A Good Lens deserves lots of care, but not a UV filter!

After manufacturers like Canon spend several millions developing a lens to a level of eye watering sharpness, why do we add a piece of inferior glass of our own?

That’s what we do when we add a UV filter to protect a lens form scratches and dust!
Yes, those lenses cost hundreds, if not thousands, but why would a serious photographer risk refractions and aberrations?

If you ever wanted to be convinced that minor lens damage is harmless check this amazing article out!
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Even crazy ‘damage’ like this didn’t do too much to an image in Kurt Munger’s amazing test!

OK, so that’ is a lot of stuff on the lens and admittedly some minor stuff was showing on the images, but hey, it does kind of make a point!

UV filters?  Hmm, rather trust Canon than a filter manufacturer thank you, a new front element fitted by an authorised Canon dealer isn’t the end of the world if you gouge a lens either!
(About the cost of two Pro UV filters!)

If you really want to improve image quality and protect your front element, always, always use the lens hood that was supplied with your lens every single time you shoot, indoor or out!
They dramatically imporve image contrast when shooting in cross light, and offer rugged and basic protection should anything head into the path of your precious glass!

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Some pictures are worth more than a thousand words

When it comes to quality travel images, there’s nothing at all quite like National Geographic’s stunning imagery.

 

If you are after inspiration or simply love staring endlessly at beautiful photography, take a look at their photography section.
Now we know that the images are taken by the world’s most elite science and travel photographers, but we truly beleive that inspiration and ideas can be drawn from thinking about some of the possibilities that cameras offer, when used thoughtfully.
Don’t forget that places such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Busch Gardens offer a unique chance to snap some great wildlife shots!

 

If you look closely the National Geographic site you will see this photo tips section.
It offers a great insight into how many of those images came to light!
With even the cheapest of cameras, a determined photographer with a basic understanding of technique, will turn out amazing vacation snaps.  So don’t give up!

Keep shooting and keep learning from the images that you meet face to face every hour of the day!

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These travel images are courtesy of the online Orlando Travel Guide totalorlando.com

 

Learn to Make the Most of Software!

Photographers keep their secrets very close to their chests!

This is partly, because they don’t want others to know their techniques, but mainly because their vanity prevents them from admitting they don’t always get things right!

As a pro, people expect perfection, but in reality, experimentation has long been one of the greatest assets for a photographer.
With the advent of instant views on digital camera backs, the opportunity to take risks and try bold ideas has never been so good!

Add the power of amazing software such as Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture and you are armed with a very powerful armoury on your crusade for fantastic travel photos.

A real life demo of the power of Lightroom!

On an assignment to the Magic Kingdom I was dashing from one area that was bathed in glorious winter sunshine, only to look at my watch to see that the parade was about to begin.  The parade is without doubt one of the greatest opportunities for those iconic images of one Mr M. Mouse!
Miss one of those and you get fired!

As I rushed to my chosen spot (chosen for the best background and light at that time of year) I scurried past a vista that looked really interesting.  I hadn’t time to set up exposures so quickly framed the shot and fired the shutter.
The camera back was useless during bright light as anyone would agree in sunny conditions, but I thought quite incorrectly that I was near enough.

Back at the room, I could see the images importing into Lightroom on my laptop and this drab image scrolled by:

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The camera had done what I’d asked it to do, and that of course was to expose at my manual settings for the afternoon light.
In this case, Cinderella’s Castle was exposed perfectly in line with my settings.
The subjects were of course another matter!  Poor Mickey and Minnie were indeed left in the shade!

Over the course of over a year, I grimaced whenever I saw the thumbnail in my Lightroom collection, until my editor wanted a topiary of the loveable mice!
As I searched my files, I realised I had little, other than of course the shady characters above!

In a desperate attempt not to fail, I opened the image up in Lightroom’s develop mode and set to with some very basic adjustments just to see what I could achieve.
Lifting the exposure was out of the question, but adjusting the fill, white slider, vibrance, saturation and highlights pretty much got me to where I wanted to be.
With a final tweak to the green and blue saturation and luminosity sliders, I was there.

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In hindsight, I’m sure you might think that this is a little ‘overworked’ (messed with too much).
Of course in hindsight you’d be correct, but, I got my money for the shot, the image performed well for its purpose and nobody came back to tell me that I’d boosted the green a little too much (which of course it is!).

My experience has taught me to;

  • Always take a shot that might work
  • Always keep images safe and never delete any
  • Learn to use software well
  • Make bold adjustments then back off a little if it goes wrong
  • Shoot in RAW for forgiveness

I hope that this example encourages you to dig out a few of your library shots and see what you can do!

Seek Inspiration Before you Shoot!

There are loads of reasons why a pro photographer takes great travel pics.
But it isn’t all down to technique and equipment!

Most graduates are all too familiar with the term ‘research’ and photography is no different!
There are two types of research that we will discuss today;

  1. Seek advice on technique
  2. Get inspiration!

Technique is key!

Taking great vacation snaps involves an few key techniques to be mastered.  Without understanding how to make the most of your camera, the results will be little more than ‘luck’.  The more you learn, the less you will rely upon that luck and the better the shots become.
It is unrealistic to expect great results just off a few days of research, but over the course of the time between booking your vacation and actually getting there, you will have plenty of time!

By setting yourself some tasks, while you are at home, work and play, you will quickly come on!   Try shooting indoors and improve on your previous images.  Shoot in low light and shoot with very slow shutter speeds to see what can be achieved and how those images turn out!

Check out some great websites by searching in Google for Vacation Photo Tips it seems obvious, so have a go yourself!

Inspiration will make your shots look professional

Looking at other photographer’s work might seem like cheating at first, but the practice is an important part of your education as a great vacation snapper!
Ask any pro shooter and they will tell you which great photographers inspire them most!

Check out this top100 travel photographer list for some wonderful ideas and examples of what can be achieved if you put your mind to it!

From a personal perspective, I like love looking at the work of British Photographer Martin Parr before I head out on a Travel Shoot.  I appreciate the ability that Martin has to capture people in their environments, which is of course, the whole purpose of a family vacation snap!

Great Photography takes time, research and practice!

Whatever happens, don’t expect too much overnight, but practice & learn every single day in some way!
It’s hard work, but like everything in life, the more you practice, the luckier you get!

Luxury Travel Photography – Tips – Catching the Peak Action!

Catching Peak Action the secret to the best vacation shots!

If you’ve ever wondered how to grab yourself an amazing theme park shot that will wow your friends on Facebook, it’s all about that magic moment!

It happens only once for every shot, and if you miss it, it has gone forever.  With the right skill however, it’s in the camera and yours for the bragging rights!

This shot for totalorlando of the Serveur Amusement street performers in the French area of Epcot, is a good example of that moment.  Nothing fast going on to be honest, it’s just that point that counts!  A split second earlier and his feet were on the chair below, a split second later and he artist was purely vertical, somehow losing the impact.

IMG_5922There’s no magic here, you can easily do it yourself, and here’s a few tips to help you on your way!

  1. Even if the action is slow, keep your shutter speed high!  It stops a blurred image!
  2. If your camera has a continuous shoot mode, choose that for a quick burst of images.  Start shooting just before the action starts and you get the beginning, middle and end!
  3. If you are shooting something that repeats, watch it first without the camera, you can judge how things work out for your shoot!
  4. Sometimes it’s nice to aim the camera, then back your head away from the eyepiece to watch the scene unfold.  The wider view allows you to judge timing much better!
  5. Don’t stop shooting until it’s all over.  There’s always a good shot about to come if you are patient!

Sometimes however, there’s no substitute for thinking the action through before it actually happens!  Try and weigh up your environment and look for clues as to where the action will be and how best to position your camera!This shot of Disney’s Lights, Motors, Action stunt show at Hollywood Studios Orlando, was just one of those moments.

I know this sounds a bit boastful, but nothing about this shot was chance, even though it was my first time shooting here this event.  I was so closely following the stunt crews movements that I could see that they were preparing for the car to completely change direction and jump the flames.
How hard was I concentrating?  I had a killer of a headache, but it was well worth it!

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Photoshop Crime or Artistic Beauty?

Having graduated with a first class degree in Photography, a painful lesson is learned very early on; a bad shot is a bad shot.

Sure, a little tweaking and adjustment can be beneficial, but a full scale rescue of an image is destined for ridicule by onlookers and peers.

Occasionally we see stunning images that have been heavily ‘Photoshopped’, but, sadly, we are more likely to see some photoshop horrors.

So we set out to find an already popular image from our portfolio and wizz it through one of our favourite editing packages Nik Color Effects Pro to see if we add or subtract from the original shot.

Before (Optimised in Lightroom 4)

IMG_7408After (NIK Color Effects Pro – Solarization)

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The Verdict?

We remain undecided ourselves.  The NIK effect is dramatic, but, in our opinion it changes the photograph into a graphic.  We like it, but it is an extreme treatment that perhaps succeeds only because of the subject.  (In this case, Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom).  A slightly different subject and the heavily graphical effect would look very out of place.

Let us know what you feel about the two versions, we’d love to hear more!

Great Vacation Rental Home Photography – Gets the bookings for owners!

Over the course of a year, a good vacation rental home can reach more than 60% occupancy for an owner.  Perfect for bringing in the cash to pay for vacations or upkeep that mortgage!

Owners with fantastic homes however are often staggered that their lovely home doesn’t appear to ‘book out’ as well as their neighbouring properties.

It’s not the decor, the size of the pool or the direction that the sun its the pool deck area that causes the dearth of income.  Quite simply, it’s that awful photography that they blindly snapped away on their point and shoot camera (or worse still, their cell phone!)

Here’s what a great picture can look like for one of totalorlando’s luxury vacation homes, it’s a million miles away from the dull dark snaps that you often see on most homeowner’s private websites!

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