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How to take a good holiday photo

If you're about to embark on the holiday of a lifetime, you'll probably be planning on taking a few snaps to show friends and family upon your return. Although everything is digitised these days, allowing us to see and edit our photos instantly, the photos never seem to do the subject any justice.

Our less than professional looking holiday photos may be down to our ignorant 'point-and-shoot' attitude or it might be that we're not experienced – after all famous photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, did say that your first 10,000 photographs will be your worst.

So, whether you're capturing sweeping coastlines or the Sistine Chapel, it's important to know your photography basics if you want any hope of turning your holiday photos into anything worth looking at.

Whilst you're unlikely to be the next Ansel Adams, these top tips should help you get to grips with photography and finally get some shots that are at least decent enough to share on Facebook.

The basics

While these first few tips are incredibly obvious and straightforward, when you're concentrating on just about everything else, they're so easy to forget.

No matter how many times you take a photograph, remind yourself to remove the lens cap every single time – yes, really. Your subjects can see the problem immediately, but when you're behind the camera and it takes you a few seconds to realise what you've done, you'll already be a laughing stock.

Other important things to remember are the charger, particularly an adapter if you're travelling abroad, and memory – lots of it. Unless you have somewhere to back up your photos on holiday, you'll need to ensure you've got bags of space to store all those snaps until you get home.

Rule of thirds

It's easy to look through the viewfinder, see what you want to capture and click. That's how the vast majority of us take our photos. However, beautiful photographs have a focus, so keep that in mind when looking for the perfect shot.

As a complete novice, you may never have heard of the Rule of Thirds (also known as the Golden Ratio); it's a common technique used by all photographers, but painters also used it before the camera was even invented.

The idea is that you mentally divide up your photograph into a 3x3 square grid, with the subject situated at one of the intersections. Most beginners will put their subject right in the middle of the frame, but it's thought that our eyes naturally fall to the invisible intersections.

Using this guideline does give an element of flexibility, as subjects can be closer to the left or right, top or bottom of the image. This is particularly helpful for landscapes, as if the sky is the subject, you'll allow the horizon to run through the bottom intersections, rather than the centre of the image.

Lines & frames

Interesting photos are very rarely devoid of anything but the subject. Although a busy photo can completely ruin a shot, if there's nothing else in the image, you'll struggle to guide viewers’ eyes and the image will lack context.

Lines can help draw attention to the subject of the photo. For example, railway tracks, roads, steps and buildings may all play an important role in the photograph, without being the centre of attention. You can also use your surroundings to put a frame around your subject – branches, doorways and trees often work well.

Go manual

You may well have just spent a small fortune on a snazzy new camera to ensure you get the best possible holiday snaps, but don't be afraid to play around with it. Adjusting the manual settings is the only way that your photos will stand out from the albums of holiday photos you've already got.

The main settings are:

  • aperture, which measures the depth of the field
  • shutter speed
  • sensitivity, measured by ISO

You can also edit your images afterwards, whether you're just cropping out the guy that thought it would be funny to photo-bomb, or increasing the contrast for a better finish. There are a number of creative tools to help you make the most of your photos. One of the most popular is making them black and white – but why not give this classic a spin by preserving one of the colours? This is known as toning.

All of this and more can be done on popular, and free, picture editing sites such as http://picresize.com

Light

An adequate photo can be transformed into something spectacular with the correct use of lighting. Beginners will underestimate its important in creating fantastic images, but it's important to at least understand the basics. With this in mind, don't just wait for gloriously sunny days to whip out your camera, sometimes bad weather can create some of the most spectacular photos, not just because of the added drama, but it also prevents people squinting into the sun.

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