It's a Snap!
Read on for tips on taking vacation pictures that capture all the magic of your cruise.
On your cruise, you’ll collect memories to last a lifetime. But if you want to share them with family and friends back home, one of the best ways to do it is by taking pictures while you sail.
Digital cameras with built-in zoom lenses make it possible to photograph people and places that are almost impossible to capture with a film camera unless you carry a tripod and invest a small fortune in different lenses. The biggest advantage of digital photography is seeing almost instantly how well your photos turn out. As a result, you can make any necessary adjustments quickly, refine your technique and even experiment.
Practice Before You Sail
Cruise vacation pictures are priceless. If you buy a new camera to take on vacation, practice with it at home first. You don’t want to be fumbling with new controls when a humpback breaches in front of your whale-watching boat near Juneau.
Be sure you know how to adjust the white balance to get the correct colors, whether you’re photographing inside the ship, outdoors or at night. If the white balance is wrong, you may end up with purple where the sky should be blue in bright daylight. If you rely on your camera’s automatic system, then you’re likely to produce only average pictures that don’t take advantage of a digital camera’s full capability. To check or change the white balance settings, consult your camera manual. Each model works differently. Typically, all that’s needed is a twist of a dial and the push of a button to choose between sunlight, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent or flash settings.
Even if you think you’ve learned it all, take the instruction book with you. You’ll discover new questions along the way, and the book may make good reading on the pool deck. Maybe the person lounging next to you just bought a new camera too.
Even when using a camera with a rechargeable battery, always bring a spare. A battery that registers strongly in the morning may be weak by midday. There’s no way to recharge it while you’re relaxing on a St. Maarten beach or touring Venice’s Grand Canal. Have at least one spare for each camera, even if they all use the same type of rechargeable battery. And pack all your chargers and electrical cords too. Remember that some batteries take a half day or more to recharge, so plan accordingly.
Unless you’re shooting a panoramic landscape, don’t try to fit everything into a single picture. Select the most interesting aspects of what you see and cut out everything that’s not important. In Cabo San Lucas, concentrate on the famous Arch at Land’s End before visiting the other formations around it.
Avoid centering your subject in every photo. It’s the natural thing to do because the center is where the camera auto focuses. But if every picture has its subject in the middle, your photos won’t be as interesting. Remember to vary your subject placement when shooting the famed Lava Tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. or an Alaskan glacier, where the scenery may seem repetitive at first glance.
If people are your subject, zoom in close so you can catch their facial expressions and personalities. Don’t lose them in the landscape or show them as unidentifiable finger smudges. If the people specialize in some skill or craft, such as the artisans in La Paz, Mexico.
Whether photographing people, birds or animals, make sure you can see the eyes of your subject. If you can make out the face but not the eyes, an important element is missing from your picture—for instance, a portrait of a black bear in Alaska is just a head of hair if you can’t see its eyes. Of course, safety comes first. That’s why cameras can zoom.
Shoot from different viewpoints for variety. Crouch down when you’re photographing children so you’re on their level instead of shooting down on them. The same applies to animals at the Belize Zoo or flowers in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Try not to tower over everything. At the same time, shooting a tall building from a crouching position creates a different perspective, emphasizing the building’s height and size.
Walk around your subject to look for a variety of angles. If that’s not possible, take a series of different pictures by starting with a wide angle and gradually zooming in. Practice this technique at a landmark such as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and you’ll pick up all sorts of details you’d otherwise miss.
Hold your camera vertically from time to time. This is one of the easiest ways to crop pictures to emphasize your main subject. For instance, at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or on a tour of the lighthouses of Maine, it makes sense to take vertical pictures.
Watch Out for Too Much of a Good Thing
The best pictures are usually taken in early morning or late afternoon as sunlight slants from the side and highlights details on subjects such as the Mayan ruins at Tulum, Dzibilchaltun or Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan. The colors are richer and more saturated at those times.
If you must take pictures close to midday, try to get your travel companions to wear colors other than white, which tends to glare in bright sunlight. If you’re at the beach near noon, use the built-in flash when photographing people’s faces to eliminate the shadows. Another way to compensate for bright sun is to underexpose by one-third or two-thirds of an F-stop. Bracketing these two exposures will reveal what works best for your particular camera.
Keep the sunlight at your back whenever possible—unless it’s fall foliage time in Alaska or New England. In that case, try placing the sun right behind the leaves for even more vivid color.
If you know you’re going to an aquarium in the Virgin Islands or taking a helicopter flight over the volcanoes in Hawaii, bring tissues to wipe fingerprints off the window glass. Reduce reflections of yourself in the window by wearing a dark shirt and hat—anything but a white T-shirt. Hold your camera as close to the glass as you can, then look through the eyepiece or at the camera screen to preview the image you’re about to shoot. You may have to hold your camera at an angle to avoid reflections.
Avoid Humidity, Rain and SandMoving your camera from an air-conditioned stateroom into bright sun may cause your lens to fog. Temperature changes should be gradual, so keep the camera covered when you first step outside.
Unexpected rain showers, beach sand and salt spray all manage to find their way into even the finest equipment. The easiest and least cumbersome way to protect your camera from such hazards is to carry pint- or gallon-size resealable plastic bags. If you’re toting a big camera case, stuff several resealable bags into a side pocket before leaving home. It’s not very fancy, but the pros do it too.
Capture Silhouettes in the Sunset
Sunsets over the water are always popular cruise subjects. The key is not to shoot too soon. Here’s how: Hold your fist at arm’s length with your thumb aimed straight up and the bottom of your hand even with the horizon. If the sun is above the thumb, it’s too early for good silhouettes. Once the sun drops below the level of your thumb tip, start shooting. That’s also when it’s safe to look at the sun through a telephoto lens.
Put an object in the foreground that identifies the location of your picture. Nothing is more meaningless than a series of photos of an empty ocean. They could be from anywhere. If you’re on a beach in Hawaii or the Caribbean, put a palm tree in the picture. In Croatia, make it the fishing boats in the harbor of the old medieval city of Dubrovnik. In San Juan, you can even use the massive El Morro fortress, behind which the sun sets at certain times of the year. On a day at sea, use the ship’s railing or a smokestack to indicate where you are.
Take it Easy
If you don’t want to carry a camera, it doesn’t mean you have to forego photos of your cruise experiences. Cruise guests have access to great photographers on board every ship. Check the schedule and arrange to have your portrait taken during your cruise. Even if you’re taking pictures of your own, a professional photo makes a great addition to your memory book.
Follow these easy tips while cruising, and you’ll not only have a beautiful record of your trip—but you might even have friends and family asking to see your vacation photos
Preposterously blue water, white sandbeaches, fiery orange sunsets. How can you make your cruise photos picture perfect? Try these tips before you snap the shutter.
BACK TO THE SUN
Normally, the sun should be at the photographer’s back. If you take a picture of your friend beaming beneath her straw hat, be sure the sun is in front of her. Otherwise, her face will be dark and the shadows under her eyes will look like she hasn’t slept in days. For the same reason, try not to take pictures at noon under an open sky. Always keep an automatic camera’s flash on. A flash both softens shadows and mellows the light, adding a natural touch to flesh tones. And, with flash and creativity, the sun’s position needn’t completely limit how you place your subjects. Try moving them to a shaded spot or under a palm tree. It’s remarkable how softly and evenly the light will fall across their faces and how much more natural their skin color will look.
Flowers and gardens particularly benefit from flash. Find a flower in the shade, then, using your zoom lens, fill the viewfinder completely with the bloom. Stay a few feet back, so when the flash goes off you’ll pep up the image and darken the background. This puts your blossom center stage where it belongs. If you want dew, just sprinkle some water on your garden gem before photographing it.
For a professional touch, compose your photos. That scenic of far-off tropical hills will look better if youinclude something in the foreground, like an over-hanging palm frond or some lipstick-red hibiscus. This accomplishes two things:You provide viewers a sense of scale. Nobody can tell how big those hills are unless an object in the picture offers a clue. And you add a sense of intimacy by letting viewers feel they’re peeking at the scene from a hidden spot.
To prevent portraits that look like mug shots, avoid always putting your subject’s face squarely in the middle of the frame. Professional photographers divide each picture into magic thirds, a method that can make your compositions more interesting. In your mind, divide what you see in your viewfinder evenly into three horizontal lines and three vertical lines. Instead of placing your subject in the center, put it at the intersection of two of these imaginary lines. Place people slightly off to one side, for example. Aligning the ship’s edge with any of the vertical magic thirds also will yield more interesting pictures. These simple rules will give you professional looking pictures to capture the thrill of your cruise for years to come.
TIPS FROM THE PROS:
1. A simple background focuses attention on the subject and makes a clear, strong picture. Move your subject or camera to find an uncluttered backdrop.
2. Objects in the foreground enhance a vista’s distance, depth and dimension. Incorporate contrast in front for a more pleasing scenic view.
3. Lines—the prow of a boat, the sides of a channel—add an interesting element to pictures. A perfectly framed bridge can lead the eye into a shot.
4. When shooting a silhouette against a sunset, turn the flash off. Use a tripod or brace your camera. With a manual camera, use a longer shutter speed.