Anyone who has ever taken a cruise vacation can tell you that the experience is not like any other travel option. On board the cruise ships of today, we travel from place to place in comfort, bringing activity, entertainment and dining options along with us. On the largest of ships, cruise travelers may not even go ashore at ports of call, choosing to stay aboard because there is just so much to do. Still, whether on board or ashore, cruise travel presents a unique set of challenges for photographers and some distinct advantages too.
Planning ahead is a key to good results in travel photography. That might involve simply mapping out the day in our minds, considering the photo opportunities we may encounter. Knowing how to use the camera we have along with us, as silly as that may sound, is important. While the concept of ‘point and shoot’ is simple, individual cameras do have settings and knowing how to use them can make for stunning results.
Smartphone Or Camera?
Smartphone cameras can handle most needs, providing a way to easily share images with friends and family. Via Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or other photo-sharing web applications, we can easily let the folks back home come along with us as we explore the world.
Still, smartphones have their limits and other camera gear can bring larger, richer images that can be more easily manipulated and shared later, when we get back home.
A big advantage to photographers on cruise ships as opposed to land-based restaurants, cafes and other dining options is that the lighting rarely changes. Odds are that lighting levels in dining venues on board will be the same throughout a voyage. That’s good news if there is plenty of light, not so good news if in a low-light situation.
When lighting is an issue, consider choosing a place at the table that has better light than another, picking up that plate of food and taking it into a light source or supplementing existing light with something as simple as a small flashlight. What counts are the results, not so much how you go about getting them. At all costs, avoid flash photography with food which literally sucks the life out of food.
This Is Photography, Not Target Practice
One of the most frequent mistakes travelers make in photography is positioning the subject dead center in the camera frame. This is a great way to go if photographing a crime scene but produced boring photos of just about anything else. Without doing much research, choose to simply position the subject slightly off center or tilt the camera a bit. Compare to a photo of the same subject, centered in the frame. The results can be amazing.
Know Where The Sun Is
As opposed to a land vacation where accommodations are attached to the Earth, your floating hotel moves. What might have been a good direction to point a camera at one moment, might be shooting directly into the sun another.
Your best bet, and probably the very best photo tip I can offer: Always shoot with the sun to your back, behind you. On a cruise ship that will no doubt require checking the position of the sun before every scene captured. Still, this one practice can have one of the biggest impacts on your results of any other concentration.
Finally, keep an eye on those ship’s photographers, the crew members positioned around the ship, at the end of the gangway when in port and in the dining room. These are resident photo pros who actually do know what they are doing. Note the angles they shoot from, where they are set up and smile when you realize that they do consider where the sun is and position you appropriately to get the best shot.