Many friends and readers constantly ask me about holiday photography and camera tips, so here I am, sharing my tips and hacks on how to take the best holiday photos for your own personal collection as well as social media, from what kind of shots to take, to tips and tricks on getting your money shot!
Personally, I never leave the country without my trusty camera (it’s the one thing I would NEVER travel without, apart from my passport, cash and credit cards) and it goes with me everywhere I go without fail!
On my last trip to Japan a couple weeks ago, armed with my Olympus E-PL8 – A camera brand that I’ve been faithful to for the past six years and counting!
Olympus E-PL8 is the latest version of the Pen Lite and comes with an aesthetic redesign, including a new grip and a fresh top plate! I love how the design of the E-PL just keeps getting sleeker with its modern rounded body lines.
You’re setting off on your trip, camera in hand and at a total loss for what to do with it. Fret not! Let me take you through the 7 kinds of must-take travel photos for any beginner looking to get the best out of your camera and your holiday — Ready? Let’s go!
The Beginner’s Guide To Holiday Photography!
1. The Plane Shot
Every trip starts with a flight, and there’s no better way to document a holiday than with a super awesome shot taken on the plane.
Just look at that infinite bed of fluffy marshmallow clouds!
Getting a great plane shot can be tricky and it’s not so much about camera settings or skills but more of ensuring that you’re in the right place at the right time – I almost always try to book myself a window seat on my flight.
Red eye flights also give you the opportunity to possibly catch a breathtaking sunrise or sunset if you get lucky! Generally though, you can’t go wrong with a mid-air shot, Earth really does look stunning from 36000 feet in the air.
2. The Landscape/Street Shot
Once you’ve reached your destination, establish which part of the world you’re in as well as how exciting the foreign sights are with a landscape shot – Be it bustling city or lush nature, it’s bound to make your friends and followers green with envy!
At night, neon street signs and lots of lights always look fantastic, especially when you’re in a vibrant and lively part of town, such as Dotonbori! A wide-angle landscape shot can capture all the bustle and hustle of the city, as well as show off interesting architecture. In the case of Dotonbori, giant signboards and neon lights are signature of the area!
Cityscape views are also enthralling, so if you visit somewhere with a vantage point like Harukas 300 at Abeno Harukas, don’t be shy and start snapping away! This shot was taken just as the city lights lit up and the sun was still in the midst of setting. Breath-taking, isn’t it?
Of course, nature shots are a must when you visit parks or venture out of the city to more picturesque views! Even a simple shot such as this one taken at Nara, outside Todaiji Temple, looks stunning and peaceful with the calming view of lush greenery and calm waters. An iconic free-roaming deer of Nara also makes an appearance in this photo, making the shot more interesting and recognisable!
3. The Famous Landmark Shot
Speaking of iconic, every country and city is bound to have a few of their most iconic sights and places! These may often be touristy, but there’s a reason why they’re famous world-wide.
For example, Osaka Castle is one of the most popular hotspots in Osaka and it’s truly awe-inspiring especially on a clear day!
When taking pictures of busy iconic spots, try to find a way to minimise the distracting crowds in your photo by looking for a good angle (like above, I framed this shot such that the humans would not distract from the landmark), or just be really hardworking and wake up super early to reach the place before entire busloads of tourists start arriving!
The famous Glico Man signboard along Dotonbori is pretty much surrounded by people 24/7, so in this instance, embrace the human elements and get them into the frame! Spot that couple taking a wefie in the bottom right of the picture?
One of my favourite shots from the trip is the one above, taken at Hogwarts in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Japan! It looks extra beautiful because of the way the magnificent structure mirror reflects in the water.
Water bodies always create photos with an extra dimension if you can capture a reflection shot. It doesn’t even have to be a lake or pond, even a puddle of water on the ground can help to achieve this effect when taken at the right angles!
4. The Selfie/Wefie
A selfie taken with no context can come across as narcissistic and boring, but when you’re travelling, all can be forgiven – It’s the best way to document your adventures and to show off your happy and fun times abroad!
When it comes to selfies/wefies, the best way to take ’em is to just grin and have fun! I treasure my Olympus E-PL8 so much because of its useful 180 degree-flip down LCD screen, I know that I’m in absolute control of how I look and don’t have to frame my shot blindly!
What’s awesome about my Olympus E-PL8 too is that it’s optimised for touch-selfie shooting, and comes with a grip on the front of the camera that aids in taking selfies more comfortably. There’s also a variety of touch operations on screen for easier access like the E-Portrait button (automatically smoothens your skin), custom self-timer, brightness adjustment and a shutter release, all to aid selfie-taking!!
Make your selfie interesting, don’t just limit your subjects to humans! I took a selfie with the Harukas 300 bear mascot who definitely made my selfie a whole lot more adorable!
Or how about a selfie with one of the deer at Nara? (This was before said deer began rummaging through my bag forcefully, looking for my chocolate biscuits. TSK) Which brings me to the next point:
5. The Cute Animal Or Kid Shot
Somehow, animals are always cuter overseas, especially when it’s an animal you don’t see very often back in your home country! It’s an extra dose of cuteness too, when you document down human versus animal interaction but IMPORTANT NOTE: Only applicable to tamed animals.. Please do NOT try to interact with the lions and panthers in South Africa or get a shark selfie off the coast of Australia!
The deer at Nara Park are reasonably tamed unless you get a ravenous, rabid deer that’s hungry for some deer biscuits!
The super adorbs owls in Lucky Owl Cafe at Dotonbori also make for a fun and photogenic experience, hoot hoot!
It doesn’t have to be just cute animals. Japanese school kids are so endearing and make for a wonderful picture as well, especially dressed up in theme for Halloween in these winsome outfits!
6. The Food Shot
To me, a huge part of travelling is about the food! It’s only right that I take pictures of everything I eat, especially when the presentation is as awesome balls as the way the Japanese do it.
One of the best kinds of food pictures has gotta be the “hand held” food shot, which works especially well for street food or any kind of food eaten on-the-go! Here’s the pineapple candy soft serve I enjoyed at Abeno Harukas, against an out-of-focus background of the cityscape.
These takoyaki balls at Dotonbori look so good that they make me want to eat them right off the screen!
Table flat lays also work very well for food photos, especially when there’s a spread of different food and items on the table. There is a technique to taking a good table flat lay, but more often than not, it involves clambering atop your chair for the highest-angle shot you can get, HAHA. Props to my Olympus E-PL8‘s handy flip-screen again because it makes capturing a good flatlay a lot easier!
7. The OOTD shot
I confess to being one of thousands of millennials enamoured with taking OOTDs (otherwise known as Outfit of the Day). Well, I went to all that trouble to dress up and look stylish, why not take a great photo of myself, walking down a street in a foreign land like its my very own fashion runway?
It must be the Japanese air (or the Japanese camera), because OOTDs always look good on any street in Japan! PRO-TIP: For the perfect street shot, look for a narrow street with lots of interesting looking signboards – these settings makes any OOTD shots appear the best in photographs!
With some patience and effort, you can even get an OOTD with an iconic landmark like the Osaka Castle! You might also have noticed the utilisation of the “water reflection” in this shot, it really makes the photo look extra picturesque and tranquil.
Psst, this secret spot is at the garden off to the left of Osaka Castle, it’s a lot less crowded there and the surface of the pond reflects a stunning image of Osaka Castle!
One level up from the basic OOTD is the Couple OOTD shot! If you’re travelling with your other half, this works even better if your outfits are co-ordinated hehe. Doesn’t have to be overly obvious or corny, we just had matching elements like our white sneakers and a common colour palette!
For a sweet couple shot, simply hold hands and smile! Alternatively, do something crazy with your expressions/poses or just go all out and pucker up for the camera for a candid and natural shot!
General Tips & Tricks
*Keep Snapping Away!
Remember, we’re now in the era of digital cameras and memory cards – Memory card space is FREE! Just keep snapping away if you don’t have a shot that you’re pleased with yet, you can always vet through for the best shot afterwards. Bring a spare memory card so you don’t have to worry about running out of space!
*Look For Natural Light
The best photos come from great lighting conditions. I always prefer natural day light, be it the soft back light of evening or just sunny day light, it always looks better than artificial lighting whenever possible! I also hardly use direct flash unless necessary, it is just harsh and unflattering under most circumstances.
*Use Art Filters/Edit Your Photos
Don’t be scared to experiment with different modes! For instance, the Olympus E-PL8 comes with various Art Filters that can be used for different colour treatments and effects!
Those Art Filters really help to intensify the mood of a shot, or bring out the best colours, depending on how you use it. There are also so many phone apps available nowadays for photo-editing that are super easy to use, so you have no excuse!
*Get A Tripod/Ask For Help
It can be a challenge to get photos together with your holiday companion(s), so if you’ve already taken one too many wefies, gather up your courage to look for a kindred soul to help! PRO-TIP: Look for another tourist who’s holding a big camera and politely ask for help – 7/10 times you’ll get a great photo.. As for the remaining 3 times… Let’s just say that not everyone holding a big camera turns out to be a professional LOL.
Or, do as we did and travel with your own tripod in tow! Armed with the Olympus E-PL8 and its wifi remote/self-timer function, it can work wonders for awesome photos! Just remember not to turn your back to the tripod/camera especially in more dangerous countries because that could be the last time you ever see your camera and tripod again D:
*Have Fun With Your Camera!
Explore your camera functions thoroughly and know it well so as to make full use of it!
One good example is the Olympus E-PL8‘s dedicated video record button in selfie-mode as well as a new in-camera “Clips” function that allows you to join up 4 second videos into a mini movie – music included! This would make for wonderful and easy vlogs/selfie videos!
Remember that your camera is there to help you create precious memories for you to look back upon years later, so don’t get caught up with trying to take artistically perfect images all the time. Use the camera as a digital tool to remember your trip by, the good moments and the bad, the mundane and the extraordinary.
Most importantly, ENJOY the process and have lots of fun capturing those images whilst having a fabulous time on holiday!
That’s the end of my beginner’s guide to holiday photography! Hopefully, this little guide has been of help! If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I would be happy to read/help!
The Olympus E-PL8 is my ideal travel companion. It’s light and compact yet capable of high-quality images, plus it comes with a flip screen for easy selfies and the almighty wifi function!
Pictures used for illustrations in this entry were taken with my Olympus E-PL8.