Getting the Perfect Photo in Santorini

    Getting the Perfect Photo in Santorini

    “They all come here because it’s so white and clean…”, a fellow traveller said to me as we watched a bridal party, with professional camera crew in tow, pose against the white-washed walls and blue-domed churches. It was the second bridal party we had seen that day, roaming around Oía looking glamorous with flowing gowns, perfect hair and stiletto heels. They certainly made me, with my denim shorts, messy beach hair and €10 espadrilles feel a little underdressed. I had never thought of Santorini in that way before (as a destination just for staged wedding photos), but when my new travel companion said it, it made complete sense. I mean, if you want the perfect wedding or formal photos, Santorini provides the perfect backdrop.

    The clean, crisp colours of Santorini are perfect for photos

    Anyone who trolls through travel photos on Instagram can see a stream of stunning images from Santorini. It would have to be the most photographic place in the Greek Islands. The white buildings provide the perfect contrast against the deep blue of the Caldera sea. As my new friend and I got talking, we agreed that there is a sense of cleanliness and luxury to Santorini that makes it stand out from the other Greek Islands.

    Santorini, the perfect, photogenic backdrop

    When we were deciding which Greek Island to visit, I was drawn to Santorini for those iconic blue-domed churches. I wanted to get my very own picture of said churches and the perfect sunset shot of the sun setting over the Caldera and against the colourful hillside of cave dwellings and resorts.

    The iconic blue-domed churches...

    So without further adieu, here are our tips to get the perfect photo in Santorini…

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    Tips to get the perfect photo in Santorini
    Santorini: a photographer's dream

    Map out your subjects/landmarks

    Despite how small Santorini, specifically Oía, is, it’s quite easy to get lost in the small alleys and winding paths. And surprisingly, those iconic churches, although high in number, are quite hard to find if you don’t know where to look. The easiest way to find them, is to walk down Nik. Nomikou (the main street in Oía) and find Melenio Cafe. Around the corner from the cafe is a small alley that will lead you to the churches. The other spot we recommend going to is the Byzantine Castle ruins. This is where most people flock to for the sunset photos. Here’s a map to help:

    It took a while, but we finally found the famous churches!

    Pick your times

    If you want your subject to be washed with the golden hues of a sunrise or sunset, you need to know what times they occur (and where the sun rises and sets). For example, the blue domed churches aren’t as spectacular at sunset, as the sun descends beyond around the curve of the peninsula. Early in the morning however, you will get the gorgeous, golden colours washing over the buildings (but we aren’t morning people and chose to sleep in instead of get up – priorities, right!?) A quick internet search will give you fairly accurate times of sunrise and sunset, so plan your photos around that.

    Check sunrise/sunset times before heading out

    Stake out your spot… early!

    On our first night, we made the mistake of underestimating how many other people also wanted that perfect sunset shot. We spent the afternoon wandering through the alleys and didn’t start looking for our spot until it was too late. The best spots were filled with huge crowds all with the same idea. That evening, we missed the perfect pic as we just couldn’t get past all of the people crowded in every corner of an alley with a view. The next evening, we got to the castle really early and claimed an ideal perch. If you want that coveted spot, be prepared to arrive a couple of hours prior to sunset, as the areas fill up quickly, especially in summer. Make sure you have fluids and stuff to eat while you hang out, as every other ‘photographer’ won’t hesitate to take your spot if you leave it unattended.

    If you want a good spot for sunset pics, you need to stake it out early

    Have the right gear and settings on your camera ready

    If you’ve got a DSLR or mirrorless camera, play with your settings in advance to work out what is right for you. As a general rule, keep the ISO low (around the 100 mark). Still being somewhat of an amateur, I still default to the P (Program) mode, which adapts the Shutter Speed and Aperture automatically. But if you are quite confident, and have a tripod, then switch to Aperture or Manual mode and play with around with the settings. To avoid a washed out look, try reducing exposure settings slightly and trial different white balances to change the tones of the photo. If you are a phoneographer, then work with what you have. If you want to be really professional (and avoid any blurry pics), have a tripod set up and ready for the event. The tip is to review the pics as you go and make the appropriate changes to the settings (as quickly as you can, so you don’t miss the main event!).

    Enjoying this post and want to read more about Santorini? Check out our post, Santorini – The Place for Love

    Watch your lines and the horizon

    The perfectionist in me cannot handle photos that aren’t straight. Unless you are intentionally trying to be somewhat artistic and have the image skewed, try to take the photo straight. Use the gridlines on your device if that helps. A crooked horizon line often ruins so many potentially perfect photos. If you have taken a crooked photo, not all is lost, as editing programs can fix it (so you have NO excuse to post a crooked photo on Instagram!).

    Don't ruin an amazing shot with a crooked horizon

    Frame your picture & experiment with angles

    Often, the best pictures are those that are slightly different to the rest. Play around with angles and focal points. Try shooting from different angles – get to the ground and shoot up, or find a higher vantage point and shoot down (although beware of the slippery surfaces and angry nonnas in Santorini – one came out swinging a broom at a brave tourist who was trying to take a photo from the roof of one of her neighbour’s houses. She then proceeded to yell at us demanding money for taking photos of her views!).

    Try different angles and focal points
    Personally, I love sun rays and flares, that I'll shoot at an angle to get them

    Make friends with other travellers and/or photographers

    Whether you are waiting for the sun to set, or politely waiting your turn to take a picture of the churches, you may as well make friends while you are there. Get chatting to others around you and offer to take photos of each other. A good full-frame photo trumps a selfie any day. Just make sure you are clear on what you are after and check your pics before you move on, so you hopefully have one you are happy with. There’s also safety in numbers from the before-mentioned crazy, cranky nonnas.

    Inspired by these photos? Check out our photo essay of another gorgeous Greek Island, Paros.

    Find the ‘quirky’

    The perfect photo doesn’t always capture the essence of a place. Sure, get the iconic shot that you can proudly display to family and friends, but keep your eyes peeled for other potential pictures to shoot. Whether it’s some colourful flowers, or freshly-caught octopus hanging out to dry, take the time to explore your surroundings and appreciate all the details around you.

    Take your time to find the quaint and memorable
    Look for the quirky and unique...

    Despite following all of this advice, you may luck out and get less than ideal conditions. Sadly for us, the sunset we had staked out had a lot of cloud cover, so we didn’t get that bright, fiery sky of oranges, pinks and purples that I was hoping for. Nevertheless, part of the process is not just to capture the perfect photo, but collect the memories along the way. We got to meet other travellers, get lost through the streets of Oía and fall in love with this picturesque island, something that sometimes even the most perfect photo can’t create.

    Santorini offers plenty of pretty photo opportunities

    Santorini – The Place For Love

    Santorini – The Place For Love

    Our introduction to Santorini was a rocky one. Actually, rocky is an understatement. Let me just say, I may or may not have filmed an angry ‘selfie’ video whilst hiking for 20 minutes, wearing multiple backpacks in the heat of the day, because of a miscommunication and stuff-up between Guy and I.

    I’m normally not the fiery, fighting type, but after being frustrated that we missed our stop and had driven past our hotel, only finding that we had to walk back (in 30° heat, mind you!), and then missing the turn to walk past the hotel in the other direction, well, let’s just say, Guy was wise to keep his distance from me.

    Guy keeping his distance on the hike to the accommodation

    The thing with Santorini though, is that it’s quite hard to stay angry for long. I’m not sure if it’s the crisp sea breeze that brushes through the hair, the warm sunshine that kisses the skin or the sight of the deep blue sea beckoning the clean, white buildings on the cliffs, but there is a sense of bliss and tranquility there.

    Once we arrived at our gorgeous accommodation and stepped out onto our private terrace to overlook the Caldera, well, all was forgiven and forgotten. The Santorini Effect had taken over.

    It's hard to stay mad in Santorini
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    Love in Santorini
    Santorini is the place to fall in love

    There is something about Santorini that makes it so easy to fall in love, not just with the one you are with, but with the place itself. If you are loved up, or looking to fall in love, here’s what you should see and do in Santorini.

    Santorini is a feast for the senses

     

    Kiss at Sunset

    Santorini is well known for its unbelievable sunset and you should take advantage of it by sharing a smooch with that special someone. Now if your sort of foreplay is fighting through hundreds of people and battling for the perfect vantage point to see the sunset through the crowds, then you’re in luck!

     

    Admire the Caldera

    The gorgeous Santorini Caldera

    The Caldera is one of those stunning visuals that once you see it, it tends to linger for a while. Although dormant, Santorini is a volcanic island, and the caldera is the visible basin of the submerged volcano. Formed over 3,500 years ago, the caldera of Santorini is admired by tourists and geologists alike. The mix of white washed walls, blue domes and dramatic cliff faces create a unique view that simple pictures cannot capture completely.

    Popular and iconic towns such as Fira and Oía are found here, with beautiful, clean winding streets, cute cafes, hip bars and panoramic views of the Santorini Caldera. At sunset, this cove takes on an almost spiritual hue and is definitely the most romantic place you can visit in Santorini.

    The golden hues of Santorini

     

    Eat up

    If food is your passion, Santorini will not disappoint. Enjoy a succulent lamb kebab overlooking the blue-domed churches at Seagull Restaurant (OIA, Santorini, Santorini 847 02, Greece) and finish the evening with a sweet treat from Patisserie Melenio (Nik. Nomikou, Ia 847 02, Greece). If you like your food served with some upbeat Greek folk music, head to Kyprida Restaurant, where the delicious dessert still plays through my mind.

     

    Go to Church

    The icons of Santorini

    You’ve seen the pictures. The blue-domed churches with the pure, white walls, spread across travel brochures, advertisements and posters promoting the Greek Islands. Seeing them in person, well, it’s hard not to be swept up in the romance and thrill of it all. Sharing a kiss or a selfie with your loved one by these iconic structures is sure to be a cherished moment for all time.

    The obligatory selfie

     

    Get some Vitamin ‘Sea’

    Swimming in Oía

    There is something about the Greek coast that screams romance. Maybe it’s the deep blue Aegean, which conjures up stories of adventure and exploration. Or the small, hard to find beaches which dot the many cliffs of Santorini’s coastline. Perhaps it’s the volcanic rock that stirs up some hot emotions.

    Red Beach by jjmusgrove via Flickr I CC BY 2.0

    Whatever it is, taking a dip with your loved one in the beautiful blue ocean will bring you closer together. Santorini has a variety of beaches, ranging from pebbly to sandy. They aren’t what we’d classify as the ‘perfect, tropical’ beach, but they are spectacular in their own right.

    Perissa Beach

     

    Try ‘alternative’ modes of transport

    Sure, you could hail a taxi in Oía, or catch one of the many bus services that crisscross the island. But have you considered your very own donkey? We walked down the 300 steps to check out Amoudi Bay (which, FYI, has wonderful swimming and snorkelling spots, so don’t forget your swimmers!) and have lunch by the sea.

    Feeling a little adventurous (and dare I say it, lazy), we decided to jump on the back of a donkey to get back up to the top. Whoever conjured up the term, ‘stubborn as a mule’, must have tried to ride one, as there is no sure-fire way to control the donkey, but it certainly was a lot of fun and had us laughing the whole way back up the stairs (which, incidentally, probably took longer on the donkey, as they would often stop and refuse to go further). How is this romantic, you may ask? Well, they say, “couples who laugh together, last together”, and this will surely get you laughing.

    Prepare for laughs on a donkey ride

     

    Get lost in the streets

    The streets of Fira are picture-perfect

    Oía, like many towns in Santorini, is a sprawl of white cobblestone streets and hidden passageways set on the top and side of the Caldera. During the warmer months the white streets are complimented with gorgeous splashes of colourful flowers. Wandering at leisure through the maze of shops and restaurants, hand in hand with your loved one is sure to build the romance.

    Santorini is the place for scenic walks

    It would be pretty hard not to fall in love in Santorini. There’s a reason why it’s a popular destination for weddings, honeymoons and romantic getaways. It didn’t take long for the ‘Santorini effect’ to hit me and make me go from angry to amorous. And if you don’t have that special someone to share these moments with, fear not, as Santorini itself is the perfect subject to fall in love with.

    Have you been to Santorini? Did you love it? Comment below!

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