School's out and the summer holiday season is here, so if you haven't already, it's time to plan the perfect getaway. Whether your plans involve a chic city escape with culture and good food at the heart of it, a month back home with the family, a beach trip with endless evenings outdoors, an expedition to a far-flung corner of the globe or just a long weekend in a neighbouring emirate, one thing is for sure: those perfect moments will pass quickly. So capturing them with a few great photographs is essential, both for reflecting on in years to come and posting immediately on social media with a view to inciting a little good-natured envy (#wishyouwerehere?).
With all that in mind, we ask a few experts to share their tips, so you can take your very best holiday snaps yet.
A trick of light
Pawan Singh is a photographer at The National, who has shot everything from supermoons and award-winning racehorses to celebrities and side street cricket matches, during the ten years that he has worked for the paper. When it comes to lighting, casual snappers might take a "the brighter, the better" approach to their photography, but Singh's first piece of advice is to avoid shooting in the glaring midday sun, as this often results in images looking washed-out and lacking in contrast.
Instead, he suggests snapping away on either side of what is known in the trade as the "harsh light zone" (essentially before 10am and after 4pm), when the light is softer. But, of course, if you spy something interesting, you should take the photograph anyway, Singh says, and hope for the best. If time allows, it's always worth quickly adjusting the exposure on your camera to prevent the image appearing overexposed and looking washed out.
Inciting food envy
It doesn't matter if you're eating at a family-run taverna that hasn't changed in generations or a super-hip spot in the centre of town, there are a few things you can do that will make a real difference to your food photos. UAE photographer Murrindie Frew (www.murrindiefrew.com) says that she always has a quick nose around a restaurant before being seated in order to secure a sweet spot from which to shoot. "Aim to sit next to a window so that you've got the advantage of natural light streaming in. If the room feels dark, ask someone to hold up a white napkin as you take the photograph – the light should hit it and reflect back in," she suggests.
While lots of food images on social media tend to be taken from above, Frew says that it’s worth considering your angles and switching things up a bit. “The end result is often far more interesting if you shoot from the side,” she says. “You can then capture a few different plates at a time, and include props such as salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar or a butter dish. This adds context to the image, as well as variation in height and texture.”
As a professional food stylist and recipe writer, Amy Kinnear (www.amyscooking.co.uk) has made a career of not only producing food that tastes good, but that looks fantastic, too. She says that if you want your holiday meals to induce hungry sighs of envy on Instagram, the untouched perfection of a restaurant dish isn’t always the way to go. “When I photograph food for social media, I’m keen for the people looking at it to feel involved, rather than alienated. If a dish has been tucked into – a tart sliced to reveal the layers, a piece of cheese crumbled or chocolate fondant cut so the liquid centre oozes out – it suddenly seems all the more inviting.”
Another of Kinnear’s favourite tricks is to get her dining companions to double as hand models so she can photograph them tearing bread, passing plates around and pouring drinks. “Introducing a human element adds an extra dimension to the image and also gives insight to the vibe of the meal and the people enjoying it,” she says.
Her last tip is a little unusual: “I always look at the floors in restaurants. They’re often far prettier or more striking than the tabletops and work well as a background for shooting a plate of food. I can’t promise you won’t attract a few funny looks while doing so, though.”
The key to photographing people
Getting great portrait shots is tricky, even for trained professionals. Doing so requires both practise and patience, neither of which are likely to be in abundant supply when you’re trying to take a family photo on a blustery beach or when everyone’s dressed up for a special evening out, with the taxi due to arrive imminently. So how do you prevent your subjects from being impatient or feeling self-conscious, and consequently looking rather wooden?
Well, the first thing to do is abandon the idea of a formally set-up shot. Instead, Singh advises snapping away when no one is paying attention: “Start by composing your shot and visualising exactly what you want to appear in the frame, then sit back and wait. Don’t tell your subjects to pose, just try to wait discreetly for the right moment to take the photograph.”
Be (camera) ready
There's potential for taking photographs at every turn, particularly when you're somewhere exotic. Ensuring your equipment is always fully charged and easily accessible will prevent you from missing out on securing what could be the shot of the holiday, be it an animated interaction between two locals or the gummy grin of a toddler treated to their very first ice cream. United Kingdom-based food and lifestyle photographer Mike English (www.mikeenglishphoto.co.uk) says that whenever he travels, his camera is almost always in his hand, and that he's constantly on the look out for a photo opportunity, even if the situation or landscape initially seems mundane.
“One of my favourite travel images was taken in Caye Caulker, off the coast off Belize. I was idly watching the world go by, taking in the view of the sunbathers basking in the Caribbean sun and the island across the water,” he says. “Suddenly, out of nowhere, a boat appeared and the whole scene came together and morphed into something special – if I hadn’t been holding my camera, I would’ve missed it.”
The joy of digital cameras and camera phones is that we’re able to take photos with merry abandon, safe in the knowledge that any bloopers can be deleted. To prevent your storage filling up at the wrong moment, Frew suggests spending a few minutes each evening going over the shots of the day, getting rid of any real disasters and putting your favourites in a separate folder. That way, sorting through the images on your return doesn’t feel like an insurmountable task and, who knows, this may be the year that you get some of them not just printed, but framed too.