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Keep snap happy with top tips for the perfect pics

We ask travel photographer Tom Bourdon for his top five tips on how to improve your photos.

May 25, 2012
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The holiday season is almost upon us. Which means good times, and some nice photos to remember them by. But we’ve all returned home after a holiday and felt somewhat disappointed with the photographs we have taken; that somehow they just didn't turn out as we thought they would. A camera of some kind is essential packing for any holiday, but even if you only use the camera on your phone there are some simple techniques you can use to improve your photography.


1. SimplifyBefore you even lift the camera to your eye ask yourself one question, 'what is the subject of this photo?' Is it the natural beauty of the sun setting against dramatic clouds? Perhaps it's the strange foods on offer at the market. Whatever it may be keep it in mind as you frame your photo and remove all clutter from the image that may distract from your main subject. It's easy to pack too much in, but ideally each photograph should have one single subject. The easiest way to do this is to zoom in and fill the frame from edge to edge. With no other elements in the frame the subject stands out.


2. Be aware of the horizonKeep your horizon level. In life the horizon is always level, even if we tilt our head, so our photographs should be too. For some unknown reason when we first pick up a camera we have a tendency to put the horizon smack bang in the middle of the image. However, tilting your camera up or down will obviously move the height of the horizon and draw attention to either the sky or the earth. For example, if you want an image of the dramatic clouds at sunset is there any reason to include more than a thin slice of land? If there is that's great, include it, but often it's just wasted space. Similarly, if what's going on closer to the ground is of more interest, move the horizon up towards the top of the frame. For further reading on this subject, investigate the rule of thirds.


3. Find interesting anglesSome of the best photos are shot from an unusual angle. It's fair to say that nothing will improve your creativity more than finding a new viewpoint. This may seem daunting at first but in reality it can be as simple as getting down low and laying in the sand, or it could mean exploring the narrow streets and heading away from the tourist hotspots.


4. Interact with the localsThe key here is respect, for the individual and for the culture. Remember that we are just visitors. It's true that meeting locals can be intimidating and difficult, after all you're only in the country for a limited amount of time, but that shouldn't stop you from exploring the daily life. Even something as simple as a trip to the local market can really provide you with some great subjects.


5. FinallyPrint out your best holiday photos. Very few people do this nowadays but in years to come you'll be glad you did.


Tom Bourdon is an award winning documentary travel photographer specialising in photographing celebrations & traditional ways of life across the globe. If you would like to learn more, Tom Bourdon is currently organising photo tours and workshops in London and overseas.  

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