The October Golden Week is here again and if you’ve planned ahead and already booked air fares and hotels then Bon Voyage. Enjoy the fun time ahead of you. Unfortunately if you are like me most years you’ve let it sneak up on you like a surprise birthday party when it’s not your birthday. So if you’re stuck in Shanghai with no plan and possibly a child or two that need to be entertained 24/7 you can still go almost anywhere and get memorable photographs.
To achieve this you don’t need expensive or heavy camera equipment. Your phone will do just fine or a small light camera with one lens will be far better suited to small children than a cumbersome pro sports camera and white lens. You need to be more like a sprinter than a heavy weight lifter.
So here’s a few suggestions on the kinds of places to go and how to get the best out of them for photography. And if you are lucky enough to be jetting off to somewhere exotic the following advice is also for you to return with great holiday photos.
The local park.
It’s an obvious one and you’ve probably already decided to go there but perhaps it’s time to think about it a little differently. Get close, then get even closer.
Don’t try to capture the whole park, remember your subject, you’re trying to capture your family. When I took this shot the sky was overcast and shots of the park were not looking great. My daughter took a break an lay on the bench with her dolly as a pillow and I got a beautiful shot of my daughter that I love. The neutral colour of the bench and the soft lighting of the overcast sky worked perfectly together. You don’t need a sunny day to get great shots in fact for portraits dull is better.
Your local coffee shop may not seem like a fabulous backdrop for a photo shoot but it is full of possibilities.
Kids do tend to run around where ever you take them so rather than trying to reel them in let them loose and play and just wait for the right moment and click the shutter. Again, don’t try to shoot the coffee shop, shoot the subject. It can just be a photo of your spouse enjoying a drip coffee for the first time or your precious little one pressing her face against the window and looking ridiculous. Keep it light, keep it fast and have a good time yourself too.
I had actually been told several times that there was a beach in Shanghai. However my mind refused to hold onto the proposition. You may have well as told me that the tap water was now drinkable - my subconscious immediately dismissed the notion as pure fantasy. But it turns out that Jing Shan City Beach exists and is not a bad place to go for a day trip at all. You can pick up the high speed train from South Shanghai Train Station and use your regular metro card. It’s only 10 RMB.
Alway be on the lookout for nice lighting. You can be anywhere, no matter how unglamorous, but if the lighting is right you can catch a beaiutiful moment. Here the light streaming in the window on the way to the beach caught my daughter reading her story book beautifully but because it was a tight shot we don’t need to see the surrounding train environment which would have added nothing to the shot.
If the weather is not great and the sky is dull then it’s great lighting for photographing people and tilting the camera down can cut out the boring sky and make the photo more interesting.
The South Bund
The South Bund walkway is a fun place to go for a walk and reaches the Long Art Gallery which is popular with young people as photo location. But you don’t have to be young free and single to use it as backdrop. It’s open to the public and free from security guards telling you put your camera away. It’s a fun place to walk alongside the river and when you’re tired there’s a shopping mall a few minutes walk away.
You might think a rusty metal shipping container would not make for a suitable prop but our daughter asked us what was inside so I told her for no reason there was a dinosaur inside and if she listened carefully she could hear it. The nice warm tones of the rust reflected well on their faces.
So you don’t need to be flying to Thailand or Paris to get good family photos this Golden Week, but if you are it helps. All you need to do is remember what you’re photographing - the people not the scene: it’s just a background - and get close to your family to get a memorable beautiful shot almost anywhere.