2016 Update: Following on from our earlier guide to getting great holiday photos, here are seven more great tips
1. Find out the time of sunsets and sunrises
Checking the weather before you head out is something many people will naturally do, although checking the times of sunrises and sunsets is useful if you’re to get a striking shot of either. You can use a dedicated app for this (providing it works in the country you’re visiting), although many weather reports and online services should state these times too. Consider getting to a particularly picturesque spot just before the sun sets – if this is a public monument or building, it’s probably more feasible to do this just before a sunset rather than a sunrise. Wait until the sun is in just the right location so that it works well with the rest of the scene, and consider using the rule of thirds if you’re unsure about composition.
2. Seek out complementary colours
The principle of seeking out complementary colours applies to all kinds of photographic genres, although it’s particularly effective when capturing images in places filled with vibrant hues. This could be a specific location such as a street market or more generally, where traditional dress is characterised by bold colours and distinctive patterns, for example.
The idea is that you seek out scenes featuring colours that sit directly opposite each other on the colour wheel, as these are known to work harmoniously. Reds, for example, work particularly well with greens, while oranges sit well with blues, and purples with yellows. Remember these combinations and look out for them wherever you go.
3. Hit tourist destinations at the right time
There’s nothing worse than getting to a stunning location only to find swarms of other people getting in the way of your perfect shot. Find out the opening times of the place you’ve chosen to visit and try to avoid typically busy times such as mid-morning. It may help to pay a visit beforehand and ask when there are likely to be the fewest people around; if you ask nicely, you many even be allowed to set up a tripod so that you can use a lower sensitivity than you otherwise would or a smaller aperture for greater depth of field.
4. Seek out patterns and repetitions
Images that cleverly direct the viewer’s attention through the frame are particularly powerful, and patterns and repetitions are a great way to achieve this. Look out for arches, columns and other details that seem to disappear off into the distance and experiment with positioning these in the centre of the frame and to one side (perhaps to satisfy the rule of thirds).
5. Avoid distortion and position yourself well
Many buildings feature impressive ceilings that beg to be photographed, although as these are typically characterised by lines and other geometric details, any skewing or distortions can be obvious if you’re not positioned correctly. It’s important, therefore, to make sure you’re positioned centrally to the subject; there may be an architectural detail on the floor that will help you find the centre, although don’t always rely on this. Take extra time to look around the frame so that all lines pass from one side of the frame to the other without any skewing, and make sure the lens you’re using does not suffer from too much distortion. If you’re using a zoom lens, zooming in a little from the wide end (if possible) should help to remove the worst of this, although if some still shows in your images you may find you need to correct this in post-production. If you find your lens isn’t wide enough to get the shot you want, try zooming in to a more central area and follow the same principles above.
6. Be prepared in ordinary situations
While capturing iconic buildings and panoramic views may be your top priority in a picturesque corner of the world, don’t put your camera away when faced with more ordinary scenes. You’ll thank yourself when you have your camera ready if a humourous moment presents itself, or when someone is positioned to create the perfect silhouette. This doesn’t mean you should have your camera dangling off your shoulder all the time, more that you have a suitable camera that you can access quickly when needed. Consider supplementing your main camera (such as a DSLR or mirrorless model) with a pocketable enthusiast compact that will allow you to capture more spontaneous moments with ease.
7. Grab your polariser
Polarisers are incredibly useful when capturing images of skies on sunny days. When used correctly they can deepen blue skies and make clouds pop, as well as remove reflections from glistening water or when shooting through windows. How to use a polariser: If you’re using a DSLR or Compact System Camera, it’s best to stick with a circular polariser as this won’t confuse your camera’s AF or metering systems in the way a linear polariser might. Screw the polariser onto your lens and, assuming you’re capturing a landscape or another scene that includes the sky, position yourself at a 90-degree angle to the sun as this will help you achieve the greatest effect. You can test this by positioning yourself so that the sun is behind you (i.e in the position of least effectiveness) to see how much this effect is diminished. Turn it until you see the skies darkening and you achieve the effect you want.