5 top composition tips for taking great holiday photos

Have you ever thought about why your holiday photos don’t do justice to a place or capture its essence, that they seem to be just snapshots?

As humans, we visually process scenes using a multitude of perspectives whilst the camera is limited to a single view and that distinction means pointing and shooting is often not enough.

One of the biggest limitations in a lot of photography is the composition. Taking the next step on from initially seeing a subject that interests you to finessing all the elements through thoughtful framing, can make a huge difference to the final look.

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Digital camera technology has improved immensely over the past 15 years and high quality images are possible with phones as well as DSLR cameras. Recording detail and vibrant colours is now an integral part of image-making but the composition and approach to colour is still down to you as a photographer. So with taking better holiday photos in mind here are my 5 tips for composition.

Framing on location

The curse of many holidays photos is a flat scene with no dynamic compositional elements. Instead of including everything in the image, identify your main subjects and include no more than three. Now move your position and use your zoom to arrange these, so they link and connect to form a graphical shape such as a triangle, or a clear split between left and right. You should also try to include layers of depth including foreground and background subjects. Getting closer to your first subject will develop this and create angles to better arrange your subjects across the frame.

Keeping an eye on the background

Often what’s behind a main subject such as a street scene can be distracting. Both using the telephoto setting on your camera (zooming in) and getting closer to your first subject will reduce the impact of background interference by reducing its sharpness. You can further refine this by moving your position to eliminate the larger objects from your composition. Smartphones invariably bring all subjects into clear view so you will need to get much closer to your foreground subject when using these or with the newer phones add a tele attachment.

Reducing colours in the scene

Having too many vibrant colours in your photo can unbalance a composition. Bright colours in less important elements draw attention away from main subjects. Instead think about set-ups to include no more than two colours. The sky is often one major distractor so why not think about eliminating it entirely from your frame. Simplifying the image using just two will mean your photographs are compositionally stronger and share more in common with the fine-art photography set.

Adopting a genre for your shooting style

Creating standout photos from holiday locations means thinking outside the box. One way is to approach everything with the mindset of a photojournalist shooting on location. In this case include photographing from low positions looking up, rather than from a more typical standing height. You will also want to include foreground elements at the edges of your frame such as trees or walls, but focusing on your main subject behind. Both of these will help to create a realistic, edgy feel in your images. You can further develop this by arranging your main subjects to fill the empty spaces in the scene and thereby incorporating great compositional balance.

The edges of your frame

With less powerful subjects within your scene and more ‘soft’ targets, you’ll need to think more carefully about all areas of your composition including the edges. This is especially true with general scenes including sky and close-up images of single objects where you don’t want unnecessary details intruding. So, before clicking the shutter, take a last scan around the viewfinder edges and check if there are distracting elements in your photo or objects which have been cut in half that you should exclude.

Darren Lewey is the Founder of Images in the Sun. Images in the Sun is a photography workshop provider offering specialist photography holidays and tours of Morocco.

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