How to Take Holiday Photos That You’ll Treasure

Olympus PEN E PL8 Settings Advice

I know there’s currently a big push to “live in the moment” and not document everything for Instagram. Which is great – and definitely needed! But it’s summertime and we’re all embarking on exciting adventures abroad, so I think it’s safe to assume we’re going to get a little bit snap happy! And if you’d like to elevate your photography, and capture memorable images that you’ll treasure forever, you’ve come to the right place…

I recently spent a few magical days in Antigua with Olympus, where I received a masterclass from fashion photographer Jay McLaughlin. I spent the week getting to grips with the new Olympus PEN E-PL8 (the E-PL7’s stylish older sister) and the cute-but-powerful TG-5.

As may of you will know, I’m not particularly camera confident. But I’ve shot on Olympus PEN cameras for a number of years and love how user-friendly they are. (I’m also obsessed with the built-in WiFi functionality, which allows you to Instagram straight from your camera. A total game-changer!).

And, inspired by my Antigua masterclass, I’ve invited Jay McLaughlin to share some of his expert advice with Coco’s Tea Party. So – whether you’re seeking Olympus PEN E-PL8 photography tips, or just looking for simple ways to enhance your holiday snaps – read on and get clued-up…


How to Take Flattering Holiday Photos

“The best times of the day to shoot are just after sunrise or an hour before sunset – AKA the golden hour,” Jay explains. “The light is softer and lower in the sky, so there’s no risk of getting unattractive shadows on your face.”

The sun is at its strongest during the middle of the day, and that direct sunlight can result in highly unflattering photos. If you do get caught out by this harsh light Jay’s advice is simple: “find some shade or just stand inside a doorway to soften the light on your face.”

Whilst in Antigua we stuck to these rules 90% of the time, and captured all of our shots for the day right before breakfast or just as the sun was about to set. The image above was photographed during the “golden hour”, and the light was so flattering that I didn’t have to retouch my face at all. This is very impressive, considering I wasn’t wearing any makeup!


Olympus PEN E-PL8 Photography Tips

I’ve always found manual camera settings quite intimidating. But Jay assured me there’s no reason to feel that way with the E-PL8…

“To instantly improve your photography switch from ‘iAuto’ on the mode dial to ‘P’. This stands for program. Now the camera is still making all of the decisions, but by moving the wheel around the shutter button you can make the photo brighter or darker,” Jay explains.

And, for even more control, Jay suggests switching the mode dial over to ‘A’ (aperture priority). “Now, by adjusting the wheel, you can choose how much background blur you want. The lower the number you choose the blurrier the background will be. And you can still adjust the brightness by pressing the +/- symbol on the back of the camera and then using the wheel around the shutter button.”

I now shoot on aperture priority, and have noticed a big difference in the quality of images I’m producing. And it’s actually really easy, once you get the hang of it.


Olympus TG-5 Camera

If you’re not one for reading on the beach all day and prefer action-packed holidays (hiking, diving, water sports, sailing etc), you’ll need a camera that’s equally as adventurous. Enter the Olympus TG-5

“The TG-5 can go anywhere with you,” Jay says . “You don’t have to wrap it up in cotton wool. It’s really tough. You can take it underwater or accidentally drop it and it will still reward you with great images.”

I used the TG-5 for the first time in Antigua, and was so impressed by the freedom it gives you. At first it felt completely wrong to walk out into the sea carrying a camera, but after a while I delighted in the novelty of dropping the TG-5 under water. It’s how Jay and I were able to capture this super-cool shot. And it also allowed us to take as many photos as we liked when we went hiking through the Antiguan rainforest in a torrential downpour.

At one point during the hike I slipped and dropped the TG-5 in a muddy puddle. Had that been the E-PL8 it would have been a disaster, but the TG-5 didn’t even bat an eyelid! I love it.


Olympus PEN Photography Tips

I was incredibly lucky to get to travel to Antigua with a fashion photographer, as it means all of my Instagram photos have a glossy, editorial edge. But Jay assures me anyone can achieve that look – you just need to think outside the box…

“To improve your composition experiment with things like the rule of thirds and leading lines,” Jay suggests. “But don’t feel bound by these rules. Think creatively and try changing your perspective by shooting from above or below – the flip screen on the E-PL8 really helps with this.”

“And if you’re shooting in front of a boring, static background, try to create a blurred foreground by placing objects right in front of the camera and shooting through them.” We used this trick a lot in Antigua by taking advantage of all of the palm leaves. It’s amazing how it can instantly make a boring portrait shot more artistic and memorable…

Carlisle Bay, Antigua

All of the photos in this post were all captured at the the beautiful Carlisle Bay hotel resort in Antigua (minus the rainforest, of course). We were lucky enough to stay at Carlisle Bay for the duration of our time in the Caribbean, and it was such a relaxing experience.

The luxury resort is set in a secluded cove, and is surrounded by rainforest, so it has a really peaceful feel. Each morning we woke to spectacular ocean views and headed down to the jetty for complimentary yoga and pilates sessions. The rest of our days were spent enjoying the private beach (which, amazingly, had super-fast WiFi access), engaging in fun activities like snorkelling, paddle boarding and tennis, and eating at the resort’s four incredible restaurants. If you’re thinking about booking a relaxed break in the Caribbean definitely check out Carlisle Bay.

Do you also shoot all your images on Olympus cameras? Have you tried the E-PL8 yet? And will you be taking any of Jay McLaughlin’s tips on board when you travel, this summer? Leave a comment below to have your say…

This post is not sponsored. But, as you know, I travelled to Antigua with the Olympus team last month to capture some beautiful summer content, and I wanted to create this post as a thank you. 

Photos by Jay McLaughlin


  1. Laura Torninoja says:

    Such beautiful pictures! Antigua must have been such an amazing place to experiment with photography.

    I’m going to Italy in about a months time and I can’t wait to try and put these tips to practice – especially that 1 hour before/after rule! x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

    • cocos_tea_party says:

      It really does make all the difference. And I’m sure the light for sunrise and just before sunset in Italy will be so beautiful! Have a wonderful time xx

  2. Sounds like you had wonderful yet super productive time 🙂


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