5 tips for better holiday photos, by Amateur Photographer magazine

Amateur Photographer magazine editor, Nigel Atherton, offers 5 tips for taking better pics on holiday this year

27 Jul 2014

About to jet off on your summer holidays but a bit cack-handed when it comes to cameras?

Fear not. We are here to come to your rescue with a series of tips put together for TechTalk by the editor of Amateur Photographer magazine, Nigel Atherton.

Follow these and you can be sure of photos that do justice to your holiday of a lifetime.

1) The problem... blurry pictures

How many holiday pictures have you ruined with a shaky hand? Whether you're taking a pic on the beach after having a bit too much sun, or one in a restaurant after a couple of drinks, blurry photos are the scourge of the holiday snap.

Blurry Photos

The answer... hold the camera steady

Nigel says camera shake is the biggest single cause of blurry photos.

He explains: "It can be caused by stabbing at the shutter button, by shooting with one hand, or off balance, by shooting while moving, or by shooting in light that's too low. The problem is made worse when you zoom, as this also magnifies the camera movement."

He urges you to do the following to minimize the risk of shake: "Stand firmly on both feet, hold the camera with both hands, tuck your elbows into your side, and squeeze the shutter button gently. If you can rest on something nearby for added stability so much the better.

2) The problem... photos that just look bad

You look at your holiday pics and some just look wrong.

People are shuffled into the corner of the frame or stood too far away to properly see their faces, strangers are unintentionally photo-bombing you, while a palm tree, surfboard or Del Boy cocktail looks as though it's an extension of your partner's head. 

Woman Photographed In Front Of Building

The answer... compose your shots carefully

Nigel says you should consider the surrounding environment before taking a photo, and play to its strengths. 

He explains: "Use elements within the scene to create a harmonious composition. Look for lines such as roads or walls to lead the eye towards your focal point, or natural frames such as doorways and under trees.

"Whether you're shooting a portrait or landscape, try to place your main focal point just off centre, one third of the way in from the edge."

He also warns to look out for distractions looming in the background, something the average Med resort at peak season has in abundance.

He advises: "Get in close on your subject and check for distracting elements in the background before pressing the button, such as people wandering past or lampposts sticking out the back of your subject's head."

3) The problem... photos that are too dark or too bright

Poor lighting has ruined many a holiday snap - people squinting up from sun loungers, with unsightly shadows cast across their face aren't the best way to remember an expensive trip of a lifetime.

Bright Sunlight

The answer... study the light and use shade

Nigel says when taking photos in bright sun you should try and find a shady spot.

He explains: "The most flattering light for portraits is soft and diffused, such as on a cloudy day, but in bright sun try to find a shady spot. If you are in bright sun it can make people squint and casts ugly shadows on the face. Turn them so the sun is behind them (but not shining into the lens).

Enjoy taking landscape photos? The shadows cast by bright light can be a good thing.

Nigel says: "Direct early morning or late afternoon sunlight casts hard shadows which adds drama to landscapes and can make a great subject on their own."

4) The problem... photos that are too flash-happy

Often use the flash function on your camera without really understanding how it works?

People often think it's something to use when natural light is low, but that's not necessarily the case - it can actually help you get better photos in bright sunlight, on the beach or an excursion. 

The answer... use flash with caution

Nigel says built-in flash is the "most misused feature on any camera" as he explains when and when not to use it.

He explains: In low light the built-in flash can produce stark, washed-out faces and pitch black backgrounds. Perhaps surprisingly flash is most effective in bright sun when used to reduce harsh shadows on faces, or to light the face when the sun is behind the subject.

"In low light it's better to raise the camera's ISO setting to capture more of the ambient atmosphere. You may not need to use flash at all but if you do, the higher ISO setting will reduce the brightness of the flash and enable some of the background to be recorded too."

5) The problem... funny focusing

Ever taken a picture of two friends or family members stood together to find the camera has focused not on their faces but on the background instead? Read on to find out why this happens and what to do to prevent it.


The answer... get your subject in focus

Nigel explains a clever camera trick that will help your camera focus on what you want it to when taking pictures of more than 1 person.

He explains: "If the main focal point of your picture isn't dead centre in the frame (such as when photographing two people together) some cameras will try to focus on the background. To avoid this, all cameras have a two-stage shutter release, in which pressing the shutter halfway locks the focus, and the second stage takes the picture.

"Simply point the centre of the frame at your key subject (such as a face), press halfway to lock the focus ('Focus Lock') then without releasing your finger, move the camera to get the framing you want before pressing the button all the way to take the picture."

However, if you have a face detection feature on your camera then make sure this is selected as this may save you having to use the above method. 

Follow these five simple steps and you'll have holiday snaps you're truly proud to show off to your friends and family!

Related in Camera news

Your ultimate guide to tech vlogging

18 Mar 2020

What they don’t tell you about professional photography

27 Aug 2019

The best cameras for travelling and festivals

16 May 2019

What camera should I buy?

03 May 2019

Best cameras to up your Instagram game

01 Mar 2019