10 Quick Photography Tips for better Vacation Pictures
- Keep the gear to a minimum. It can be tempting to bring every bit of camera gear you own on a trip, but it may not really help you get the shots you want. Having a bunch of lenses to choose from can be overwhelming. Trying to decide which one to use for which situation can be stressful, taking your focus off of enjoying your trip. Furthermore, you can easily miss great shots while you’re busy changing lenses. Instead, as a general rule, stick with the most versatile lens you have. If you’re into zoom lenses, a 24-70mm is a good bet for most situations. I prefer prime lenses, so I’m apt to leave a 35mm or 50mm lens on my camera most of the time when I travel.
- Consider your destination when choosing lenses. I’ve already said that I usually use 35mm or 50mm lenses for travel, but let me explain. That’s because a lot of my travels are to cities, where everything is close together. I’m fairly close to the things I’m photographing, and I don’t have room to back up very far to fit everything in the shot. If I’m traveling to a rural area with lots of wide-open spaces, that’s a different story. If I know I’m going to have plenty of room, I’ll choose my 100mm lens. The 100mm macro is also my choice if I’m going someplace like a botanical garden, where I know I mainly want to capture small objects up-close.
- Walk! If you’re interested in taking good pictures during your travels, the best way to sightsee is on foot! Of course you may need to use other forms of transportation along the way, but make sure a large portion of your time will be spent walking. It hard to take photos from a car or train. If you’ll be riding a double-decker bus or ferry, get there early to get an outdoor seat—even if it means having to bundle up a bit more if it’s cold. It’ll be worth it for an unobstructed view!
- Don’t overshoot. In the era of digital photography, it’s possible to take more photos without spending more money. This is a blessing in many ways, of course, but it can also be a curse. There’s no need for dozens of photos of the exact same thing from very slightly different angles. You don’t want to be overwhelmed when you have thousands of photos to go through after your trip. When you get a great shot of a given subject, stop shooting that same subject. Take a deep breath and put away your camera for a little while. You don’t want to be looking through your viewfinder the whole time—take in the view you get with just your eyes!
Going on a swamp tour? Don’t take 50+ pictures of alligators like I did. After you get one great shot, stop! (Like I should have after I captured this one.)
- Think big and small. You want your photos to tell the full story of your travels, and that includes both the context and the details. Stand back to capture the place as a whole, then get in close to document the small things that bring the story to life.
- Don’t forget to look up and down. When you’re exploring a new place, you’ll be thoroughly entertained just by looking at (and photographing) whatever is at eye level at any given moment. But your field of vision is limited if you keep your gaze straight ahead. Look above and below you to diversify your perspective.
- Plan around golden hour. “Golden hour” refers to the hour or so right after sunrise and right before sunset, and it is the best time to take beautiful photos. Of course, when you’re traveling, you’ll probably be cramming as much sightseeing as you can into your day, which means you’ll be taking pictures in a variety of lighting conditions. That’s no problem, but if there’s a particular spot you’re most looking forward to photographing, visit it early in the morning or later in the evening instead of at high noon. (Don’t know when sunrise or sunset is going to happen? You can Google it or download an app to your phone so it’ll always be handy.)
- Resist social media. I’m sure this will be my least popular tip, but hear me out. Don’t worry about posting every photo to Facebook right away. Don’t “check in” or tweet about every place you go. I’m not opposed to social media, but save it for later. If you’re thinking about what’s going on in the virtual world, you’re missing out on what’s happening right in front of you. Vacation is not the time for that! Be present and take it in.
- Get on the other side of the camera. We photographer types are bad about this. We prefer taking pictures to being in them. But these are your travels, so you are part of the story! When you look back at the photos years later, you’ll want to be in some of them. Even if the composition and lighting aren’t perfect because some stranger took the photo and didn’t know what he was doing. Let it go! Appreciate that stranger and that photo. It’s better than nothing.
The same goes for when you aren’t following tip #3 (the one about walking.) If you’re a bit of an adventure-seeker, you might participate in some activities that don’t allow you to bring your camera along for the action. If it’s a fairly touristy area, there will probably be someone taking pictures of you that you can buy. They may be expensive, but suck it up and buy them anyway. You’ll soon forget how many bucks you shelled out, but you’ll remember the experience forever.
However much I paid for this photo of me surfing, it was worth it!
10. Do something with your photos! Don’t let them live only on your hard drive forever. Print some out. Frame them. Make a scrapbook. Or at least an online album to share with your friends and family. (A lot of my travel photos end up listed as fine art prints in my Etsy shop, and even more of them show up on my blog, where I enjoy sharing the anecdotes that go along with them.) Looking at the photos later is the whole point of documenting these memories. Create something that you’ll enjoy looking back on for years to come.