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A picture paints a thousand words …. or not

The Alps, taken from the train in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Credit: Rahel Weiss

Food and Travel’s expert guide on how to make your images all the more memorable

There’s a long-anticipated excitement that surrounds summer holidays – the pondering over destination, careful packing, calendar countdown to departure day – that conversely seems to mean that the event itself passes by in blink-and-you-miss-it fashion.

While there’s little any of us can do to slow the passing of time down, photographs are the obvious way to capture those fleeting moments. With that in mind, we’ve asked a panel of experts with some serious clout when it comes to cameras (award-winning, international photographers, Instagram sensations and a professional food stylist) for their tips of how to capture your very best holiday images yet. So whether you’ll soon be snapping sun-dappled mountains looming over Mediterranean seas, blustery afternoons on the British coast, a bustling, vibrant cityscape or the echoey emptiness of the African wilderness, read on.

Getting the light right
While you might initially think that the brighter the light the better, this is actually far from the case. Harsh midday light in particular makes it very tricky to get a great shot and often results in washed out images with a lack of contrast between foreground and background or, at the opposite end of the scale, too much contrast which means excessive shadows and a loss of detail.

Many professional photographers will simply avoid what they refer to as the 11am-3pm harsh light zone, opting to shoot either side of this window. Rahel Weiss (rahelweiss.com), a fashion and portrait photographer who splits her time between Switzerland, Australia and the UK, says that should you have this option, seize it. “If a scene catches your eye, chances are it will look even better with a bit of light magic. Consider revisiting the spot early in the morning or in the late afternoon, when the light is more forgiving.”

If the sun is streaming and you need to capture the moment then and there though all is not lost. Manually decreasing the exposure on your camera or camera phone will help to bring back detail and prevent the shot from looking ‘blown out’ (over-exposed or too white). Secondly, search out the shade and if your subject is portable, move them in to it. If you can’t shift the object you’re shooting, move yourself: consider taking the image from above or crouching down low – altering the angle at which the sun hits your camera can make all the difference.

The Three Blue Domes, Santorini, Greece. Credit: Sukaina Rajabali.

Pick your moments
UAE-based travel and food photographer Sukaina Rajabali (sukainarajabali.com) is an avid globetrotter, with some 80 thousand-plus Instagram followers. She says that a trip to the Greek island of Santorini earlier on in the year resulted in some of her finest travel photographs yet. Hardly surprising you may think, given the dreamy combination of clifftop villages, dramatic caledera and idyllic beaches that this particular destination offers. And yet Sukaina admits that even she struggled to start with; while Santorini is a gem, it is no longer a hidden one. After stumbling upon crowds at every turn of a narrow, stonewashed street, she took to rising at 6am most mornings. This meant that not only did she have the privilege of exploring the island uninterrupted, she was able to capture the images that she’d dreamed about. Now of course getting up in the early hours probably doesn’t feature highly on many a holiday to-do list, but Sukaina insists that it is worth do so, if only on days when you’re visiting renowned tourist destinations. “If you’re planning to visit well-known spots like the Three Blue Domes, I really recommend getting there soon after sunrise. Not only will you beat the hoards and have the place to yourself, the light will be beautifully soft, meaning your images will turn out even better.”

Beach scene, Caye Caulker, Belize. Credit: Mike English

Keep your eyes peeled
Sometimes it’s the unexpected or the unplanned for that throws up the best photo opportunities of all. Although primarily a food and lifestyle photographer working in the UK, Mike English (mikeenglishphoto.co.uk) travels frequently for both assignments and pleasure and is never without his camera when doing so. He says that particularly when on holiday, the key is to find the magic in the mundane and to be camera-ready at all times. Mike uses an image taken while relaxing on Caye Caulker, just off the coast of Belize, to illustrate his point: “When taking this shot I was conscious of focusing on two scenarios: the sunbathers basking in the Caribbean sun and the island across the water,” he says. “Although there was movement in the sea, it was the split-second turning of the boat that brought the whole thing to life – and if my camera hadn’t have been in hand, I would’ve missed it.”

Girl looking at her phone, Barcelona. Credit: Murrindie Frew

Pesky people shots
Whether you’re photographing family, friends or a partner, you can be sure that someone (not always under the age of ten) will squirm and refuse to sit still, while another will insist on inspecting each snap and demand that any deemed unflattering be deleted. This year then why not embrace the candid photo? Take photographs when no one is expecting it and you’ll end up capturing unselfconscious laughter, scenes of complete relaxation, in-motion images and shots filled with pure, unadulterated personality.

But what about when it comes to taking pictures of people you don’t know? Photographer Murrindie Frew (murrindiefrew.com) lives and works in the UAE, but frequently uses the central location as a springboard for her photo-documented travels. She says that when exploring different countries some of her strongest images are of the locals. “I really believe that people’s faces tell the best stories. There’s a few different ways to go about photographing strangers and I tend to judge there and then which approach I take,” she explains. “The key is to always be respectful. I shoot unobtrusively and often the subject isn’t even aware I’m doing so. If they spot me, a friendly smile goes a long way. I’ll stop and have a chat and offer to show them the photo. If someone is unhappy about having their photo taken, I’ll apologise and move on – that rarely happens though, so don’t be afraid or feel nervous about doing so.”

Platter of cheese and cured meats. Credit Amy Fullwood

For the love of food
If Instagram is anything to go by – and the social media platform is a sure indicator of trends above all else – we’re taking far more photographs of our food than ever before. So why should holiday time be any different? Whether it’s an al fresco breakfast, lazy, hazy lunch, quick pit stop at a roadside joint that turns out to be a revelation or a treat night dinner, there’s plenty of scope for taking great food photographs easily and with minimal fuss.

Food stylist Amy Fullwood (amyscooking.co.uk) is quick to point out that you’re not aiming for untouched perfection here. Food photographs should be inviting, rather than inaccessible; in short, if the person viewing the image feels like they want to dive in, you’ve achieved your aim. “For these type of shots I like to show plates that have been tucked into and therefore look more tempting. A bit of texture is always good: that might be a softly folded napkin, piece of scrunched up packaging or a few crumbs courtesy of some crusty bread.”

Amy also says that introducing a human element can make all the difference to the end image and will help to convey the mood, be it bustling family feast, solo supper or intimate meal for two. So don’t shy away from asking your dining companions to pick up a fork, slice into a piece of cheese and stretch across the table to seize a glass. Her last bit of advice might sound unconventional, but it’s well worth giving it a go. If the table that you’re eating at isn’t particularly photogenic (shiny metalware is particularly troublesome), then look down. Often the floor – be it mottled steel, bright tiles or aged wood – can provide the most beautiful backdrop to shoot a plate of food on.


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