Well the weather might not quite agree but as far as retail’s concerned we’re in full summer now. There are only a few new drops left to land and the sales will be starting soon so I’m going to be chatting about things other than clothes for a while. Throughout the year I build a list of the topics that you request most often and right at the top is how to look your best in holiday photos. I regularly get an email from someone who’s feeling bitterly disappointed because they felt really good while they were away and yet the photos didn’t turn out as they’d hoped. And I was going to write this in a few weeks’ time but so many of you seem to be going away soon that I’ve brought it forward. Before I start though I must point out that we’re not professionals – Mr MC has a very old A Level in photography and of course it helps that he spends his life working in design but these are really just tips and tricks that we’ve picked up over the years as we’ve been trying to make our photos better for the blog.
How to look your best in holiday photos – composition
Background, midground and foreground
So, let’s start by setting the photo up, obviously it really helps if your photographer has a good eye for this. Years ago when we were working in Moscow we had an hour to spare between meetings and so we decided to walk around Red Square and see who could get the best photos using our phones. It was fascinating – we both took pictures of St Basil’s Cathedral for example but his were just so much better than mine purely because he has a good eye for composition. I’ve just asked him what his principle tip would be and his view is that the best photos have foreground, midground and background. So start off thinking about that, for example one of the most common mistakes that people make is standing flat against something. If you step slightly away from it, you’ve instantly created depth with two layers. If you can then introduce something like the tip of a palm frond as foreground, you’re onto a winner.
I haven’t had time to look through all of my photos for great examples but this gives you an idea of what I mean. If it had been styled deliberately we’d have put chilled glasses of wine in the foreground rather than the water glasses and there wouldn’t have been building materials behind me but you get the idea, there are three planes going on.
Another easy way to get good composition is to have a vanishing point in your picture – a path or road leading away behind you. It’s a technique that you often see used in classical paintings but it transfers really well to photographs.
How to look your best in holiday photos – light
If you asked me what the most important factor is though, I’d say light. It makes all the difference. The best time of day to take flattering photos is in the 90 minutes around sunset known as golden hour. Very early morning light is soft and gentle too if you don’t suffer from puffy eyes when you wake up. If the moment you can’t miss is in the middle of the day with bright sunshine though, find a patch of shade but make sure you’re still facing in the direction of the sun so that you don’t have shadows under your eyes and chin – this in itself will give you the difference between looking five years younger or twenty years older than you actually are. (Note – there’s a vanishing point in this one too).
Unless you’re a really good photographer who can get halo bursts, don’t take a photo with the sun behind you. I see so many people do it on the Winking Eye bridge outside our Newcastle apartment every day and I know that they’re just going to appear as dark outlines because the sun arcs around behind them there. Even on a cloudy day it still won’t look as good as if they just walked down the river a little and stood on the Swing Bridge – then they’d have all of the beautiful bridges behind them and flattering light on their faces.
How to look your best in holiday photos – mood
Mood should be the easiest thing to capture on holiday because hopefully you’ll be feeling relaxed and happy. You see the camera doesn’t lie and you can see instantly if somebody isn’t truly happy in a photograph. It tells you everything about their relationship with their photographer too so sometimes it’s a good idea to get your kids to take a picture because they’re often the ones who get the softest smiles from their mum. For the first few years of my blogging life the youngest used to take all of my photos so there wasn’t much skill in them but there was plenty of love and laughter… and a vanishing point here actually too!
As you know Mr MC takes them all now and he always makes me laugh, usually with a rubbish joke or by saying something inappropriate just before he clicks. Reading faces is a human instinct and anyone looking at a photo can tell the difference between a real and a fake smile. I can’t remember which song it is but there’s one that has lyrics about smiling with your cheeks and that’s the thing you can’t fake. You can do the mouth and even the eyes if you’re really good… but smiling cheeks only come when you’re truly happy. If you’re still struggling with mood after jokes and smutty comments, try doing a little dance – you’ll find your photographer’s reaction and the sheer absurdity of the moment will have you cracking up.
How to look good in holiday photos – quantity
Even though most of us have had phones with cameras in them for quite a while now, I think we’re all still stuck in the days of paying to develop film and so we still tend to take just one or two snaps at a time. You need far more than that to get one you love, I’d say about 30. Move your body and head slightly in each one and at some point you’ll capture the perfect angle. It’s worth having a chat about this with whoever will be taking the photos before you go away, explaining that you want to capture some really good memories, reminding everyone that you’ll treasure these moments for years to come. We’ve always had lots of photos around the house and I often see the boys stop and linger over them. I think that’s why they’ve always been so relaxed about having their photo taken – they understand the value.
The same method works if you’re taking group photos too – if you take lots in one burst you’ll reach the point where everyone stops posing and just relaxes. That’s when you’ll get a daft outtake to treasure as I do with this one…
How to look your best in holiday photos – posture
The most important thing about posture is to remember that you’re not squaring up to the camera. There’s a vulnerability about having your photograph taken and so you tend to feel defensive and on your guard. This results in you instinctively holding your arms stiff by your side and pulling your chin down protectively – you end up looking like a breeze block. The hardest thing is learning to expand your body, pulling your shoulders back and looking your photographer in the eye because you’re effectively opening yourself up to whoever will look at the photograph – they’ll see the real you.
Don’t think about people judging you negatively. We all have snirpy people in our lives and when they have bad things to say it’s just the overspill of their own bitterness – the unhappiness and insecurity they feel about themselves. These photos will be around long after you’re gone and you want your children, grandchildren and future generations who might never meet you to get a feel for who you really were. Open up and let your true personality come through.
So, posture – stand tall with your shoulders back. Angle your body at 45° with a hip or a shoulder towards the camera because it already adds pounds to your frame so you don’t want to make yourself look wider by standing straight on. You can try placing a leg in front but that can look a bit posed so it may be more natural to step slowly towards the camera.
Don’t hold your arms flat against your body – you need to create visual space between your arms and your body. It’s one more reason for loving pockets because you can angle your arms and yet look quite relaxed. Remember to lift your chin – it’s automatic to push it down because like a tortoise you’re really just wanting to hide in your shell but the end result is that… you’ll have a neck like a tortoise in the photo. And don’t pout – thankfully that trend seems to be dying away and I know you wouldn’t anyway!
If you’re taking photos on the beach you can always use the Instagram trick of raising both of your arms at the same time. It gives you a visual body lift, tightening your muscles and taking a few pounds off you but sadly it doesn’t work if you have clothes on… or maybe it would if you were wearing a catsuit. I tried it out in Lanzarote specifically for this post so here’s a before and after:
I guess it just undoes the gravity of pregnancies and advanced years a bit.
And that’s probably enough to be getting on with as far as how to look your best in holiday photos is concerned. I don’t think many people like having their photograph taken – I used to do everything I could to avoid it until I started blogging and I really regret it now because there are so few pictures of me with the boys when they were little and I’d love to be able to look back and get a feel for those days again. For me the moment that a photo freezes is always far more powerful than a video so I hope this post will help you to capture this summer and many more to come.
New hair products
I’ll just finish by quickly answering another popular question and that’s about the products I use on my hair, specifically with regard to stopping the blonde from going brassy. I’ve been testing launches over the last few months and these are the ones I’d recommend:
For golden tones
In the winter I keep my colour slightly warmer to make up for paler skin. I used this new All Blonde range between January and April, it was great for that and it helped my colour to last. However, although it says it works for all blonde tones, I’d argue that it’s too warm for cooler shades or for silver grey.
As soon as we head into the warmer months I take my colour lighter and more ashy so since April I’ve been trialling this new purple range and it’s been great for general daily upkeep. It’s due to launch in Boots and Superdrug now but I can’t find it online so keep an eye open when you pop in.
Lastly I want to give you the heads up on this US range that’s now being sold through the new Harrod’s beauty stores that are popping up across the country. Called H Beauty, the shops are an interesting concept by the way, they sell only luxury beauty and they’re rescuing empty stores in a few city centres including Milton Keynes, Edinburgh, Bristol and Gateshead as well as at Lakeside – you can find out more about them here. I think Flannels are forcing a lot of retailers to raise their game at the moment and create an innovative new experience for customers shopping in store rather than online.
Anyway the first of the exclusive to H Beauty brands that I’ve tried is Drybar whose products were born out of the well known blow dry salons and there are three products that I particularly love so far. First of all this Blonde Ale Mask which completely revitalises blonde or grey hair – and yes there are lots of products that promise the same thing but this one only takes five minutes in the shower whereas all the others I’ve tried have required sitting with wet hair for about 20 minutes before you can rinse them off. Blonde Ale takes the colour restoration a step further than an everyday purple shampoo and I now use it once a week. There are similar products for brunettes too but obviously I can’t comment on those.
Of the other pieces I was sent to review I also loved this ceramic blow dry brush which somehow does manage to make my hair smoother with fewer flyaways. The bristles grip the hair so you don’t need to pull to get a smooth finish and the ceramic barrel conducts heat evenly so it dries quickly. I have the half pint size for my short hair but it comes in full pint and double pint size too.
And last of all was this root booster which is a mousse with a targeted nozzle so it just hits your hair where you need it to. It does what it says and lifts the roots, I only had a travel size so couldn’t trial it for as long as I usually would but it was good while it lasted.
So a new brand to look out for I’d say – and I’m hoping to visit the new H Beauty store when we’re over in the North East this weekend so I’ll let you know what I think. And that’s everything for this week apart from letting you know that the Baukjen sale has started here and there are some sizeable reductions on some of my favourite pieces.
I hope you enjoyed the Jubilee weekend. In the comments I think a lot of us were feeling the same – that it was surprisingly moving. Firstly wasn’t it good to have a national excuse just to celebrate? It was like an oasis of glory amidst the doom and gloom. And secondly, as Nicola R said, it felt like a ‘living obituary’ for the Queen. I think we all suspect that the next time there’s a retrospective like that it will be a much sadder occasion and the end of an epoch. I couldn’t help wondering what she was thinking as she emerged on the balcony on the last day in her fabulous green outfit. It’s strange imagining the UK without her isn’t it? Like our parents, aunts, uncles and family friends she’s been a constant in our lives; it’s a hard fact of midlife that the generation above us is moving on.
The only purely Jubilee related event we went to was the lighting of the beacon – and it was the only time it rained all weekend. I always like to be there to sing our unique version of the national anthem which is “God Save Our Gracious Duke.” Of course other places have dukes too… Cambridge… York… Sussex… Wessex… but clearly ours must be very special to get the Queen 😏 .
So we had a relaxed but enjoyable weekend in the end – it’s been feeling as if our younger two are having all the fun this week though. The youngest is backpacking around Morocco with five of his uni friends so, not to be outdone, the middle one messaged us from Zadar early on Sunday morning. He and his uni friends had managed to find a very last minute break for £150 all in – so off they went. The only reason they have the funds at the end of the year is because when they died, my parents left each of their grandsons some money to be given to them on their 18th birthdays with an instruction to spend it on making special memories. The eldest used his for a dream trip to Iceland and the younger two are just breaking into theirs now. It’s nice knowing that they have their grandparents in their heads with them – well for some of their time at least!
While they’re striding into their futures, we’re going to be falling back into our past this weekend because we’re going to a retro festival. We’ll be lost in the music of the 70s and 80s, in fact I last saw one of the bands at my Fresher’s Week in 1985! I’ll tell you about it next week, in the meantime I wish you a wonderful weekend.