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Capturing Memory: Tips on Photographing Your Vacation

Whatever you’re planning on doing over winter break, whether it’s staying in New York, going home to visit family, hitting the ski slopes, or relaxing on the beach in Florida, there is one thing that should be in your suitcase: a camera. A camera allows you to capture your vacation and forever store the memories for you and your friends to look back at and reminisce . . . that is, if you take good pictures. Imagine how horrifying it would be to get back to YU after an amazing vacation and load all you pictures onto your computer or Facebook, only to realize that they are all blurry, dark, over-exposed, or just badly composed. And that would be awful. So, in order to avoid such a horrible outcome, here are some tips to help ensure some amazing pictures over this winter break.

  1. Keep Your Eyes Open. If you want to get some good shots on your vacation, there are times when you should act like a tourist,  posing in every single picture at all the tourist sights in your Hawaiian shirt. By doing this, you capture your memories and document what you did on your trip; however, this often causes people to pass up on many other great photographic opportunities. If you are visiting an exotic place  where there are many amazing things to take pictures of, though  you may be inclined to pose in every single one of your pics, try for some variation. Taking pictures of or with the local community often adds a lot of character to a photograph. On your break, take some pics of yourself in front of the tourist sites, and snap a picture of the monuments that have already been photographed a million times, but also make sure to keep your eyes open for those one-of-a-kind opportunities.
  2. Be Friendly. People often underestimate the power of a smile. If you want to take a picture of someone, or have have your picture taken, being personable is the best tactic. A great example of how this can lead to great photographs can be found in Brandon Stranton’s photoblog Humans of New York ( Brandon wanders the streets of the city and walks right up to strangers, asking them if he can take their picture. He asks them for a quote or their story, and, by being outgoing, he is able to make some amazing pictures of the people that give New York City her unique character.
  3. Don’t blame your camera, Oftentimes people avoid taking pictures because they assume that they do not have a good enough camera. While having a good camera definitely helps, the photographer makes the picture, not the camera. Knowing how to work with what you have, whether it’s an iPhone, point-and-shoot, or SLR, is what’s most important. When a picture comes up on the LCD screen and it’s too light or blurry, it’s easy to blame the camera and just give up, but if you know how to adjust the settings and exposure, you can still take some great pictures.
  4. Make Pictures, Don’t Take Them. Digital photography, as a form of art and expression, has become easily accessible to almost anyone. Digital technology has made cameras better, smaller, cheaper, and easier to use. As photography has become easier and more accessible, it has been diminished as an art form to some extent, in that one can take hundreds of pictures and chances are that only one or two will be good. Thus, a true photographer does not rely solely on their equipment and settings, but focuses on composition. By understand where to place the subject in your picture, you will be able take a snapshot and make it into a photograph. Even if you use Instagram, composition will make or break a picture, because if you do not have the right setup in the picture, it is irrelevant how many different filters you apply to it. A badly composed picture will never look ‘right.’
  5. Understand Exposure and Lighting. While this is quite a large undertaking, exposure is the basis of photography. It determines how the light interacts with the camera and determines how your picture will come out. Exposure is made up of three main parts: shutter speed, aperture/ f-stop, and ISO/ film sensitivity. While it is possible to take great pictures using your camera’s automatic exposure mode, knowing how to brighten or darken a picture using different apertures, or increasing or decreasing motion blur using shutter speed, will allow you to be more creative with you pictures. Furthermore, by understanding how to manually set the exposure settings in your camera, you will be able to tell the camera what environment it is in, and thus how you want the picture to look. The Internet is an amazing resource to learn from, and there are some great tutorials on YouTube channels like AdoramaTV.
  6. Take your Camera EVERYWHERE, It might sound a bit crazy, but you never know when an opportunity for a great picture will present itself. Whenever I go out without my camera, I often feel like I am going to miss the picture of a lifetime. Luckily for me, that has not happened, and, with the advent of camera phones, such a possibility is quickly becoming more unlikely. If you have an iPhone or another small camera, then there is never an excuse to miss another picture again. While a camera phone is not the highest quality camera, it can still capture some amazing shots that would have otherwise gone un-captured.
  7. Go Out and Take Pictures! The best way to become a good photographer is to go out and take pictures. Grab your camera and spend a Sunday afternoon taking pictures of anything that interests you. Experiment with lighting and composition, and don’t be afraid of taking someone’s picture—the worst that they can do is tell you not to. Make sure not to be a lazy photographer and just go for the easy shots. The Empire State Building has been photographed in every which way imaginable. So if you want to get different shots, think outside the box. Go out when no other sane photographers are willing to, like early in the morning, and then you will get the truly one-of-a-kind photos.