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How to take great holiday photos: The ultimate guide

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Top photography tips for taking memorable holiday snaps on your phone and camera

You’ve charged your gadgets, packed your suitcase and posted a witty humblebrag on Facebook so it’s time to depart on the big summer holiday.

If you don’t want the only record of your getaway to be a series of unflattering Instagram snaps, then you might need a few pointers to get the best holiday photos possible.

Whether you’re packing a DSLR, a compact or just sticking to a smartphone like the iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6, there are some simple steps you can follow to get the best our of your snaps.

We’ve pulled together some tips on how to take the best holiday photos possible…

Bright sunlight

Getting good photos in bright sunshine can be problematic but there are some quick fixes that you can try. Traditional advice tells you to always shoot with your back to the sun, but this usually just results in an overly bright and unflattering portrait of a squinting holiday companion.

Shooting directly into the sun instead can be very effective – just make sure that your subject is blocking the sun from your view and they’ll end up with a cool ‘halo’ effect surround them. Or you can simply go for the silhouette effect if there’s too much shadow.

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Shots will be trickiest when the sun is at its highest around midday, while dusk and dawn will give the best results. If all else fails, try moving into the shade or if you’re shooting something close up, create your own shade with a hand or umbrella.

Don’t look directly at the sun through a viewfinder – use your camera’s screen instead.

Shooting at night

Cityscapes at night can make amazing shots thanks to sparkling street lighting and floodlit shops and attractions. These can be difficult to capture and it may take some tweaking to find the best settings for your camera. Try using Aperture Priority mode from f/8 upwards for a greater depth of field and keep the ISO low along with a low shutter speed.

Top tier smartphones like the LG G4 and Samsung Galaxy S6 include pro modes that have many of the same controls found on an SLR cameras.

Turning on the HDR mode on your phone can be handy as it take several shots with different exposures and merges them to get the best shot. It’s worth playing around with the exposure scale to get the best light levels for your shot.

Simple compact cameras with no manual controls won’t be ideal here, but most have a night mode that’s worth trying out.

If you’re a confidant photographer with a decent SLR, shoot in RAW so that you’ve got more to play with when it’s time to edit your photos.

If you want to capture a scene without any pesky tourists getting in the way, your only choice is to get up early to beat the crowds. Sorry.

Sunsets

Sunsets that look incredible in real life often end up looking far less impressive in photo form, but it is possible to get a good shot.

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Take a few shots quickly before playing with your setting – if you take too much time, you’ll miss the whole thing. Use the lowest ISO possible, a small aperture and if you have the option, set your white balance to ‘daylight’ Check each photo as you take it – if it’s brighter than the scene in front of you, decrease the exposure.

If you don’t want to miss it, look up the sunset time on the local weather report.

Think about composition and vary your shots

The classic ‘rule of thirds’ is handy when it comes to composition and involves visually splitting your shot into a grid of nine squares – or into thirds. The idea is to fit the subject you’re shooting along the imaginary lines, rather than slap bang in the middle, resulting in a much more effective image. Most cameras and phones will have an optional onscreen grid to help you compose your shots.

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(Credit: Photographymad.com)

Try to be a bit different and don’t follow the crowds. Just because everyone else is taking the same dull snap of a famous landmark, doesn't mean you have to. Taking snaps from a different perspective – whether that’s crouching down low or climbing up on a wall – will give you a different shot to everyone else. Turning your camera round to include a throng of gawping tourists in your shot can also be effective.

You don’t want to end up with countless scenery snaps or endless pictures of your loved one sitting opposite you at the dinner table sipping a cocktail. Try to take a combination of long shots, portraits, and close-ups of interesting details like local signs, food and decoration. Your Facebook friends will thank you for it.

Think about lenses

If you’re a keen photographer it might be tempting to take a variety of lenses, but it’s best to stick to one or two otherwise your bag will super-heady and you’ll end up missing shots because you’re busy swapping lenses. A wide angle lens and a zoom is a good combination.

The digital zoom on smartphones is best avoided as your picture will just end up being blurry. You’re better off getting as close as possible, taking your snap as normal, tapping the autofocus on whatever you’re shooting, then cropping your picture afterwards.

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You can get add-on lenses for smartphones, such as the Olloclip, which offers fisheye, wide angle, macro and telephoto options.

Experiment with filters

Some apps, such as Hipstamatic, let you set up virtual films and lenses to shoot with, but you can always just snap away on your smartphone’s camera and play around with the built-in filters afterwards. Most decent cameras offer a range of filters too, though some need to be selected before the photo is taken and can’t be added afterwards. It’s worth taking a look to see what your camera offers before you set off.

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Instagram has plenty of filters to try out and it can make a big difference to your snaps – elevating them from average to impressive. And a black and white filter works wonders on a sunburnt face.

Edit your photos

Editing your photos doesn't just mean paring down hundreds of snaps into a streamlined album of your holiday (though that’s certainly important).

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If you’re a keen photographer then you’re probably a Photoshop ninja already, but even smartphone newbies can carry out some basic editing to spruce up their snaps.

Most smartphones offer a surprisingly wide range of options, such as cropping, contrast, and brightness right there in the camera app. If you want to branch out, apps like Snapseed are a great place to start.

Do you have a question about taking good photos? Let us know in the comments section below and we'll see if we can help.

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