5 tips for taking better holiday / vacation photos

I was originally commissioned to write this article by UK Best Buy for its magazine last summer. If you did not know Best Buy is huge electrical retailer in the US that was briefly in the UK. Soon after I was commissioned to write this piece they closed all the UK stores. I thought that I would let this article see the light of day again on my blog.

If you find this article interesting you should check out my instructional photography books and my photography courses – I have dates coming up in Brighton and Munich.

Make your composition intriguing

effel tower #2

It’s natural to want to put your subject in the middle of a picture but this can make a dull photo. Use the ‘rule of thirds’ to make the composition more interesting. With this method, imagine your image has four lines, like a noughts and crosses grid, over it. Don’t use the grid’s central ‘square’ – place objects of interest you want to shoot where the grid lines intersect: off-centre equals intriguing and different! Take my image of the Eiffel Tower here – neither object is dead centre. The photo also shows how adding objects to a composition heightens interest. The traffic light’s presence freshens up a famous icon and prevents it from becoming a holiday cliché.

Shoot the locals

ty mitchelll & bar maid

To really capture the essence of a place, you’ll want to photograph local people. And if you’re after close-up photos, you’ll have to ask their permission. Some professional photographers I know get anxious when asking strangers for portraits, but the worst that can happen is they’ll say no. And it’s worth it – check out this character here, a saloon owner with one of his barmaids I shot in Texas. And don’t be put off if there’s a language barrier. Make gestures with your camera to show people you want to take their picture.

Get off the beaten track

rustic street

It’s easy to get caught in the tourist traps when on holiday, but I slip away from the main drag to find the more interesting photos. You don’t have to go far. While at Essaouira in Morocco, I walked an extra few hundred metres to an old quarter, where I was the only non-local, to take this atmospheric shot.

Be ready to capture the moment – with your mobile

SuperAmit needs your help

Get to grips with the camera you carry all the time – the one built into your phone. That way you’ll always be ready to record a memorable moment as it happens. Camera phones may not be as good as standalone cameras, but smartphones can download camera apps that enhance flat-looking phone photos or add a layer of character to them. Try out the Hipstamatic iPhone app (see image below), which recreates the feel of 70s-style film cameras. With it you can swap virtual lenses, films and flashes for old-school effects.

Use special effects to good effect

Image before and after being processed with VSCO film in Lightroom

Any pro will tell you that taking a photo doesn’t end once you press the shutter – adding special effects once you’re back home can really pay off. For this, most pros use Photoshop, but it’s pricey. I find that most of my Editing can be done in Adobe’s Lightroom which is now £99 for the full version. When Lightroom is used with Vsco Film you can very quickly change your images from being standard looking digital images. Vsco Film emulates the look and feel of real films, think of it as a more subtle version of Instagram. If you need help getting started with Lightroom you should check out my five hidden Lightroom tips.

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