Getting the Most From Your Holiday Snaps

Going on holiday is the highlight of the year for many people. Whether it’s a road trip round your home country, a short flight to a different nation or a long haul across the other side of the world there are wonderful and colourful experiences to be had almost everywhere.

All too often, though, trips end too soon and before you know it you’re back home. Taking photos while you’re away is a great way to keep memories fresh and to remind yourself of some sights you visited that you may have had pushed from your mind because of your hectic holiday schedule. Photos are also a great way of sharing your experiences with friends and family. You may always have stories to tell from your travels but using photos to show exactly how beautiful a waterfall was or how deep a canyon is always adds extra impact.

Before technological advances and the widespread use of digital cameras, films had to be sent off and developed upon return from holiday and photos may not have been ready for a few weeks afterwards. With no delete button on these cameras, you’d then have to wade through the pile removing all the blurry and out of focus shots before enjoying the few remaining good ones.

Since digital cameras have become the norm, there are a lot fewer bad photos. The user can check the quality of a photo as soon as it’s taken to avoid the frustration of a wonderful shot turning out to be partially covered by a stray finger or a group photo being spoiled by someone blinking at the wrong moment. Digital photos also have the advantage of immediacy and can be sent worldwide within seconds of returning through your home door. If you’re really organised it’s even possible to upload your snaps to a photo sharing website and allow people to follow your travels from their own desks.

However, some people miss the feeling of holding a photograph in their hand and being able to pass it round a group of friends. Also, looking at a monitor for long periods of time can be uncomfortable and can detract from the quality of the photos. There are also some people who aren’t up-to-date with technology and wouldn’t know what to do with a jpeg file.

That’s why many people are turning to photo printing to give them the best of both worlds. Holiday snaps can be printed off as soon as you return and if you want to make a few copies – which is a lot cheaper to do at home than with a specialist – you can do that quickly and easily. If you set them to print whilst you unpack, you should have a completed print job by the time you’ve put everything away and you can go straight round to your friend’s house to show off just how good a time you had.

Are You A Photographer Who’s Travelling or a Travel Photographer?

Travel photography is probably one of the most misunderstood fields of commercial photography. For most photographers, the only requirement for shooting travel images is for them to be somewhere new, but the reality is quite different. The good news is, this mass misconception means there’s great opportunity for the photographers who do get it right.

Travel photography is as commercial as it gets. Travel photography buyers desire images that actively sell the destination or the experience. They need the kind of photography that engage the reader and leave them needing to do it all themselves.

Usually, that means using images of people enjoying the destination or experience.

The difficulty they are facing is most photographers are only going to be shooting holiday snaps, rather than commercial travel images. Most photographers think about travel photography simply as images taken on their own travels, and little thought is given to the end use. They shoot whatever they see, as they see it, and focus on the physical features alone.

As a result they’re simply documenting their travels, making an individual record, with very little thought of sharing and selling the experience itself.

Don’t misunderstand me here: the physical record type shots can and do sell: the iconic landmarks, the famous vistas, the local wildlife, the buildings, bridges and skylines. There’s a definite demand for each one of them, but when you start researching the market you will soon see that these only make up a small part of the images used. The great majority of images used in travel guides and brochures fall into the travel-lifestyle category: travellers experiencing the destination.

This supply-and-demand problem is compounded by the undeniable fact that everybody shoots the iconic shots, and they have been shooting them since cameras were invented. It is also fair to say that most travel photography publishers are also going to have their own in-house collection of the iconic shots they use most frequently. So if that is all you shoot, you are going to face massive competition for a tiny piece of the potential sales.

So when you start shooting travel stock images that focus on the visitor-experience, you are targeting a gap in the market with much lower competition and noticeably higher demand. If you can then create the types of images that engage the viewer and fire their imagination… making them want to experience it for themselves then you’re shooting commercial travel photography.

The added bonus of concentrating on the visitor experience is that as soon as people are included, photo-buyers are going to want current images… ie images showing contemporary hairstyles & fashions. So these are the shots that are always in demand and can’t always be found in the in-house collection.

The destination could be a 2000 year old landmark that’s been photographed a million times, but the people viewing it will need to be contemporary, so there will always be a genuine demand for fresh new images of the feature.

Most of this is straightforward common-sense, once you take a Client-centric approach and plan & shoot for your end-user instead of yourself. Research your destinations, identify the landmarks and icons, but take a little more time to completely understand the total experience of the destination and make it your goal to capture & convey that.

The good news is, most photographers won’t do any of this, so any time you do it, you’ll be stepping out from the crowd. And when you create the kind of travel images that the audience wants to immerse themselves in to experience it all firsthand, then you’ll be shooting the sort of travel images that sells themselves.

Travel Photography: Packing Camera Gear for a Trip

So you’ve decided to take a trip – that’s fabulous! You’re excited about capturing photos along the way, but how do you make sure you’ve remembered everything you need to pack? Well first, each person has a different approach to taking photos while away from home, so to help you figure out what you need to pack, consider the following concepts.

Concept #1: How many photos will you take?

When it comes to photography and trips, it’s all about the balance of time spent snapping photos and time spent doing activities or relaxing; it’s about how you want to experience your trip. Are you the type of person who spends hours waiting for the right light before taking a photo, or do you snap a single shot and move on? Are you trying to get the artsy shot or are you perfectly happy just to record the scene once? Part of your plans to take photos will depend on who you’re travelling with and whether you’re on a pre-scheduled trip, or free to make your own schedule. Are you travelling with someone who is a photo enthusiast, or will your travel mates grow impatient the instant you pause to take a shot? Have you signed up for an organized tour, or can you stay in a city for an extra 3 days if you wish? Are you planning to visit 30 cities in 30 days, or just 1 city in 2 weeks.

The number of shots you take will depend on who you are and the nature of your activities. For example, if you’re hiking through forest or jungle for 8 days, you may be too tired to snap more than a few shots a day, let alone carry anything heavier than a small camera, whereas if you’re staying in central Venice for 8 days, you may plan to take hundreds of shots a day and can easily change cameras or lenses should you need to go back to your hotel. Consider how active you plan to be – e.g. hiking vs bungee jumping vs rafting. Can you hold your camera securely, or do you need to rely on the camera strap, or even some other type of harness? Is your camera heavy, or do you have a lighter one? Are you willing to carry it in a large camera bag with various lenses and accessories, or would you prefer to have a small case that fits only the camera? The case or backpack that you bring to carry your camera and accessories in can make your trip very pleasant, or very unpleasant! The bottom line is that only you know yourself when it comes to snapping photos and what you’re likely to do. Make sure you’ll be physically comfortable with what you choose to bring or else your photography goals will be hard to achieve.

Memory card capacity is a major consideration for digital photographers when it comes to how many photos you can store; likewise film photographers need to know how much film to bring. Assess how many photos you plan to take per day, and come up with the total number you plan to take for the whole trip. Then look up how many photos will fit on each film or memory card; that should tell you how many of each you need to pack (or purchase). However, once you’ve calculated how much memory storage you have to pack, or how many film cartridges you need to carry, seriously consider doubling it; it’s a lot easier to pack extra film or an extra memory card than spending time during your vacation buying an extra one. If you’re anything like me, you’d rather spend your time looking through tacky souvenirs than searching for an internationally-known brand of film! Of course, if you’re going the digital route, research the internet cafes near your lodging to see if they support USB downloads; perhaps you can burn a CD along your travels using these facilities. Or, if you’re really gung-ho, pack a laptop or a video iPod and download your photos to a larger disk.

Concept #2: Airports and Customs

The obvious concern of travellers these days are the X-ray machines and what damage they can do. Digital cameras and memory cards have no reported incidences of damage from X-ray machines at airports, so you’re pretty much safe if that’s all you carry. Film photographers, however, do need to be concerned about film passing through X-rays, so be sure to pack your film in your carry-on luggage in a separate bag so that you can specifically request the bag be manually searched instead of X-rayed. Note that checked luggage typically have more damaging X-rays pointed at them, so checking your film is not a good idea. At modern airports, there tend to be fewer problems with X-ray damage, but I know a friend of mine who went to Iceland returned with blemishes on virtually all of his 12 rolls of film after airport authorities convinced him that X-rays would not damage the film. Better be safe than sorry.

The other concern is your destination country’s customs laws and whether they limit the amount of camera equipment that you can bring, so do a little research on customs and check with your travel agent before you pack. Some countries may charge a fee or require you to bring special documentation, so it’s best to go prepared. At a minimum, you should get your expensive equipment certified at your local customs before you go, so that re-entry is not a problem either.

Concept #3: Lighting conditions when you get there.

Flash will use up batteries faster than non-flash, as will using the built-in digital viewfinder on point & shoot digital cameras. So consider how much photography you’ll be doing in low light. Museums and indoor photo opportunities may require flash, or use of a tripod, whereas sunny outdoor shots may need you to increase the brightness of your viewfinder.

Concept #4: Technical limitations on your hardware.

Let’s face it: extreme temperatures can play havok with any mechanical or digital equipment. How hot or cold will it be where you stay? Will you be quickly going between air conditioning and hot humid weather, or will you be outdoors in frigid temperatures for more than a minute? You must weight the risk of fungus or heat damage to your film or memory cards versus convenience and the cost of replacing them. Also consider taking sealable bags to prevent condensation as you go between dry, cold hotel rooms, and steamy hot outdoor temperatures.

Do you plan to take underwater photos? If so, consider purchasing a disaposable underwater camera. These days, it seems most underwater cameras also float, but you need to figure out if that’s what you want. Sometimes your camera will have a special underwater casing accessory for your camera that you can buy before your trip, but it likely won’t float, so be sure you don’t drop it in the ocean!

Digital photographers must consider battery life in foreign countries, and accessibility of throw-away batteries if rechargeable ones are not available. The DSLR that I own has a proprietary battery, but in case it dies, I purchased a AA battery accessory that lets you operate the camera on 6 AA batteries. Disposable AAA batteries are much more readily available than proprietary rechargeable ones, and I’d rather spend money on batteries than be without. Be careful, though; should you ever end up purchasing batteries in a foreign country, make sure you splurge on internationally known brands, rather than skimping on the cheap kind – I can’t tell you how frustrated I was when I bought a brand I had never heard of in Switzerland only to find my camera detected they had no juice left!

Related to battery recharging, it’s important to be aware of the power configuration in your destionation country. Do you need a power converter, or will your native power supply work? Do you plan to bring your AA battery recharger with you, or your priorietary battery charger? Check with your vendor to see if they recommend a particular power converter.

Concept #5: In case of damage…

Is there technical support available for your camera at your destination? If so, is it free, or do you have to pay for it? Can they fix your camera same-day, or replace it quickly if it outright dies? If your nearest camera shop is 500 km away, you may need to take a second camera with you, or tools to fix it yourself.

That’s a lot to consider! But frankly it depends on your shooting style and your desitnation. On my trip Mexico, I took a disposable underwater camera, a small point & shoot, and a larger DSLR with a single primary lens. I left them locked in my room’s safe, and only used one at a time, so it worked well for me. I took a small bag with which to dampen the affects of condensation because of rapid changes of air conditioning to humidity. But I also took a larger bag that had cleaners, spare batteries, and my AA battery pack – I used this when going inland to see Mayan communities since I knew I’d never go back and didn’t want to risk coming away with no photos!