We consult two professionals to find out how to take perfect family holiday photos.
Before you’re able to tackle the finer details of photography, you need to get to know your camera – play with the aperture, shutter speed and ISO so you know what is where, and why it is there. Also, make sure that you are always equipped with fully charged batteries and empty memory cards so that you are ever-ready to capture that special moment.
Don’t be afraid to crop in close to your subject so you can capture facial expressions and details. However, don’t get too close – about one metre away from your subject is ideal. Note: in order to capture a dramatic, detailed portrait you don’t need to focus on the whole face; cropping into eyebrows for example can emphasise eyes.
Try to use natural light wherever possible and for the most part turn off your flash indoors. A flash is unflattering and often causes the red eye effect. Also, over-flashed shots can kill the ambience of an occasion. You could use light from a window or patio door if you’re inside or you could take some photos under the shade of a tree if you’re outdoors. Lots of point-and-shoot cameras have the option to switch off your flash and up your ISO to best capture the mood of the event. Experiment and see what works best.
Avoid shooting in full sunlight as you’ll end up with harsh shadows across faces. The light is best in the early morning and late afternoon. You might decide to take some longer exposure shots at night without using your flash, so you’ll need to steady your camera on a tripod or a flat surface to keep it still and prevent the camera from shaking. If you’re taking pictures of people at night, you’ll have no choice but to use your on-camera flash, so if you have a red eye reduction option on your camera, use it.
Look behind your subjects, as a tree or a lamppost sticking out of the back of someone’s head, for example, has ruined many a good portrait. If the background is cluttered or messy either move closer to the person you’re photographing to crop it out or find another backdrop.
Composition can make or break a landscape shot, so follow the rule of thirds. This means imagining your viewfinder is divided into three equal sections horizontally and vertically and using this pretend grid to position your subject. For example: if you’re taking a sunset photo, you might include two thirds sky and one third ocean rather than just positioning the horizon in the middle. Also, to do justice to your picturesque landscape, be reminded once again that the best times for good light are morning and afternoon. Try to avoid taking pictures at midday, when the sun is at its highest and the light will be overpowering in your photos.
The action shot
Posed shots are great but candid shots, images where your subject is unaware, are often the best, not to mention easiest, when it comes to photographing children. If your children are on the beach building sand castles for example, take some photos while they are busy and haven’t noticed you, then ask them to look up at you. You could also ask your children to run towards you or jump in the air, which is great fun for them and you’ll get some lovely, spontaneous photographs.
The group shot
Make sure everyone is included in your viewfinder; watch out for cutting off the top of heads. Get everyone’s attention with a “3, 2, 1 cheese” or “sausages” while you take the photo – a silly but time-honoured tradition that works well. You’ll probably need to take several photos before you get a good one as there are likely to be people looking away or blinking, so be persistent.
Information courtesy of professional photographers Emma O’Brien from Johannesburg and Cape Town-based Jules Morgan.
Put your subject in the corner or side of the frame and play with “empty space”. Don’t think that you always have to put your subject in the middle. Photograph things that catch your eye such as colour contrast – green palm trees against blue skies – and things like funny signposts, pictures of places you stayed at or visited and people you met, which will all contribute to a great set of holiday photos. The most important thing is that you have fun when you take them as this will come across in the photo. Play with a slow shutter speed and moving subjects. Hone in on abstract details such as reflections and shadows rather than only focusing on the subject itself.
Jump on a box or car bonnet so you can get more height and see things from a different angle. This can be a bit distorting but it is often more flattering for subjects because there are no double chins for instance.
Don’t be afraid to play with light. Shoot into the sun for creative silhouettes. Late afternoon sunshine at a 45-degree angle to your subject can be soft and beautiful.
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