Available
You never know when a great photo opportunity is likely to appear when you’re on holiday, so keep your camera at hand all the time. Carry it around your neck or in your pocket or purse so you can pull it out and use it with minimal delay.
Make sure its batteries have adequate charge. This is especially important for digital cameras, which consume much more power than film cameras. If you start the day with your digital camera’s batteries fully charged, those batteries should last all day.
If you know you’ll be taking a lot of pictures over an extended period of time, leave your camera turned on and let the camera’s power management system control power usage. This avoids the often long waiting periods while the camera powers up and allows you to shoot at will. Turning the camera on and off repeatedly can consume much more power than leaving the camera on and may impact on the battery’s longevity. Note: many cameras will switch off automatically if they haven’t been activated during a five-minute period. In such cases you will need to power them up again.
8. Take Plenty of Pictures
Holiday trips are often once-in-a-lifetime events so you should make sure you capture all the pictures you need to recall your happy memories, regardless of whether you travel with a film camera or a digital one. If you’re a digital camera user, make sure you start with a large memory card and have the ability to download your shots each evening and delete those that didn’t work.
Some travellers take a notebook computer with them. But many notebook PCs are not particularly portable and they’re a known target for thieves. Portable storage devices that allow you to download your shots directly from the camera or memory card are also available (albeit at a price).
Many one-hour photo shops have systems that allow you to download your digital pictures and order prints or store them on a CD. The latter is a useful option for freeing up your memory card for the next day”s shooting.
Some photolabs will also upload your shots to the Internet and provide you with a password so you can share them with family members and friends at home. Many will allow holders of your password to order prints from your photos via this system.
9. Handle Film With Care
If you’re travelling with unprocessed film, make sure it’s carried in your hand luggage – NOT checked-in baggage. Check out the advice on Travelling With Film on this website to ensure your films aren’t damaged by baggage inspection x-ray systems. (Digital media and processed films and prints are not affected by these systems.)