Claire Menary is a full-time lifestyle photographer, part-time blogger and all-the-time wanderer. Her love of travel and eye for a beautifully composed photo is well documented on her Instagram and her blog ISWAS London. We caught up with her in one of her rare between-trips moments to get her travel tips and advice on improving our holiday snaps this summer. (So that you can then print and keep them in one of our new photo books.)
What’s your favourite place you’ve visited?
That’s a tough one! I think it’s a tie between Marrakesh and Rajasthan. Both are quite similar in the sense that they are culturally so different to my norm, which is why I loved them. Also, they are both beautifully chaotic, vibrant places that are a photographer’s dream. The colours, the people, the atmosphere are all just magical and if I could go back to both year after year, I would.
Claire in Jaipur, India
What do you think makes an interesting travel photo?
I think any photo which conveys the atmosphere of a place or the charm of somewhere. A photo that tells a story, or transports you right there with the photographer. Interesting is perhaps subjective, but for me, it’s something which makes my eyes linger over it for longer than the rest. The kind that you want to frame and hang on your wall.
Claire's favourite shot: The Amalfi Coast, Italy for Pampelone
Could you tell us about one of your favourite travel photos and what you feel whenever you look at it?
I think one of my favourite travel photos is one I took recently for my print collaboration with fashion label, Pampelone. I was tasked with bringing to life the Amalfi Coast for a series of limited edition prints and this photo, captured on a glorious sunny day in Positano, was the one I just knew was going to be a winner.
Whenever I look at it, I'm transported back to the spot where I was standing when I took it. I remember the sun blazing down on me and the feeling of just being really happy to be wandering the Italian coast by myself for a few days with only a camera in my hand. It's a photo that reminds me that I love what I do and I'm really lucky to be doing it.
How do you select the shots from a trip to curate the blog story about it?
I’m quite good on holiday when I’m snapping away as I often delete dud photos as I go (it helps me cut down time selecting when I’m back home editing) but I still manage to take too many! My blog posts often go on for miles just because I have so many photos that I want to share. I wouldn’t say I’m very selective but that’s fine with me – I love sharing my photography. Even if some of the photos aren’t perfect, it’s all setting the scene.
Do you visit places purely for the photo ops or are you taking photos of places that you would have visited whether you were taking photos or not?
When I’m choosing a country, I’m often led by my eyes and am certainly influenced by Instagram. However for me, I really just want to see as many countries in my lifetime as possible. I’m in a very fortunate position that I have the opportunity to travel often so I'm just working through a very long list at the moment.
When I visit somewhere, I like to do as much as possible in however much time I have there – whether that’s a week or 36 hours. I want to immerse myself in the culture, the sounds, the atmosphere and that also means visiting everywhere from the tourist spots to the lesser-known places I’ve been recommended on Instagram. Regardless of whether I have a camera in hand or not, I would visit as much as I physically can!
How do you find the best places to eat, drink and visit when travelling to a new place?
When I’m travelling to a new destination, I pretty much rely on a quick Google search (usually I check out Condé Nast Traveller as a good starting point), Instagram and blogs as my guidebook. I also ask other Instagrammers, who are from the country or who have visited, what their recommendations are – they usually give me too many!
What's top of your dream places to visit list and why?
Gosh, where do you want me to begin?! I’m desperate to visit the mountain ranges in Utah, Antelope Canyon in Arizona, Faroe Islands and Iceland – they all have the common denominator of having beautiful, breathtaking landscapes, so I guess I like a good view!
Claire's top tips for taking travel photos on your phone
1. Turn your screen brightness up
I always make sure my camera screen is turned up to full brightness. (I honestly don’t know whether there’s anything in that, but it really works for me!) It also helps you see what you're shooting a whole lot better.
Tap on the subject you want to focus on before adjusting the camera brightness up or down.
3. Frame it
Framing your shot is also really important so just take a moment before you snap away to look at the bigger picture and see what it looks like as a whole image: are the angles right? Is it symmetrical? Is there something that you need to move out of shot?
4. Snap away
Take as many photos as you need to get that one perfect shot. Shoot from all angles and perspectives whilst you have the chance, then pick your favourite later.
Finally, I use editing apps like VSCO and Snapseed which are great for quick edits of a photo. I love the VSCO presets and the healing tool in Snapseed is great for getting rid of small things like rubbish on the street or marks in a photo.
Once you've put Claire's tips to the test, your now fantastic holiday snaps will be deserving of presentation that's more than just a scroll through your phone – so print them in one of our photo books for a beautifully designed keepsake instead.