It’s now time to conclude our Marrakech series and instead of unfolding a new set of photos I thought I could rather write something a bit different.
I never really was focusing on technique when talking about those photos and the reason is that most of them are not exactly technique dependant. In other words, yes I’ve got a pricey camera and it is much needed when I Need to satisfy my client requests, whether it’s fashion fotografie, wedding or portrait based assignments. But I also strongly believe that the Marrakech set could have been done with a muuuch less expensive camera.
Try googling “travel photography” and you’ll end up browsing HDR ultra wide landscape photos with hardcore shallow depth of field obtained through 2k+ EUR lenses.
I used a 24-70mm lens mostly set at values like f/8… Basically more limited than your phone camera in terms of possibility range (no need to argue about sharpness or dynamic range, it would not make sense here, of course it wouldn’t).
My point being that instead of focusing on what other stunning gears can do, it’s time to make the best out of what YOUR gear can do.
So now, HOW TO TAKE BETTER HOLIDAY PICTURES IN 5 TIPS:
1. Planing is key!
CERVANTES famously said that “The man who is prepared has his battle half fought”.
Prepare yourself then! Internet is filled to the the top with photos of people who visited the place you are heading to… Check their work! Google it, whether it is Marrakech or Montenegro. Visit Flickr groups, do selective researches on Behance, name it. You probably have a favourite platform to share your work, just browse it!
It will give you an idea of what is the standard artistic representation of the place you will photograph once there, you are then free to use it for inspiration.
I personally hate to come back home with the same pictures I’ve seen everywhere. The Marrakech tag will lead you to a mass of teeth less old souks men under the sun with those typical red wall backgrounds seen everywhere in Marrakech. I sort of forbid myself to come back to Trier with such pictures, so my work could stand out a bit! What’s the point then???
The point is that doing so will put you in the mood. Do you remember when as a kid you were looking at pics of the things you hoped for Christmas? Do you know this feeling when you play lottery and dream about what you could do with all that money? Well, same same except that here, you eventually get the toy, win the lottery: your plane ticket is already booked! Why would you prevent yourself from enjoying the planning process!
Moreover this exercise helps you to develop a photographic culture and expand your vision of what is possible creatively with a camera in hand and this is key!
2. Do not shoot what you see but shoot what you feel
During the first two days of my one week stay in Marrakech, I was completely overwhelmed and could barely shoot a single picture. It was all so new to me and extremely sensual for the best or the worse. It was about the heat, the smells (from delicious spices to ignoble leather factories), the tastes (from magnificent Tajines to those meat stands in the souks I would avoid at any cost) and sounds (hundred calls for prayers mixed from everywhere in the city 5 times a day in a chaotic chorus).
It quickly became clear that what I wanted to bring back from Marrakech wasn’t another self-made postcard but rather a way to express those above mentioned feelings.
How to do this? Sit down and think. Write a mental list of what inspires you I the city and regroup those ideas under 4 or five keywords/folders.
One of my “folders” was this idea of a foreign powerful divine entity, ruling and giving the beat to the city through Sun, Muezzin calls and excitement due to the Aid El-Adha. Once this concept clarified, I walked the city and shot anything that could be attached to this idea.
Ok ok maybe that one was a bit complex but it could be much simpler: in Iceland this leading thought was “empty wild large space”, in Roma it was “contrast between imperialism in the city and modern Italians”. Call it!
In other words don’t shoot like crazy to fill your memory card in hope there would be something to tell afterwards, but tell something with your photos instead! It s like writing a poem: you know what you want to express and you need to choose the right words!
It probably is the most difficult part for a beginner. Engage your subject. It is about finding the right balance between being intrusive and getting Closer with a Cartier-Bresson big “C”.
When I shoot my street style fotografie series for Glanzvoll magazine in Trier, I stop someone I really like, tell them I find them very charming/trendy, emphasise the effort they have done to look great this day and ask them for the permission to take a photo.
90% of the answers are positive! Unbelievable huh? Who would have thought?!? Is it this surprising? Not…
After all they later get a good picture of themselves via mail, receive tons of compliments often regarded as a positive feedback In times where street style is regarded as a creative/artistic act. What else would you wish for when you didn’t expect anything?
Now apply this one to everything. The people you meet do not want their photo to be taken? Move on, find someone else. They do not want you to take picture of this or that? Explain yourself, negotiate, clarify your intentions and if they still refuse, move on. No big deal! Sometimes this negotiating process go through body and eye languages only, especially if you do not speak the local language, trust me you’ll find a way!
Don’t miss this part of the game! Sometimes a bit of stress will make your heart skip a beat when engaging the people but it very very normal.
Last tip from Martin Parr himself: ask people not to smile, they look much better when they don’t have to fake anything!
4. Be ready to shoot
Prepare some space on your memory card, take a universal lens if you have the chance to possess more than one, review your ISO and other settings, TAKE OFF THE CAMERA CAP (no joke). And be ready to shoot because sometimes you only have a second! This second will make the difference between a WOW shot and a hahahuh shot. It s about positions of everything you record in the frame. Get ready? Shoot!
5. A right shot is not what you think it is.
Right shots are often mistaken with crisp, focused perfectly exposed and framed photos. With time and a little experience in using your developing software, you will learn to seize the opportunity to use noise, out of range exposures or movement blur for creative purposes that will eventually serve your narratives. Sometimes in a much more expressive manner than this HDR shot of the bay that clearly has nothing to do with reality anyway. Think of those hype analog photos of everything and everywhere that flood the internet.
They use the optical and chemical particularities of a film to carry a vintage feeling, emphasize authenticity (should not be taken as an absolute observation), often faked through Instagram filters! Use all this creatively. Motion blur indicates movement, not all unsharp photographs look terrible, noise can make a shot look rough… Experiment!
Now give me some feedback if you wish, try some of those next time you go on holiday or simply anytime you want to explore something new with your camera. Many great photographers apply some of those principles when exploring the relationship between the individuals within families, to document the life in industrial neighbourhoods… There are endless possibilities!
I hope all this will be helpful and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any question!