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How To Improve Your Snaps Of People Taken On Holiday

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Category: Portraits and People

Portrait Tips For Your Travels - So, how can you take a good portrait, during the day that doesn't have deep shadows or kids pulling odd faces? Find out here.

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Cricket on the beach
Photo by David Clapp.


  • Camera Bag - Roller cases such as the Pro V11 make transporting large amounts of kit easier but if you're heading off to Disneyworld rather than a photographic holiday in the South of France, a Nano Camera Pouch will keep your compact safe and a backpack such as the Veloce V has plenty of pockets and dividers to keep a DSLR, lenses, memory cards and passports secure.
  • Tripod - Due to weight restrictions and space, you'll need a compact, lightweight tripod such as those available in Manfrotto's 390 and 290 series.


When you're enjoying the sand, sea, sun and sangria chances are, you won't be thinking about getting up during the 'golden hours' to shoot some portraits. Instead, you'll be trying to snap photos of your kids while they're dashing in and our of the pool and eating ice cream as the sun's beaming down. However, shooting at midday, when the light's directly above can cause heavy shadows to be cast on your subject's face. To solve this, it's tempting to switch positions so the sun sits behind you but this can cause your subject to squint which doesn't make a particularly pleasant holiday portrait. But don't fear, there are a few steps you can take to stop funny faces and deep shadows spoiling your shots.

Use fill in flash

If you notice shadows appearing under your subject's nose and eyes try using your flash as a fill in light. Some cameras also feature flash compensation so you can control the brightness of the flash. The extra burst of light can make the background appear slightly darker which helps make your subject 'pop' out of the frame. It also creates catch lights in the eyes and if the sun's behind your subject, the natural light can create an almost halo effect around them while the flash ensures the face is well lit.

Red eye

The problem with using flash is that it can cause red-eye, a problem which plagues many family holiday snaps. Many compacts have an anti red-eye mode or if you're using off-camera flash try bouncing it off something rather than firing it at your subject directly. You could always just correct the image in post production when you get home too.

Find some shade

When we say shade we don't mean somewhere with no light, just a space that's evenly lit where no pockets of bright light can shine on your subject's face. Palm trees have big leaves but they often have gaps in the leaves that let light through so look for areas such as outdoor eating and drinking places or hotel entrances where taxis pull up instead as these will have a solid cover overhead. Just remember to double-check your white balance and adjust your exposure for the slightly darker conditions. If you're by the pool or on the beach a sun parasol will work just as well, just watch your backgrounds to make sure there's nothing distracting or any clutter in the way. If there are no brollys but your subject's wearing a floppy hat this will shade the face, and help create the shade you need. Positioning them so they're side on to the sun can help too.

Bounce some light in

Not everyone will pack reflectors but you'll find plenty of objects at your holiday location that can work as one. Any white surface, patio tables, walls etc., or white t-shirts will reflect light onto your subject. You could even use aluminium foil if you can get your hands on some!


As children don't really sit still for very long switch your compact to Sports mode to give you the higher ISO and faster shutter speeds needed to help freeze their movement. If you're using a DSLR you can do this manually. Using the continuous shooting mode will also increase your chances of capturing a good portrait and you could always use several frames to create an action sequence.


Not all your portraits have to be posed shots. Try capturing your kids splashing in a pool or playing games on the beach.

Tight framing

For a more intimate shot fill the frame with your subject. This could be a shot that captures them waist up or for more impact, fill the frame with their face. This technique's particularly useful when you're in busy places where backgrounds can be distracting.


When you have your basic shots in the bag try shooting different angles, create silhouettes or add a touch of lens flare to your portraits. It's easier to create lens flare earlier in the day but it is possible in the afternoon, you just have to work from a lower angle. Make sure you're working in manual as if you trust the camera's meter, it'll turn your subject into a silhouette. You may need to manually focus too as your camera may try to focus on the brightest part of the image which won't be your subject.

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