In this week’s Ask David column, we have a request from a reader who would like to know if I have a few tips for taking better pictures on a cruise ship. Jackie plans on sailing away for a few days, and I definitely have some thoughts. If you’re planning on taking a cruise anytime soon, try out these tips.
Be aware of the cruise ship’s constant motion
First things first. The cruise ship itself provides an interesting and somewhat challenging photographic environment. You will be constantly moving up, down, and side to side. Even if you don’t notice the movements right away, they’re there, and they will have a slight impact on your images.
There are two ways to counteract the motion. You can either increase your camera’s shutter speed, or you can attempt to keep everything still with a tripod. Each has its positives and negatives. If you increase the shutter speed, you might lose some of the color you can get out of sunrise / sunset shots. And if you use a tripod, there’s no guarantee anything that isn’t on the ship won’t turn out blurry. The sunset in the background could still look fuzzy, especially if you’re shooting at any shutter speed under 1/100 second.
But I’d say go for that pretty sunset anyway, and don’t forget to use the cruise ship itself to frame it in the foreground. If it’s a cloudy evening, the blurring won’t matter nearly as much. Slightly blurry clouds still look like clouds. It sort of adds a neat effect.
Photographing the cruise ship’s interior
Depending on where you are, you might have fantastic lighting or terrible lighting. It helps to bring an external flash if you have one. This will help fill in the shadows. Taking pictures on the lower decks is no different from taking pictures inside of your own home during the evenings. There is lighting, of course, but it usually isn’t good enough for you to take a picture without flash.
Whenever using flash, remember to back away from your subject and zoom in. The flash is much less intense this way, and your photo will be much more colorful. If you have an external flash, try minimize the intensity of the flash by bouncing it off the walls or the ceiling. Your subjects will have a nice warm glow to them instead of the “deer in headlights” look.
Knicknacks are nice, but wouldn’t you rather have a photo you’ll remember?
I see this one all the time when I’m on vacation with my wife and kids. People get out their cameras and go snap happy with all the little bits of decor around the ship. While I respect the idea of remembering every little detail, another part of me wonders if they’ll really want to look at the ship’s decor six months down the road.
Plus, if you really want that perfect picture of the decor, you probably don’t have to take it yourself. Thousands of people take that picture every day, and they post it on sites like Panoramio or Flickr. Why burden yourself with capturing every little detail when you can find that fancy barstool online?
If you’re going to take a picture of a statue, frame it with your friend. Years down the road, the photo will have a lot more emotional appeal. The same goes with any landscapes you photograph from the ship. Chances are they won’t be all that interesting six months down the road. It’s just a patch of land, after all. Either use the ship to frame them, or use your friend. They’ll be worth much more to you that way.
Oh, and have a fun trip!
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