Holiday season is approaching again and the time of year when you'll no doubt be dusting off your old camera or considering buying a new one. This article will help you take better pictures, avoid disasters and maybe make you think a bit more before you press the shutter.
Photo by David Clapp
You only have to go to any popular tourist spot to see camera-clutching individuals out in their droves, each clambering to the same old spots to take the same old pictures. I wouldn't be surprised if the ground is eroded in certain places as certain spots have provided support for thousands upon thousands of people pointing their cameras to take pictures. Now here's an idea, how about some tripod manufacturer concreting one of their best selling models into place so you can get exactly the same picture! What I'm eluding to is it's better if you can get off the beaten track to take your pictures. If you're in a coach party and the coach stops, walk up the road and see if there's a better viewpoint. Coaches have to stop in lay-bys and that's not always the ideal vantage point. Often shrubs or trees block the view, and there's likely to be rubbish strewn all over the place. But the main thing is you won't have the same picture that everyone else has. You can usually buy those at the postcard shop.
Look For Ideas
Talking of which, postcards, taken by the professionals, often give you ideas and point out not only the obvious beauty spots but also the less ventured locations. When you stop in an unfamiliar village or town, it's always worth checking out the local postcards to see what previous photographers have discovered, and then plan your trip to include that location and take your own versions of the postcard shots. Use their ideas as inspiration for your own pictures, and use these on other locations. Of course with the internet available almost anywhere you can also do your research online, either before you go or at your hotel before you head-off for a day of exploration.
Photo by David Clapp
Wonky Won't Work
There are several simple tips to help you take better pictures with your camera. The main thing is to check the viewfinder just before you take the shot. Look for obvious problems such as trees or lampposts growing out of heads, horizons at an angle and fingers straying over the lens. Also avoid covering the flash when taking pictures indoors. Using a tripod will help ensure the horizons straight and you can also buy Hot Shoe Bubble mounts that can be placed onto the hot shoe of a camera to help ensure your camera is level.
In The Sun
If you're lucky you'll have good weather, lucky for your tan, but maybe not for your picture taking. The sun when high in the sky casts hard shadows and bright highlights that create too much contrast making detail in shadow areas become black and highlights washed out. Here's where your built-in flash will help. No, it's not just for parties and indoor frolics, the flash can be used to put detail back into shadow areas and also adds a sparkle to eyes (known as a catch-light). Use it when you can see harsh dark shadow under the nose and chin.
On The Beach
If you're a sun worshiper and head for the beach watch your camera. Cameras don't like salt water or sand and if either elements come into contact it's a recipe for disaster. You can buy a special waterproof pack that houses the camera and lets you take pictures with it in place, or you could buy a waterproof camera or a single use splashproof camera if you prefer. Of course, keeping your camera and lenses in a camera bag when not in use will reduce the amount of sand and sea-spray that gets into contact with it. An everyday backpack will have more than enough room for camera gear plus other accessories you may need for a day at the beach. For quick access, consider using a messenger or holster style camera bag such as the Stile holsters & Stile shoulder bags available from Manfrotto.
Photo by David Clapp
Photos Of People
When you go abroad you're likely to see interesting characters and will be eager to snap these locals in their natural environment. While some will be happy to pose, you must remember you are invading their privacy so don't go prodding your lens here, there and everywhere without understanding the culture of the locals. You can often go on tourist trips to villages that have been set up to show what life is like in the real villages and, as you've paid to go, there's no harm taking pictures. If you want to tread further a field do some research before you go.
Lastly, if you have an expensive camera make sure your insurance covers it. You don't want to damage your camera or have it stolen before you find you're not covered for damage or theft.