How to take stunning pictures: Holidays

This content is 14 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Continuing the series of posts based on Channel 5 Broadcasting’s “How To Take Stunning Pictures” series, this one looks at photographing scenes on holiday (previous posts have covered portraiture, celebrations, landscapes, sport and animals). The expert photographer in this episode was Martin Parr and, whilst Channel 5′s website has some tips to go with each programme, they don’t exactly match up to the advice in the programme itself so, here are the tips from the sixth episode:

Pictures of people can tell a lot about their characters, their stories and their relationship with the world. When you know you’re onto something, explore the scene fully and try work out how to best capture it. Use people and places together to tell a story: decide what the picture is about and then how you compose it will tell the viewer what you’re trying to say.

  • Take a fresh look – find out what people are thinking, saying and doing.
  • Take lots of pictures – take the bad ones to get the good ones – experiment and shoot lots – they can succeed or fail and success is great!
  • Try to avoid clichés – often people photograph timeless things on holiday – sometimes it’s good to pull away and think about what is being photographed and why. The relationship between people and places forms the basis of this type of photographic work.
  • Engage with subjects – observe the quirks, observe the people and it suddenly becomes more interesting. Engagement is a key element to drive photography forward so keep the dialogue going – even if everything is all right, say this is great, look at me, don’t smile – let the subject know that you’re still interested in them. When get that engagement, you can bring your work alive.
  • Be bold to really get the moment you are after – get in close, look for surreal moments – collect stories about the world and try to distill them into a few pictures.

“I guess, as a photographer, one of the things you hope to do is to create an iconic picture but of course you can never quite predict how and when it’s going to happen. In the end it often comes down to luck but the thing about luck is that it is always earnt so you need that perseverance and suddenly things will happen, it will flow in front of you and you’ve got your moment.


I think what we can see here is that by concentrating on one thing, coming in closer, exploring it better, making sure it’s something you can identify with – that’s when you can really reap the benefits of going to a place and trying to take away photographs that tell you something about your relationship to that place.”

[Martin Parr]

This was the final programme in the series and I have mixed feelings. In the comments on the first post, I defended the programme but, even though I went on to write up the key points from all six episodes, on reflection, some of them have been a bit lightweight. Even so, with a 22 minute programme, there is only so much information that the producers can put across and, for purely commercial reasons, it is pitched for a broad appeal. I’ve probably learned something in each one – and hopefully you have too!

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