Holiday photography: How to take pictures like a pro without expensive camera gear

May 26, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

How can I take holiday photographs like a pro?  Do I need bulky and expensive camera gear?

The answer is an emphatic 'no' and you'll get the best results if you follow a few of my tips.

A recent staycation in the beautiful North Wales village of Portmeirion, made me realise you don't have to carry a boot load of camera gear to take decent pictures - the gallery below shows you just what I mean.

In my pocket was a tiny compact camera and the images were among the best I've taken on a holiday.

You can do the same with a bit of knowledge - read on to find out how.

(Click through the gallery below to see more of the beautiful Portmeirion Village in Gwynedd, North Wales)

Social media sites like Instagram where even amateur phootographers post incredible images of their travels means the pressure is on us pros to at least match that standard.  

But if you're a professional photographer, taking a full camera kit away on holiday would be a pain in the rear end, not to mention making it more like work than relaxation.

So we can end up either not taking any pictures or using our smartphones to capture holiday memories.

(Not that there's anything wrong with using a smartphone -  take a look at my pro tips for taking outdoor pictures with your mobile).

To get around this problem, a couple of years ago. I invested in a Sony compact camera and North Wales was my latest adventure with this pocket-sized piece of kit.

On previous holidays - a Norwegian fjords cruise in search of the Northern Lights and a trip of a lifetime around Australia, the camera had performed well.

Read on to find out how you too can capture your most memorable holiday pics without weighing yourself down.

The Northern Light near Tromso, Norway (3)The Northern Light near Tromso, Norway (3)Norway November 2018 Tromso

On board the Kong Harald Cruise Ship which is part of the Hurtigruten fleet, on a voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes in Norway.

Travelling through Fjords too see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) in Northern Norway passing through Ålesund, Trondheim, Tromsø and on to Kirkenes to arrive at the North Cape

The Norther Light in the Fjord near Tromso

Richard Williams Photography

Firstly that trip in search of the Northern Lights. Up on the deck of a ship in the middle of a Norwegian fjord at midnight, staring skywards, looking for a faint green haze is not easy. Once spotted, the aurora borealis may only offer you a few minutes to get your pictures. 

Surrounded by hordes of amateur photographers with tripods, DSLRs and long lenses, I felt right out of place with that tiny Sony RX100 compact.

But I later realised that most were using an auto setting on their camera, which gave them an image pretty much the same as you could see with the human eye, just a small dim green haze in the sky.

Having done a bit of homework before the trip, I'd worked out the key to photographing the Northern Lights (or any night scenes) lies in the length of the exposure and the range of the ISO. In this case it was around 8 second exposure with 3,200 ISO and the lens wide open at F2.  

All of these were settings that could have been easily replicated by the array of expensive cameras around me had the owners known how to switch to the M (manual) setting and take charge.

A small gorilla pod held down firmly to the deck of the ship by my hand meant I didn't need a large tripod and my Sony RX100 replaced my Nikon D5.SLR. 

I was so impressed with the results from the little camera that the following year on a month-long trip to Australia once again I left the expensive gear at home and took the Sony, which made it feel more like a holiday and meant the whole kit fitted in my pocket.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge at nightThe Sydney Harbour Bridge at nightAustralia 09 November 2018 Sydney

Night Views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House with the Sydney Central Business District (CBD) skyline from the Kirribilli side

Richard Williams Photography

So the message is you don’t always need super expensive kit to take decent pictures, what you need is an understanding of the basics, such as exposure, white balance and focussing.

Be brave and switch to manual (if your camera's instructions aren't enough for you, there are loads of YouTube videos explaining everything you need to know).

Here are my top tips on taking better holiday pictures :

1.If using your camera on manual, take a couple of shots of each view and alter the exposure for each one. This is called bracketing. You can do the same if your camera is on an Auto setting such as A,S or P by adjusting the exposure compensation dial. This will add or reduce the amount of light travelling through the lens, which will  give you a variety of choices.

2. Watch out for messy backgrounds. Shifting  your viewpoint slightly, such as shooting from a higher or lower angle can mean you avoid unwanted clutter in your pictures.

3. Don’t be afraid to shoot several images of the same scene, moving your position until it looks right through the viewfinder.

4. Set your focus on the main subject, but try to add depth to your images by using items in the foreground (such as tree branches). By doing this with a telephoto lens setting on your camera your subject will be sharp, but foreground and backgrounds slightly out of focus, creating more impact.

5. Try to add drama to your subject by altering the light. A flat grey sky will do little to bring your image alive, a dramatic sky, such the sun's rays peeping out from clouds or a full blown stormy sky will add far more impact.

Happy snapping - let me know how you get on by posting your comments below.



No comments posted.

January February March April May June July August September October November December (2)
January (1) February March (1) April May (1) June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December