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Leading travel influencers reveal how to capture photos & videos on a cruise vacation

Cruise photos and videos are what will help you look back and remember your treasured holidays and they can make your social media feed look on fire. Here’s how to nail our content on cruises according to the experts.

Words by Momtaz Begum-Hossain

Taking photos and videos on holiday is a big part of a getaway for many travellers, but if you’re an amateur it can be tricky to perfect the optimum footage.

To help you out, we asked five leading travel influencers and content creators to share their best cruise photo ideas and how to nail ‘the shot.’

From tips on taking delectable food photography to filming a jaw-dropping sunset timelapse, here’s how to create social-share-worthy content.

How to deal with weather conditions

Strike a pose

Whether you’re embarking on a sun-soaked cruise of the Caribbean or sailing through winter wonderlands to see the Northern Lights, some of the best cruise photo ideas rely on weather conditions.

Digital Content Creator Anouska Probyn (above left and main image, credit: Florence Bassa) has to consider the weather on a daily basis whether she’s jet-setting around the globe or shooting in her hometown of London. Here are her tricks of the trade.

Hone your weather forecasting skills

Weather forecasting apps are a travel content creator’s best friend allowing them to schedule shooting in prime conditions. Anousha reveals: “I rely a lot on weather conditions and natural light to shoot, so I’ll usually check the forecast in advance. If it’s going to rain I’ll either aim to shoot on better-looking days or plan alternative indoor locations.”

But don’t write off drizzle; “if the rain isn’t too heavy I try and shoot. Depending on the location, a gloomy, rainy day can add to the ambience. However, if it’s really chucking it down, I’d rather not risk making myself ill and damaging my equipment – it’s simply not worth it.”

How to take photos in the sun

Brilliant sun over bright blue seas may look picture-perfect but what your eye sees and what the lens captures can be very different as Anoushka explains: “Sunshine can make or break a photo. If you know how to shoot in it, it can add depth to a photo but it can also cause ghastly shadows and overly contrasted shots.”

We’ve all been there and had shadows getting in the way, so how can you overcome them? Anoushka says: “My rule with bright sunshine is either to shoot with the subject directly facing the sun or being backlit by it.”

It’s also worth factoring in the time of day: “I try to shoot at sunrise, golden hour, or sunset, as they’re the best times for beautiful light. I’d also recommend shooting on a camera in RAW format, as there’s more scope to adjust over or under-exposed elements of your photos using editing apps.”

Breeze into it

You can’t escape winds on a cruise but they don’t need to hamper your photography plans. Plan in advance with your wardrobe, Anouska admits: “Windy conditions can be tough. On my most recent cruise, I prepared by packing a wardrobe of slim-fit clothing such as jumpsuits and trousers that wouldn’t be affected by the wind. I’ll also tie up my hair, or work a headscarf or hat into the look.”

Wind can also enhance the artistry of a shot. “Sometimes the wind can even work in your favour, as it adds a sense of motion to a photograph. But it’s a matter of patience – you just need one second when the wind dies down to get the shot.”

How to take photos of food

Making mealtime memories

Food is one of the highlights of a cruise and when you’re not moored up exploring the sights, you’ll be aboard travelling the world through cuisine. Food photography is a passion of bloggers Daryl and Mindi Hirsch (otherwise known as 2foodtrippers) and they’re well-versed in photographing what they eat (above left).

How to photograph a breakfast buffet

Buffets in particular can be problematic but it’s still possible to capture the perfect breakfast. Daryl says: “Typically, we just shoot the parts of the buffet that we find most attractive with either a DSLR camera or a high-quality phone camera that shoots fairly wide and gets consistent results in low light.”

Rather than trying to shoot the entire set-up curate your own feast. Daryl adds: “Sometimes we create a pretty plate to shoot in natural light at our table.” Reach for fresh fruits to add colour, pile up a platter of pastries and add fresh juice and coffee for breakfast perfection.

How to photograph food in a dark restaurant

If you’re opting for an à la carte menu in the evenings this is where you’ll be served some of the most attractive dishes of your cruise, but you’ll also be faced with tricky conditions.

Mindi advises: “In dark restaurants, it’s virtually impossible to get good food photos without some light to assist. We recommend travelling with a small continuous video light which can be purchased at a good camera store or online. A ring light on a phone would also deliver a positive effect though not as much.”

Food photography etiquette

Capturing cuisine is satisfying but not at the expense of upsetting fellow diners, so always be mindful. Daryl says: “We typically avoid food photography while dining out with friends. Not only does our photography interrupt their dining experience, but their desire to ‘tuck in straight away’ interferes with our creative process. The same goes for video.

“However, we don’t always have this option when we’re travelling. If this is the case, we let our dining partners know our shooting plans in advance and move as quickly as possible. But, in all honesty, we prefer to do our food photography and video without other people at the table.”

How to photograph a swimming pool

Poolside perfection

Swimming pools on cruise ships provide the opportunity to take drool-worthy shots that will have the likes pinging in. There are no rules on how much of yourself to show in a pool shot but in years to come when you’re reflecting on your travel memories pool snaps will make you smile, which travel blogger Kach Umandap (above left), who promotes body positivity, advocates.

Enjoy the moment

“Remember that others see you in a more positive light than you do yourself so this should instantly give you a confidence boost,” explains Each.

“Focus on the experience – fun times in the pool or wearing a new swimsuit you absolutely love – more than the people around you. Shift your mindset to the positive things and you’ll feel more comfortable and excited to share images highlighting that particular time.”

Pool perfect

First, shoot the pool without you in shot. Kach says: “Show the pool at a slight angle but in parallel with the skyline. Show a bit of the water but break up the image with a cool supporting background. If there are any special features like fountains you can use those as the focal points.”

Get wet

For compositions, a shot where you’re partially in the water is a great way to frame yourself and the background. Kach enthuses: “A standing side angle and shots of the upper body can be extremely flattering, all taken while these parts are out of the water.

“Use the pool as a backdrop rather than focusing on the water or reflections as these make everything appear so much larger than they are – body proportions included.”

Invest in the tech

Underwater cameras can revolutionise your experience of being in the water so if you have mermaid tendencies and are keen to take pool and beach shots during your holidays it’s worth investing in one.

Kach says: “They give you the freedom to play around, splash and get images that feel natural and capture your character.”

How to use a drone for cruise content

Add drama

Sweeping cinematic drone shots have swept across social media in people’s travel videos and there’s no denying that they elevate your content. If you’re new to being a drone pilot practice before you go on holiday until you feel confident enough to take it with you.

And when you do fly it, stick to stop-offs on land and leave on-vessel attempts to the professionals like content creator and videographer Josh Nueva (footage shown above left) – drones are expensive kit and you don’t want to lose them on their first international flight.

He explains: “Drones are all very similar to fly so when you buy the most basic one to start with, your experience flying that drone will carry over to the more expensive ones.”

Not sure where to start? Josh recommends drones by DJI (above right) which come at different price points: Mavic Mini 3 Pro, Mavic Air 2S, Mavic Air 2, Mavic Mini 2 and Mavic 2 Pro.

The best conditions to fly a drone

Weather is a key consideration when it comes to flying drones as Josh advises: “Aim for when it’s sunny with a little bit of cloud and little to no wind, that way you can get stable photos and videos that are in focus, as well as the perfect lighting with the sun which is softened by some cloud.

“It really depends on what type of photo you’re looking for but for the most part if it’s a calm day with some sun you won’t struggle to get a great image.”

And take his advice when it comes to wet conditions, rain is a no-no: “I would never recommend flying your drone when it’s raining, windy or has the potential for rain. If water gets inside your drone, particularly in the motors it will short-circuit.

“When it’s windy, your drone will struggle to fly back to you and it’s an all-round scary experience. Over time you’ll understand how much wind your drone will be able to withstand but that comes with more flying time and experience.”

Using a drone to take selfies

A classic shot to take using a drone is an aerial shot of you in a gorgeous location and the beach or sunbathing on deck is the perfect place to try it. Josh says: “Drones these days are amazing and so advanced, there are many modes to choose from that can automate certain movements – you can achieve some incredible selfies or shots of yourself.”

To try an aerial shot, simply lie down, have the drone above you and then allow it to move up and way until you become a tiny dot on what looks like a deserted tropical island.

Using your drone footage

Some discipline is required. Josh admits: “When you’ve got your footage, it’s very easy to share everything! I struggled with that at the start. Take a step back from what you’ve captured and share bits that you love. This way, you combine your personality while showcasing your incredible footage.”

It’s ok to be ruthless; “when it comes to editing, taking something away from a video is almost more important than adding to it, less is more.”

Josh is known for his incredible shots of wildlife and regularly shares jaw-dropping footage of whales and dolphins in the wild on his Instagram, but this is an advanced technique best left to the professionals as Josh explains: “You have so many factors you need to be able to control simultaneously. You need communication with whoever’s driving the boat to slow down or stop when you need to take off or land and you need to be able to fly the drone without looking at it.”

“You also have to remember that these are wild animals and the ocean is their home, so tracking their movements slowly is going to require a lot of patience and understanding, you won’t get it right all the time but the more you watch them the more their movements start to make sense, especially if they’re feeding together, if they’re swimming along or if they’re just having fun and surfing a wave.”

“All of these factors are things you will accumulate over time with hundreds of flights – eventually the drone will become a part of you just like riding a bicycle or skateboarding.”

How to take the perfect sunset time-lapse

(Sun)rise and shine

Slow-moving clouds, extraordinary colours, jaw-dropping views – cruises allow you to experience exquisite, uninterrupted skies.

The best way to capture them is with a time-lapse. If you’re using a mobile phone it may come with a time-lapse function or if you have a camera you can shoot at intervals and then combine images to create a video of either the sun rising from the horizon, or setting for the day.

Travel and timelapse photographer Michael Thomas has shot timelapses all over the world and these are his tips for getting started.

Check the cloud cover

A terrific timelapse needs clouds, but not too many of them. Before you set up to do a timelapse decide if it’s worth it by checking the cloud cover. Michael explains: “If the weather is 100 percent cloud coverage there are not good conditions for a timelapse. If cloud coverage is below 50 percent there’s a big chance that a sunrise or sunset will be spectacular.”

Most photographers use apps to help them decide if it’s worth the effort of setting up their tripod for a timelapse. Michael recommends Skyfire which predicts the light levels of sunrises and sunsets. He says: “Skyfire is really good for predicting beautiful pink skies for colourful landscape shots.”

Be patient

Time-lapses benefit from planning, as well as researching cloud coverage and finding a backdrop you want to shoot in before you try and attempt it. Otherwise, you may miss an opportunity to get the best composition.

Next, timing. How long you spend shooting a timelapse depends on the equipment you’re using and the effect you’re after. Michael says: “To get a full sunrise experience I might shoot two to three hours before and then up to three hours after – that way I’ll get the full sunrise into blue hour and then a golden hour.”

If you just want some footage to include in an Instagram Reel or TikTok, you may find that filming or shooting for a few minutes is enough. The key equipment for shooting a timelapse is having a tripod as Michael explains: “Have a sturdy tripod, you don’t want to have any shakes. If it’s a windy day you could add a bag over the camera or weigh it down to reduce movement.”

Making content using a timelapse

Timelapses can elevate your content in an instant, creating timeless photos and videos, so don’t be afraid to share your footage. Michael enthuses: “There’s so much you can do with a timelapse. You can use them on your social media or incorporate them on YouTube videos – they’re a great opener or closer of a video.”

Now you’re equipped with some expert advice on the best cruise photo ideas and tips on how to take them, go forth and get creative and don’t forget to tag @sailawaze so we can admire your work!

Published 01.17.24