Wondering if you should invest in an SLR for that African safari? Spied a potentially amazing photo at the beach but only have your iPhone in hand? Juggling cameras, nappy bags and kids can be a struggle, so Carolyn Soemarjono of Melia Photography shares her travel album tips and tricks. Here's how to take the best travel photos while on family vacation. 

SLR, hybrid or compact (point and shoot) camera – how do I choose which is the right one for me?

There are pros and cons related to each type of camera, however due to increasing technology developments the gap between them is narrowing every year.

For instance, an SLR is absolutely the right choice if you want to achieve the best pictures possible. 

An SLR gives more options to capture crisp and clear images of people especially when using a lens that has a large aperture enabling that lovely "blurry" out-of-focus look in the background.

However, you do need to ask yourself if you are prepared to:

1.  Learn how to use manual/semi-manual settings,

2.  Practice what you learn, and

3.  Carry around a heavy camera and lenses to really best capture those amazing shots.   

The next choice is which brand and Canon or Nikon are the most popular. There’s no right or wrong here, just a personal preference, as the quality in both brands is top notch. However, once you go down the path of one brand or the other it will be very costly to switch given you’ll likely start to invest in more and more lenses and accessories. 

[If you’re not sure which accessories you really need to buy with your SLR], a good place to start is with an entry level SLR “kit” which provides the camera body and one or two lenses.  I’d highly recommend a “hands on” SLR lesson with Cheng at Fotocourse too. 

A compact camera is perfect for those who literally wish to point and shoot anytime and anywhere. They come with a range of features and capabilities that provide incredibly good image quality suitable for most general (and sometimes even special) occasions.

Having a compact camera means you can get close to the action (and take photos like this) and not be too worried about water or sand getting into expensive lenses.

Before shopping around, the key is to think about which features are most important to you. For instance, do you need video capability? Or perhaps you’d like a camera that can fit in your handbag so you’re ready to snap your kids at any given point in time? Then, obviously, size and weight will matter to you. Or do you hate the washed out look that camera flash often gives? If so, then look for a camera that comes with a large aperture (and lets in lots of light) so that you can turn the flash off.  

Hybrid cameras are in-between the SLR and compact varieties. The latest generation has features comparable to that of a traditional SLR, so a hybrid has the potential to take shots that are as good as those from an SLR. The advantage is that hybrids are significantly smaller, lighter and, therefore, more portable than their SLR counterparts. 

I want brilliant life-long memories but I can’t manage a bulky camera bag along with all my family’s luggage. What should I buy?

It comes down to the decision of how much effort you wish to exert versus how much image quality you desire. If you are juggling young kids and want to be agile and ready to snap those family holiday moments (which often involve sun, sand and water) I’d recommend a good compact camera that includes video. 

Personally, I only travel with my SLR when I don’t plan to be moving around too much during my holiday (for instance, not moving from country to country, hotel to hotel, activity to activity) as I find the weight of all the gear, the risk of damage, the active events we get involved in and the desire to shoot things quickly whilst on-the-go means a compact camera is much more suitable. I can throw it in a backpack, squeeze it into my jeans pocket, or put it over the handlebars on a bike and still capture every fabulous holiday moment because I have it with me all the time.

We’ve stumbled across an amazing animal/person/place that I want to photograph but I’ve only got my smartphone. How do I ensure the pictures still turn out well?

Smart phones cameras deliver surprisingly good image quality in daylight.  So snap away when outdoors! The real challenge with smartphone cameras is indoors or in low lighting situations. My tips are:

1.  Find a source of light. (Move closer to a window or turn on a light.)

2.  Get close to your subject. Avoid using the zoom function as it decreases quality.

3.  Hold the phone very still to minimise the amount of blur that comes with even a very slight hand movement (which is exaggerated with low light).

I thought I took some amazing shots, but they look flat when I download them on my computer. What can I do?

If you have a Mac, then use iPhoto (which you should really be using for all your photos. If not, you’re missing out on a lot of free functionality for organising and/or editing your photos). iPhoto has very simple-to-use editing features such as cropping, removing blemishes, enhancing colours or converting to black and white.

If you have a PC and you’re already using an image sharing or photo organising software such as Picasa, then look for the basic editing tools inbuilt. Or if you’d like to go a step further and apply some professional-level editing and retouching, give GIMP a try. It’s often described as the best free alternative to Photoshop and is available for both Mac and PC. The only downside, as with all professional editing tools, is that there is a bit of a steep learning curve. But don’t let that deter you as YouTube provides many tutorials to help you get there. 

For images captured on your smart phone, my favourite easy-to-use editing tool is the Photoshop Express App which you can use immediately on your phone. (Unlike the PC version of Photoshop, this is simple editing for beginners.) 

For more ideas on how to create holiday keepsakes, see the suitcases&strollers story Capturing Travel Memories