Choose the right camera
Things to consider when taking holiday photos
What to look for
Whether it's golden sands, painted beach huts, holiday reps' luminous blazers or the lights of the pier-end fair, holidays -- and beach holidays in particular -- are all about colour. When shooting a digital record of your travels, you should do all you can to capture those colours as faithfully as possible.
Better than the real thing
Beach photos almost always include the sea in some part of the frame. To capture it at its best, you'll need a camera to which you can affix a circular polarising filter. This lets you block out light on selected wavelengths by turning it around on the front of your lens, until you achieve the purest possible blues in the sky and sea.
Depending on where you position it, this same filter also determines the degree to which you can see through the surface of the water, as it cuts out the reflected sky, which is what gives the sea much of its colour.
If you don't want to carry around a dSLR or interchangeable lens compact, then all is not lost. Although very few traditional compact cameras will be able to host a filter of any kind, most include a dedicated beach -- or beach and snow -- setting in their scene modes. This helps them to deal with the unusual lighting conditions present at the seaside, where the primary source of illumination -- the sky -- is usually supplemented by a secondary source reflecting from the sea and sand.
Many seaside resorts have piers and illuminations and it's a shame to head home without snapping them. Illuminations are more likely to be outside where they can be move due to the wind, which could cause them to blur in your photos. To avoid this, choose a camera that performs well at high sensitivities (ISO) so you can keep the exposure time short. But don't be tempted to immediately opt for the one with the highest setting as this may still introduce a high degree of noise into the image.
Ask your sales advisor about the size of the sensor and how it compares to rivals, as larger sensors generally perform better than smaller ones in low light. Use Flickr's camera search tool to hunt out low-light and night-time shots from your chosen camera to see what it produces in everyday use.
Fairgrounds look great if you increase the exposure time. This means performance at high sensitivities is less important than a dedicated shutter priority mode (sometimes marked 'Tv'), and an easy way to increase the exposure time as you experiment with several shots until you achieve the best result.
Sunsets look spectacular when shot across open water as the sun streaks across the surface of the sea. This creates a natural arrow that points back to the subject of your photo, the sun.
If buying a compact, look for a model with a dedicated sunset mode, as these are usually the simplest way to obtain an impressive result, often with a short enough exposure time to enable hand-held operation.
If you're buying a dSLR though, consider how easy it is to manually set a long exposure, limit sensitivity and dial in a narrow aperture to maximise the depth of field. Take a good look at each camera's manual mode settings and how easy they are to use, as this is where you'll need to spend your time if you want to control both shutter and aperture behaviour simultaneously.
It goes without saying that you should never look directly at the sun, no matter how low it is in the sky.
Beach and holiday photography wish list
- Good low-light performance
- Option to add a filter
- Aperture and shutter priority controls
- Sunset or beach shooting presets