I’m excited to share with you this tutorial by Mary Coates Smith, author of Touched By China. When I went to China, I did not go there with the intention of publishing a photography book, but after viewing more than 3000 photos I had taken, the stunning beauty and exquisite detail compelled me to create a photography book so that the enjoyment of this unforgettable family trip could come home with me.
I was also deeply moved by my trip and wanted to use the book as a tool to visually outline the human side of China from a traveler’s perspective. My hope is to dispel common misconceptions about China that keep Westerners from visiting this beautiful country.
Here are some suggestions on how to turn your next family vacation into an enjoyable photo book:
1) Choosing the Right Camera and Accessories.
Choosing the right camera is the first step.
CAMERA: The advantage of digital cameras is that, unlike film, we no longer have to try and ration out the number of photos we take knowing that there will be an expensive development process upon returning home. So I chose to upgrade from my old point and shoot camera to a DSLR (digital single lenses reflex) camera. I opted for the Nikon DC3100.
LENS: I have about five interchangeable lenses but quite frankly the only lenses I carried with me on a daily basis were a standard zoom and a wide-angle. It becomes cumbersome to haul around more than two lenses at a time, so if you decide to upgrade to a DSLR, I would start out with the lens the camera comes with then add one extra lens based on whatever style of photography interests you. For me, that was wide-angle photography.
MEMORY: Make sure you have enough space on your memory cards. For my 3000 photos, I filled the entire 16 GB and half of an 8 GB.
BATTERY: Make sure you carry an extra battery. The last thing you want to have happen is to run out of power in the middle of the day. The first thing I did every night back at the hotel is recharge all the batteries.
CAMERA BAG: A DSLR camera is larger and a little heavier than a pocket size point and shoot. As such, a good comfortable camera bag is essential. Mine is very durable, slings over my neck and shoulder and leaves me hands free. I use one of the pockets for personal items. This bag is all I carry. I have become very used to traveling this way and know that when I get home and have the excellent quality photos, it is worth the little extra effort.
2) Shooting Photos.
Now the fun starts.
STORY: When you decide what shots to take, think about what story your photos are telling. I like to take photos that have family members in them and many without. I always try to capture the artistic merit of the subject I am shooting. Remember your eyes are taking in not only the landscape shot, but all the surrounding details as well. To tell the story of the visit, you need a variety of shots from close to far distance. For example, in my book I have a wonderful shot of a farmer’s market roadside stand but then I also got a close up shot of just the beautiful bamboo basket of vegetables.
CHILDREN: If you have children on your trip, I would really encourage you to buy them an inexpensive point and shoot digital camera. You will be amazed at the unusual shots they take because they haven’t been programmed yet into thinking there is a right or wrong way. Encourage them to think outside the box of typical shots. Remember you can always delete the shots you don’t like.
3) Developing Photos.
Once you have come home and downloaded your photos onto a disc or drive you will get to relive the trip.
PRINTING: I like to do my own printing. I have tried various printers and have had the best results with the HP Photosmart. I use the full size 8 x 10” Costco glossy ink jet photo paper. I avoid the thin flimsy brands of photo paper. Your office supply stores also carry other types of photo papers. Using the full sheets lets me decide what size I want to print, everything from 3 x 5”, 5 x 7”, to full sheet. I think there are many advantages to doing your own printing but the ink does get expensive. It is all about choices in life. While someone else might like to spend the same amount on a round of golf, I get a great deal of pleasure using my printer.
TOOLS: I think cropping is the number one tool you can use to enhance your photos. So many times with just a little cropping you can turn an ordinary amateur shot into an interesting professional photo. Once you get comfortable with the software program you choose to use to download and store your photos, you will want to continue to experiment with the various tools they offer.
4) The Photobook.
I love to share my photos with family and friends but realistically no one is going to want to sit at a screen or go through a photo album with 3000 photos, which is why I created a photo book for TOUCHED BY CHINA.
When readers look through my book, I hope they feel like they have taken “a trip to China” via my photos. The pre-planning phase of my trip played an important role in researching and selecting venues that would have beautiful sights. This is a very high priority for me.
Like most creative endeavors with practice you get better and better but the enjoyment can start from day one. If you have the interest it just might develop into a passion as it did in my case. Your photos can be an inspiration to create other projects too …such as beautiful greeting cards.
If photography brings you the same enjoyment that it does for me, you may want to expand your knowledge as I did by taking classes at adult education or junior colleges. Most enrollment is easy and very affordable. The digital world is changing so fast that there is always something new to learn.