If you are interested in this topic, take a look at our University of Cape Town Digital Photography course.
If you have a decent camera at hand, here are some pointers for taking great holiday snaps and capturing life’s important moments.
Fun in the sun
If you find yourself outdoors during the day – on the beach, at the park, or just out in town – you’ll have a host of excellent happy-snap opportunities. Bright light, tanned faces and lots of action make for easy and effective photography.
You can set your shutter speed very low to freeze movements (preventing blurry images), handhold your camera, and play with depth of field by changing your aperture. Just watch out for midday sun – if the light is falling on your subject directly from above, it will create harsh, unsightly shadows.
To prevent this, stand your subjects in the shade, or use a large reflective surface to bounce light on them from below – a piece of paper or white shirt will do.
Home for dinner
For dinner parties held in the evening, you’ll need to be a bit more careful with how you set your camera. Indoor, artificially lit living spaces are actually quite a bit darker than they seem (at least when it comes to taking photographs). You may not be able to handhold your camera because you will need to take a longer exposure, so be creative and use a table, chair or other prop to steady your camera.
Avoid flash if at all possible – not only is this incredibly annoying to the guests, it also creates a bright and unflattering cast. If you do need the flash, use a diffuser, which will help disperse the light and create softer shadows. If you don’t have a diffuser, simply cover your flash with a polystyrene cup or loosely rolled up piece of white paper – it works just as well.
If you want to take close family photographs or posed portraits, you will be well served by obtaining a tripod. A tripod lets you set up the perfect frame and camera settings since you don’t need to constantly adjust for changing position. It also means you can take photos in darker settings, like in the living room in the evening.
Get your subjects to cooperate by making the photography process as quick and fun as you can. Set up your equipment beforehand and take a few test shots before you start assembling people for posed pictures.
Children will be impatient and restless, so start with them and get their photos over with quickly. And instead of creating stock-standard portraits by getting everyone to stare and smile into the camera, try to take some more candid and relaxed shots too – or have a bit of fun by asking everyone to pull a funny pose.
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