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Dr Chris Brown: Five tips for sensational travel photos

Want to capture unforgettable holiday snaps? Be the envy of your Instagram friends? Canon ambassador Dr Chris Brown shows you how.


Dr Chris Brown is a man of many talents. The veterinarian and TV presenter is also a keen traveller, and rarely goes anywhere without his camera. “The best camera is the one you have with you. I never leave home without my DSLR, but you can capture amazing images with any camera,” he says. “You never really know when that diamond of a place is going to pop out of nowhere,” Fortunately, Brown says that capturing great travel shots easier than you think. These simple tips will lift your photos to the next level and keep those happy memories alive.

  1. Decide what you want to capture

    Image by Dr Chris Brown, captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

    What you include in the picture – and what you leave out – is often the difference between a good shot and a great shot. Let’s say you want to shoot a photo of an eye-catching building. Perhaps it’s the Taj Mahal, perhaps it’s the Eiffel Tower. The question to ask yourself is, what do I want to include in the shot?

    Do you want to have some people in there, to give a sense of the scale of the building? Do you want to capture the whole building, or do you want to shoot just a section of it, to focus on the details of the decoration or the engineering? Depending on which option you take, your photo may tell a story about the size of the building, or about the incredible amount of work that went into constructing it.

    What goes for buildings also goes for people. If you are shooting a portrait, the objects that you include in the shot can help tell a story about that person, according to Dr Chris Brown. “When I am shooting a winemaker, I make sure I include the wine barrels in the shot to tell his story,” Brown says.

    Watch Dr Chris Brown composing a portrait here.

  2. Choose your food angle

    Image by Dr Chris Brown, captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

    Ask Dr Chris Brown to name the most challenging thing about food photography, and the answer comes back at once: “Resisting the initial urge to dive in and start eating,” he laughs. In fact, getting a great food shot is no more difficult than any other type of photography. Essentially, you are looking at the same decisions you have to make whenever you shoot any type of photo.

    Colour and texture are top of the list, but the one element you may not have considered is the angle from which you are shooting. Generally, our instinct is to shoot the food from the angle at which we are looking at it. However, different camera angles can create different effects, according to Dr Chris Brown.

    “I have a bit of a different approach for food photography… I see food as a landscape on a plate,” he says. Just as landscapes can be captured from different angles, so too can food images. Brown suggests experimenting with shooting straight down at the plate. “Just like in a landscape, you sometimes need to get up in the helicopter,” he says. “It gives you a really good idea of the texture and the layout of the dish.”

    Watch Dr Chris Brown try his hand at food photography here.

  3. Sharpen up your selfies

    Image by Dr Chris Brown, captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

    There is no great art to snapping a selfie: some of us do it a dozen or more times a day, or even more. But, if you want to create some amazing holiday snaps that also capture your presence in a particular place, Dr Chris Brown has some handy tips.

    First, compose your photograph carefully. What else is going to be in the picture? A pier or a road, for example, can add a leading line that draws viewers in. Remember that you don’t always need to be in the centre of the shot. Standing to one side – a third of the way from the edge of the frame – will help you get a great shot both of yourself and of your surroundings.

    Something that selfie-snappers often forget, says Brown is how enormously the time of day affects the quality of the light. Think about capturing selfies during the ‘golden hours’: the first and last hours of sunlight in the day, when the light takes on a special quality.

    “It is a magical time for photography,” says Brown. “The colours are a lot richer.”

    Watch Dr Chris Brown shoot a selfie here.

  4. Be ready for the unexpected… in my case, usually animals

    Image by Dr Chris Brown, captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

    Given Dr Chris Brown’s background as a vet, it’s hardly surprising that he likes to add drama and impact to an image or location by including an animal in the shot. Add penguins to an iceberg in Antarctica, and the shot is immediately more eye-catching. It’s not just exotic animals that have that effect, of course. Sheep on a paddock or even a cat sitting on a doorstep can also have a big impact. “Cats always seem to top up the mystery factor of any place I visit,” says Dr Chris Brown says.

    Brown says that it if you are looking to capture an animal in a shot, the first rule is to remain flexible. “Quite often they’re uncooperative,” he laughs.

    The solution? “Work with them, not against them.” Brown advises. Perhaps you saw a frisky pup that you wanted to capture on film. By the time you get closer, however, the puppy has settled down for a nap. “If she decides she wants to have a little rest, that’s fine,” Brown says. “Work with the shot that you’ve now got.”

    Watch Dr Chris Brown snap some animal shots here.

  5. Don’t be afraid to experiment

    Image by Dr Chris Brown, captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

    With photography, as with anything else, there are rules about what works: about how much light you need, how long your exposure time is, that sort of thing. However, Dr Chris Brown says that photographers should not be afraid of experimenting.

    Great holiday snaps are about capturing a moment, after all, rather than getting a technically perfect shot. So if you’re sitting around a campfire with friends, for instance, don’t let the low lighting put you off. Play around with the light that you do have. Try different settings to see what happens – or just test out the auto setting. Dr Chris Brown says that it’s the unpredictability of the light – “the glow of light off [people’s] faces, the hot coals popping out, the flames flickering around” – that makes for memorable images.

    “Work with the challenges, rather than against them,” Brown says.

    Watch Dr Chris Brown do some experimenting of his own here.