Vacations are some of the best times of our lives! A vacation is a time of fun, relaxation, and enjoyment. Holidays allow us to create precious memories with our families and loved ones. In most instances, you may only get a handful of vacations in a lifetime. If you’re lucky, you get a few each year! Everyone knows that vacation time is precious and it is vital to make the most of each trip. Capturing photos can be an awesome way to relive the memories of a vacation. With the right tips and techniques, you could get some stunning vacation photography on your next trip!
In this article, we give you those essential techniques. We’ll show you how to use photographic techniques correctly, and also how to showcase your work and share it with others.
We understand that vacations are precious times. We know that time is limited. This is why we want to share our photographic knowledge with you so that you can take magnificent photos. Next time you prepare to jet off to some far-off destination, remember these vacation photography tips!
Vacation Photography Tips – Composition & Execution
The fundamental to good photography is having basic compositional skills. This section will lay out the foundations for your vacation photography. While it might be easy to just snap everything you see when you’re on holiday, taking time to hone in on really special things and/or prominent features will leave you tons more shots you’re happy with and proud to share around.
1. Capture Candid Moments
Whilst posed photographs are great and can really make for some special family photo opportunities, they’re not always ideal and they don’t necessarily convey the mood or memory very accurately. Not only that, but posed photos can also get repetitive and subjects in the photo might get tired of you asking them for photos. That’s where candid photos come in. When you capture people without them posing, you freeze a frame of what actually went on. You get people doing things they enjoy/are interested in. In these moments you can get some of the most interesting shots. As a photographer, it can be quite thrilling knowing you got a shot of someone doing something and they didn’t even know about it!
Vacation photography is all about striking a balance, having a mix of the posed and the natural. What that means for you, as the photographer, is you simply need to always have your camera on hand and be prepared to snap whenever the right opportunity arises. You get great shots, your vacation party enjoys their holiday – its a win-win!
2. Utilize Natural Light
Flashes, if possible, should be avoided at all costs. They make for some harsh looking photos where things look far from natural. Not only that, you usually have to deal with red-eye.
Natural light is the best type of light for photography. First and foremost, it looks much better than an artificial flash. Secondly, it makes photos look better – subjects don’t look strange and don’t have a harsh glare.
If you’re on vacation, make use of the light around you. If you’re shooting during the day, work with the sun. Have subjects out of shadowy areas, change your angles to get the best shot based on the light.
3. Shoot in All Weathers
While it might seem like a great idea to just shoot when you’ve got clear blue skies and a glistening sun, this doesn’t actually make all that much sense. You miss out on so many great photographic opportunities. And you definitely didn’t make all your memories only on the days with the best weather. Why wash out those days? Perhaps your best day happened on a day when the weather just wasn’t great – you’ll only have words and vague memories to relive that day. If you take your camera, even on the greyer days, you’ll capture everything. The photographic series will give a real overview of what happened on your vacation.
To add to that, you get a lot more variety in your photos. If you’re out and about, the clouds in the sky change and show that there was more than just a glistening sun going on. Another great thing is that you can capture changes in your subjects, styles will change, as will behaviors. You might visit different places, indoor sites that you wouldn’t be able to explore with your camera if you didn’t bring it along with you.
So while you might not feel like you’ll get much out of taking a camera on those bad weather days, trust us, it is worth it!
4. Capture a Variety of Scenes – Balance Scenic Photos with Detailed Photos of Different Subjects
Vacation shots aren’t just about capturing your touring party, and they’re also not just about capturing images of the sights you see. Vacation shots should give you a balance between the two. You want variety in your images and you don’t want to forget one important aspect because you’re so fixated on another aspect. Remember, variety is a spice of life!
Keep your photos varied, change your point of focus. If you think you can work with it, aim to capture both the details and the broad picture when you visit somewhere. You might find some shots work better than others when you look back and review. Location and people are both important, don’t neglect one for the other!
5. Look for the Finer Details
One problem with vacation photos is that they often look generic. If you can, this should be avoided. You’ve probably seen ten almost identical photos of a significant landmark such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. While it can be great to capture these generic photos, getting something totally different will really give your photos an edge. You can look for more artistic interpretations of things, or just focus on the more discrete details. Pull out things to focus on, the details you want to highlight and compose your photos with those in mind.
A great way of composing to highlight a certain feature is to use leading lines. These are lines that lead the viewer’s eye to a certain point (your main feature). Alternative ways of emphasizing your subject include using the rule of thirds to compose your image. Putting your feature on one of the rule of thirds lines.
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6. Shoot at Different Times of the Day
Think about it, if you shoot a scene during the middle of the day, and the exact same place at night, the photos you get are completely different. They portray a totally different scene. Incorporating this idea into your vacation photography really adds variety to your images.
Throughout the day, the direction and intensity of light changes, which means that discrete differences will occur no matter the time you photograph.
As a guide, midday light is harsh, it casts shadows and makes things look very sharp. Your mid-morning and early evening light is softer and has a nice golden warmth to it. Sunrise and sunset are very warm and not only that, the skies are truly stunning at this time. The best period to shoot is the Golden Hour but that doesn’t mean that all your photos should be shot during this time.
Be creative and capture a great range of time periods, you’ll get some incredible variety in your images and some truly stunning photos.
Vacation Photography Tips – Sharing Your Photos
With the tips we listed above, you should be well on your way to capturing some amazing vacation photos. With such an incredible selection of images, the next step you’ll want to consider is how you share those photos. After all, that is the purpose of taking photos!
There is nothing more satisfying than showing other people your adventures. Friends and family may want to catch up with you and your travels and see what you have been doing.
One great thing is that we live in a digital age and sharing photos has never been easier – the internet provides an extensive platform to share photos. You can literally upload photos via a computer and the whole world can see them in a matter of seconds. In the following sections, we discuss some vacation photography tips specifically relating to sharing your photos.
1. Select Your Best Shots to Share (Especially When it Comes to Social Media)
People love to see photos, this much is true. But what isn’t true is that they enjoy scrolling through hundreds of pictures. After your vacation, or even during if you’re regularly updating people on your trip, you should aim to narrow down the number of images you share.
Pick photos that are distinctive, two almost identical shots aren’t worth anyone’s time. The photos you share should make you proud and they should really capture a certain element of your trip. You want people to come on your journey but only experience the really special/significant parts.
If you adopt this technique when sharing photos, friends and family will have an enjoyable and easy experience seeing your vacation photos without feeling too overwhelmed!
2. Make an Online Slideshow to Share
While it might not seem like your typical sharing method, an online slideshow can be a fun and exciting way of sharing your vacation photography with others. Depending on what you have available to you, there are various routes you can take to achieve this.
If you post-process your images (and we recommend you do if you have the time), some post-processing software, such as Lightroom, offers a built-in slideshow creation tool. But if this option isn’t available to you, there are plenty of free online options you can use to create slideshows. Some of these include Animoto or Icecream Slideshow Maker.
If you want a more comprehensive list, check out our list of the best slideshow makers!
3. Get Your Photos Printed in an Album
Viewing photos on a screen is fine, but the feel just doesn’t compare to having a physical photo album in your hands. There’s a much more authentic experience when turning the pages of a photo album. An added bonus to this is that you can add your own embellishments to the album – comments or stickers that sum-up the photo or page. If you establish a theme, you can also summarize the whole trip with some stylistic choices!
There are plenty of platforms to choose from to get started in your photo album creation. An example of one such platform is Photobox.com. This is a website that offers a range of different photo-based products. Photobox has a whole section dedicated to photo albums and photo books. All of these options are highly customizable. Perfect for fun, personal touches!
Building a collection of photo albums documenting your vacations is a great way to build visual memories of your trips. Albums provide fantastic talking points for family gatherings and parties too!
4. Regularly Back-Up Vacation Photos
With all the hard work you’ve put into learning how to take great vacation photos, losing them would be the worst thing that could happen. That’s why you should always back-up your photos. There are some ideal approaches you should take to ensure you have secure back-ups but in short, you should have at least two external copies of your images or use a cloud-based storage system.
Related Post: The Best Way to Store Digital Photos
Vacation Photography Tips: Conclusion
With the tips we discussed above in hand, you can now venture into far-off lands and take some mind-blowing photos. Not only that, but you’ll also have all the right tools to share these images with friends and family.
Our final vacation photography tip is a simple one – always have fun. Although photography is important, actually enjoying your holiday and creating lasting memories trumps this. Ensure that you immerse yourself in the experience and spend time away from your camera – make the most of this special time!
If you have any vacation photography tips of your own, then please share your knowledge with us! If you have any epic shots or slideshows, we would love to see them! Drop a line in the comments sharing your experiences with us!
Update: More Travel Photography Tips
I’ve been lucky enough to visit 5 continents and over 30 countries in the past 10 years. And, throughout my travels, I’ve taken thousands of photos. I like to think I’ve refined my technique. To that end, I have compiled a list of travel photography tips.
Just a few things I’ve learned–often the hard way–over the years. If you, like me, want to explore the world and document your travels through photography, read on!
Photography Should Complement Your Travels
Before we dive into the tips, I want to impart some general advice.
When traveling, don’t let photography cloud your experience. It is quite easy to let photography take over your adventures.
It shouldn’t be like this.
Photography shouldn’t be the main purpose of your travels (unless you are doing a paid photoshoot obviously!).
It should complement your travels and enhance your enjoyment.
Put down your camera and enjoy the moment. Don’t spend every waking minute stuck behind your viewfinder.
Travel and photography do go hand in hand, but photography shouldn’t detract from your traveling experience.
Take time to speak to the locals. Visually absorb the sites and landscapes you’re visiting. Savor every moment and only take photos when the opportunity calls for it.
Don’t Let A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity Go To Waste
Remember that you may never visit some of these places again.
For example, I traveled to Antarctica in 2014. In all likelihood, I will never visit the white continent again.
To that end, I made sure I immersed myself in the experience. Yes, I took hundreds of fantastic photos. But I also enjoyed every second and was not constantly stuck behind my camera.
This is possibly the most important piece of advice I can give!
I have broken up the travel photography tips into three sections – location, equipment, and composition. Each section is as important as the other, so give equal attention to each one!
Your location and surroundings are key to taking exceptional travel photos. Are they not?
If you don’t have a solid understanding of the places you’re visiting, you could miss out on fantastic opportunities. I wholeheartedly believe that the location is just as important as your actual composition.
1. Research the location beforehand
Going into a location blind can be exciting! And provide plenty of photo opportunities. It can also be a colossal time waste. Most likely missing some important shots in the process.
I’d advise researching your destinations beforehand.
Usually, when traveling, I look at the following:
- Public transport
- Accommodation location
- Main sites locations
- Main shopping areas
- Prohibited areas for public access
- Busiest areas or tourist hotspots
If you arm yourself with this knowledge you should have a more enjoyable experience.
Also, utilize your time more efficiently. Instead of spending hours aimlessly wandering through a city, you can head directly to the places you wish to photograph and get in on the action. Knowing the tourist hotspots can also help avoid crowds and congestion.
You don’t have to spend hours researching, but a quick look on Google maps and a few notes can make the world of difference!
2. Compile A List Of Must-See Sites & Places
As part of my research, I usually compile a list of must-see places. These are locations or attractions that I make it a priority to see. Anything else I find is a bonus.
For example, I went to Venice in 2017. Before I traveled there, I made a list of sites I wanted to see.
It went like this:
- St. Mark’s Square
- St. Mark’s Campanile
- St. Mark’s Cathedral
- Rialto Bridge
- Grand Canal
Having this list allowed me to make a rough plan of action. We got to see all of the above, plus a host of other interesting sites too. I got the photos that I wanted and wasn’t disappointed.
RELATED POST: What To Photograph In Venice
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Stray From The Plan
Although having research and a plan is useful, you don’t have to stick rigidly to it. If you only adhere to your plan, you’re likely missing out on some great photo opportunities.
Have a plan, but be flexible. If something takes your eye then act upon that impulse! You literally never know what is around the corner – some hidden treasure could be waiting for you.
I toured through Jordan and spent time in the capital Amman. I took a taxi to the old town and wanted to take some photos of the main mosque complex.
While down there, I happened to see a street market. I jumped on the opportunity and spent some time wandering through it. The experience was fantastic and I managed to take some interesting photos too. An opportunity I would not have had if I had stuck rigidly to my original plan.
4. Take Your Time
Sometimes you have to rush. Maybe you have to catch public transport or get somewhere quickly. However, when taking photos, avoid rushing whenever possible.
If you rush, the actual quality of your photos may suffer. You may take out-of-focus shots, or miss a golden opportunity.
This is one of the best tips I can give. Time is important–use it well. Don’t rush, give yourself plenty of time at each location, and get up early to beat the crowds!
5. Interact With The Locals
Finally, locals are an absolute gold mine.
First, locals can give you a greater understanding of a place. You can gain insight into their culture and daily lives.
Additionally, it provides some awesome photo opportunities.
Be friendly, learn a little of the local language, and make an effort to communicate. You’ll find that people are generally welcoming and even intrigued. You can use this to your advantage to take some fantastic natural photos or poignant portraits.
Travel Photography Equipment
Sure, location is key, but your photography equipment is also important. As far as travel photography tips go, I would put the least emphasis on equipment. But, that’s not to say you shouldn’t consider what you choose to pack.
Striking a balance is key. Be prepared, but don’t overload yourself either.
1. Be Prepared
Imagine arriving at a new destination only to find that you have left your memory card at home! This could potentially ruin your trip or mean you have to spend funds on replacing your forgotten equipment.
I usually make a list of the equipment I want to take with me. This is a simple list scribbled down on a piece of paper, something like:
- Zoom lens
- Spare batteries
- Spare memory cards
- Lens cleaning kit
By creating a list such as this, you won’t forget any vital photographic equipment!
2. Take The Bare Minimum Equipment
As far as my tips go, this one is more for your own comfort and well-being. Some people make the mistake of traveling with literally every piece of equipment they own.
This could mean they have limited luggage space. It could also mean they spend excessive energy carrying it around.
Consider where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.
Look at the potential photos you’ll take. Once you have this info, only pack the bare minimum equipment you require.
If you don’t need 3 different lenses, then just stick with the mid-range zoom. Is that huge bulky tripod really necessary, or would a small travel tripod suffice?
Related Post: Best Travel Lenses
3. Protect Your Equipment From The Elements
During your travels, you’ll undoubtedly encounter varied weather conditions. Our world is a wild place and protecting your camera equipment is important.
Bring a camera bag.
Furthermore, ensure you store your equipment such as batteries, lenses, and SD cards in a secure/protected location.
Extreme weather conditions such as intense cold or heat can really damage your camera if you don’t take precautions. For example, when traveling to Antarctica, I used bubble wrap to insulate my camera and spare batteries.
Related Post: How to Photograph Memorials
Travel Photography Composition
Finally, I have listed travel photography tips relating to composition. Obviously, the composition is a crucial aspect of any form of photography.
Travel photography actually allows you to explore many composition techniques. You can be creative and challenge yourself to produce unique photos that really showcase what a location or culture is like.
1. Use A Combination Of Landscape And Portrait
When traveling, I try to take varied shots. I don’t stick to one type of composition. During my time in New York, for example, I created a mixture of landscape shots and close-up details.
To show the vastness of the Manhattan Island skyscrapers, I took sweeping wide angle shots from the top of the GE Building in the Rockefeller Center.
I then snapped a range of detailed shots of individual buildings, shop interiors, and architecture. Having a balance like this can give you a huge variety of compositions to work with.
2. Ask Permission For Portrait Shots And Capture Natural Actions
I mentioned above about interacting with the locals. When doing this, always ask their permission to take photos! Some people may not appreciate you sticking a camera in their face without asking first.
Furthermore, if you ask, you can get them to strike a pose or get creative – this will make your composition more interesting.
Try to find a balance between natural shots, and posed portraits. Posed shots are great to create typical portraits. You can show what people are physically like.
Natural action shots are also important, however. You can convey what their daily lives are like, and what their culture and city are about.
3. Experiment With Different Times Of The Day
Sunlight, moonlight, and different time periods are your friend. A travel location can look completely different at sunrise than it does during the nighttime for example.
Consider visiting locations at different periods of the day. You can create some beautiful compositions utilizing natural light or the cover and shadows of darkness.
4. Try To Capture Unique Perspectives And Angles
If you search for photos of the Colosseum in Rome what will you find? You will find hundreds of shots all taken from the same position and angle.
This is boring!
Yes, you should take stock photos to show the attraction of a location as it is, but you should look for new and unique compositions too.
Instead of standing in front of the Colosseum, why not zoom in on the detail of the stonework?
Alternatively, why not take portrait shots of the fallen columns in the interior? Use your creativity and imagination!
5. Don’t Stand Static, Use Different Heights
One of my pet peeves is to see photographers standing still. Standing straight, camera at arm’s length can only provide so much creativity.
If you want to improve your composition, one of the best travel photography tips I can give is to utilize different heights!
Don’t be afraid to get low. I’m talking ground level. Get on your hands and knees if you must! In the same instance, don’t be afraid to climb up high to take aerial shots. Experiment with different heights to photograph your travels from new and exciting angles.
RELATED POST: Photography Tips For Beginners
Start Your Own Adventure!
I hope you’ve found these travel photography tips useful. By using these tips, you too can explore our planet and capture some special moments! If you have any of your own photos to share then feel free to leave a comment!
Paul loves traveling and photography. He is also a Lightroom and Photoshop expert and likes to test new photo software, apps, and gear. Paul frequently shares his travel photography tips on his travel blog and writes for known photography publications.