Monday, September 28, 2009

Take your vacation pictures to the next level

It happens every year; the family vacation. Sometimes it’s a weekend getaway, or a week or two at a new destination, or a familiar area that you go to every year. Whichever, it’s a great opportunity to practice and enhance your photography skills. It does not have to be an exotic location for great photographs. The seashore, mountains, or a visit with relatives, there is always the opportunity to create memorable and unique photographs. It is up to you, the photographer, to create either a snapshot or photographic art.
Digital cameras are one of the best things to happen to vacation pictures. There are so many more options than working with film cameras. Film cameras were limited by the film. Length: With my Hasselblad I had 12 or 24 exposures per roll. With my Nikon I had 36 exposures per roll. It cost five to ten dollars every time I put film in the camera, and that does not count processing fees. My digital cameras allow for different size memory cards. My smallest card yields two hundred images at the highest jpeg setting, and it’s reusable. As a side note, some people would have Christmas, Easter, and summer vacation all on the same role of film, because they didn’t want to waste film. With digital you can pull the card out and download the images at any time, reformat the card, and you’re ready to go for more photographs. Film Type: Some films were better for flash and bright sun light, and some were better for low light scenes. You would want a low speed film (asa 100 or 200) for brightly lit subjects, and a fast speed film (asa 400 or 800) for low light or dimly lit scenes. Many times the conditions would change as you were taking pictures and you would have the wrong film in the camera for the conditions that you wanted to photograph. Some photographers carried two or three cameras loaded with different films. With digital cameras it is no longer a problem. Just change the ISO, white balance, and any other setting needed, and keep on working.
Here are some tips and advice on how to take better vacation pictures.
Take the camera out of the case. You may read that and say “yes Bob, that’s a given”, but it’s not. What I mean is that the case is great for traveling and protecting and storing the camera, but when you get where you’re going, take it out and be ready to take pictures. Most spontaneous and action photographs are not going to wait while you go back to the car, take the camera out of the case, and adjust the camera for the proper settings for the photograph. The best place for the camera is around your neck, or in your hand and ready. The proper settings for the conditions should already be set so all you have to do is turn the camera on a start taking pictures. If you make having the camera around your neck or in your hand part of your attire, you will always be ready when a photographic moment occurs. Put the camera in the case at night, and for the trip home. But keep the case handy. You might see what would be a great photograph on the way home.
Shoot lots! Digital is great because you can shoot hundreds of pictures without reloading, and it doesn’t cost anymore to shoot one picture or a hundred. It’s better to shoot the picture and delete it latter, than not shoot the picture and wish you had when you get home. Shoot several different approaches to the same image. Try different f-stop shutter speed combinations. Take a few steps right or left. Stand on something or sit on the ground. After you take a photograph ask yourself – what can I do to make this picture better? Here is a professional secret. If you want people to think you’re a great photographer, take hundreds of photographs. Show your best ten images. Do not show your bad or duplicate shots. Have 25 of your next best images ready in case they ask to see more. Never show your bad or borderline work. Every image you show should be different. Do not show similar or duplicate images. Start with your ten best images, and people will think you’re a great photographer.
Get in the picture. If this is a family vacation, make sure you’re photographed with the family. I often see people taking pictures of people in front of different objects or views. The picture is not complete. It’s only part of the family. Dad or mom is not in the picture. They’re behind the camera taking the picture. There is two ways to make the picture complete. The first is mount the camera on a tripod. Get the camera focused and set with the family posed (leaving space for you) where you want them, set the timer, and then run into the space left for you and smile at the camera. You will need to do this several times to make sure everyone is looking the same direction, and all have a good expression at the same time. The second way is more fun, and you might make new friends. Look for another family with the same problem, and offer a trade. You take a picture of their complete family with their camera, in return for them taking a picture of your complete family with your camera. It’s much easier than running back and forth to the tripod. I’ve done this many times and no one has ever turned me down.
Don’t worry about the weather. Weather does not have to be perfect for great photographs. As a matter of fact, the weather is very rarely perfect. The suns to harsh, or there’s a heavy overcast, misting rain, or you’re in middle of a downpour. Don’t let any of that stop you from creating images. You might find that you like those images better than if the conditions were perfect. Just keep the camera dry, the lens clean, and keep taking pictures. I like overcast, mist and light rain. It gives a real soft light and puts a shine on everything. The colors are muted and turn to pastels, causing a very unique look for scenic photography. If nothing else, photograph the family standing in the rain under an umbrella. That’s fun to show your friends when you get home.
Work on the images at home. If you take your computer with you, just use it for backup. Download your image cards during down time in the evening. You can start the download, walk away, and check it later. Spend your time with your family, not your computer. When everything is downloaded, do a quick check of the images to make sure the camera is doing a good job with exposure and color balance, and then go back to the family. You can tweak and work on the images when you get home.
This should get you started on your way to better vacations pictures.If there is anything special you want me to cover, or anything you want me to cover in more detail please let me know.

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