Hello! I’m Charlotte, and I run the in-house design studio here at RCI. When I’m away from work and relaxing on holiday, one of my favourite pastimes is photography; taking photos gets me thinking creatively in a totally different way, and I have some wonderful memories captured for a lifetime.
I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve had a lot of practice, and I hope my helpful hints snag you some good shots this summer.
1. Get to know your camera
Okay, let’s get the sensible one out of the way first! I got my first SLR - that's single lens reflex - camera when I was 15, and like all 15 year olds, I knew absolutely everything already and didn’t need to read the manual. Being the irritating person I am, I managed to get some pretty good pictures out of it, and was fairly certain that I was the next Ansel Adams.
My partner, Matt, brought me into the 21st century on my 30th birthday when he bought me my first DSLR - a digital camera. By now I had matured somewhat and thought reading the manual would be a good idea. I wasn’t disappointed - it covered everything I needed to know about how to operate the camera properly, and it included lots of tips on taking better photos.
On top of that, you don’t need to carry around the manual in the camera bag, as Nikon, Canon and most other manufacturers have their manuals available as an app to keep on your phone or tablet. I have my manual on my phone, so if I’m out and about and need to look something up, I have it to hand.
2. Know when photos work - and when they don’t
Now you’ve read the camera manual, you’re ready to take pictures of everything. I often wonder what future generations will think of our digital repositories of unloved photos, most are never even glimpsed at after the moment they were taken. So many times I’ve had a wonderful time taking pictures, getting excited about downloading them from the card onto my computer when I get home and seeing what they look like - and so many times I’ve dug myself a gigantic photo-hole of unremarkable garbage.
Before you take a photo, decide what it is you want out of your pictures today. On holiday, nine times out of ten it will be memories, special events, things to remember for a lifetime. With this in mind, don’t fill your memory card with lots of location pictures - you are much better off buying a postcard or print of the scenery. A professional photographer got up at about 3am to get that incredible sunrise picture of the empty beach, and then spent hours editing it, and it’s also been professionally printed.
What you can do that the professional photographer can’t do is take pictures of special moments and loved ones. One of my favourite pictures of my partner is one I took of him on holiday - no professional could have caught this moment. If I could practice one of these tips properly, it would be this one!
3. Don’t listen to the snobs
Lots of people are very snobby about selfies and selfie sticks. This is very similar to the snobbery around camera phones in general, which has mostly worn off now, thankfully.
Getting a picture of yourself on holiday isn’t too much to ask, is it? Would the selfie stick snobs prefer that we spend our hard-earned money on flights, accommodation and experiences, only to end up with no pictures to remind ourselves of the great time we had, because it’s “not cool” to use a selfie stick?
Well, I bet they’re great fun at parties. Use your selfie stick, use your camera phone, and don’t worry about the misery-guts of this world.
4. The self-timer is your friend
Ah, I love the self-timer! Matt and I enjoy holidays in the Welsh countryside, and a lot of the time we’re miles from another human being, but want a picture of ourselves together. My favourite picture of us together was taken using my camera's self-timer.
But this magic little function isn’t just good for resting the camera on a rock and getting a picture of yourself, it’s a brilliant way to get a picture in a shady forest when there isn’t much light. Setting up the self-timer will eliminate any shake from you holding the camera and pressing the shutter button. Just set your camera up on a solid surface and get the atmospheric, low-light picture you’ve always wanted!
You could buy a remote control, but the self-timer is built into the camera, and I’m a cheapskate.
5. Think about composition
Now you’re confidently wielding your selfie stick, oblivious to the snobs, let’s wind them up even more by making a viewfinder with our hands. It may look pompous, but people do it for a reason. Framing your shot well will make a world of difference, and using your hands as a viewfinder will help you identify what to include, what to leave out, and where to put your focal points.
You may have heard of the rule of thirds - let’s say you’re taking a picture of a church spire; imagine your field of view is divided into three, like a folded letter on its side. Generally, the most pleasing composition will put the spire in-line with one of these division lines.
The Japanese have a technique for composition called ‘Notan’, where the artist concentrates only on areas of light and dark, without the distraction of colour or detail. I often use Notan studies when I’m drawing, but a handy way to simulate this idea is to squint at your subject. The detail will be gone, you’ll see only the shapes of light and dark, and it will help you compose your shot without getting overwhelmed by the little things.
6. Your background and your subject are equally important
A good number of cherished pictures from my childhood are photobombed by a large ashtray full of cigarette ends - I get it, it was the '80s, people smoked with gay abandon, but the ashtrays draw the eye somewhat from my family memories!
Even in professional pictures, my team are often tasked with digitally removing a binbag or dog poo - one time we had to remove a life-jacket from a beach scene!
You don’t have a team of photo-retouchers to hand, remember... Scan your scene before taking the shot, it only takes a moment to move an empty pint glass or dirty plate.
7. Photo means light
Photograph means 'light drawing'. Your light sources are the most important element of getting ready to take a picture. Let’s imagine we’re taking a picture of some people on a sunny day, next to the sea.
If the people are facing the sun, they’ll all be squinting. If the people have their backs to the sun, they’ll show up as only silhouettes, and the background will be washed out from too much light. Try keeping the sun to one side of your subject, or find a spot with dappled shade. You can always set a reminder on your phone to come back to the same spot in an hour or two when the light has changed.
Now, what if you’re in a darker place, like a restaurant? For a starter, I doubt the other diners will want your flash going off every two seconds - but there isn’t enough light otherwise - ah ha! Self-timer to the rescue again!
Make sure your flash is turned off, and set your camera somewhere stable like an unoccupied table or side unit. Your camera will work out there is very little light, and set the exposure to be nice and long to accommodate. Just make sure you stay nice and still!
I hope these tips will help you take some meaningful pictures of your holiday memories, and I’d certainly love to see some examples! Why not upload your holiday pictures to RCI.com/community and you, your family and friends, could be in the next issue of our Endless Vacation magazine!
If you would like to book your next holiday to practise your photography skills, click on the RCI Resort Directory button below and choose your home-from-home accommodation.
If you own timeshare but are not a member of RCI and would like to widen your holiday horizons, you could become part of our holiday exchange community today. Click on the Join RCI button below and sign up in just a few simple steps.