6 Great Tips for Vacation Photos

6 Great Tips for Vacation Photos

tips for vacation photos with a woman on the beach

With the holiday/vacation season just around the corner, there's no time like the present to gather some tips for vacation photos.  These tips will show you how to capture glorious travel photography fit for your wall - or a place of pride in your home. The best photos are better composed, better lit and simply more visually interesting than the run-of-the-mill vacation snapshot.

If you’re like me and don’t live where your happy place is then you need these trips to revive yourself and nurture the spirit.  I enjoy capturing the spirit of the trip and the place so I can bring it back with me. The photos I take become the backdrop of my life and remind me of the great times I had as well as motivate me to plan the next adventure.  Travel photography is like a time machine, freezing memories from a journey that you can look back on and enjoy for years.  When I travel these are the tips that help me get the most from the experience.

tips for vacation photos early morning surfer on the beach

1: Get up Early, Stay out late. It’s always worth it!

I’ve never regretted getting up early. It’s often the only time you’ll get to enjoy the spot by yourself and you get the best light early in the morning.

Know the exact times – Light is the most important ingredient for great photography — and soft, warm, morning light creates amazing images. The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset are nicknamed “golden hours” because of their soft, warm tones and eye-pleasing shadows. “Blue hour”, is the hour after sunset (or before sunrise) when the sky is still blue, but city lights are turned on.

Girl running through a grassy field. A photo by Morgan Sessions. unsplash.com/photos/TS2UKluECVE

Scout the location – Before taking a photo, if you just take a quick look at your surroundings, and give yourself a second to think about anything interesting that might be happening, you will get a much higher percentage of interesting photos than if you simply pull your camera to your eye and snap without planning what you want to capture.

Envision an end result – Having an idea of what you want the image to be will help you compose it and save time while you’re out.

Compose beforehand – In order to create visual interest you should place the subject off-center in the fame. Use the corners and the background to add interest to the photograph.

Woman floating in a pool on vacation

2: Shoot one location 3 different ways

Know where the sun is – The easiest way to flatter your subject is to put it in the best light. If you want your subjects’ faces to shine, turn them so the sun is shining on their faces. If you want your photo of your cruise ship to look like the brochures, take the photo on the sunny side of the ship. Alternately, if you want to catch the glistening of light on the ocean, take the photo when the sun is low enough to bounce off the waves.

close up of a couple holding hands on a beach

Play with point of view – A photograph can isolate and amplify your experience, which turns out to be one of the attractions of travel itself. Playing with point of view adds interest to your photograph.  Climb high or lay flat to give your photo a new perspective. Focal compression is another great compositional tactic in travel photography. Compression is when a photographer uses a zoom lens to trick the eye into thinking objects are closer than they really are.

Play with angles – Take that first shot standing up straight, but then try it from lower or higher or turning the camera vertical. Expressing a little humor when taking travel photos will also create really great images. Travel is usually as much about how we felt and thought while traveling, not just where we went, and photos that capture some humor often bring back the strongest memories and sensations as time goes by.

mountain ridge through the perspective of a window

Narrow detail – The closer you get to your subject, the more detail and interest you can capture.

woman overlooking a scenic valley

3: Use scale

Framing – Fill the frame. The frame refers to the edges of your photograph or the edges of the viewfinder of your camera when you are shooting. The advice to fill the frame means to get in close, to make your subject a significant portion of the final photograph.

Dimension – The more intimate, engaged photos add perceived dimension to a flat image. This is what sets great photography apart from run-of-the-mill snap shot images. Dimension in photography adds a lifelike or realistic quality to an image — this is also called depth of field. It feels like it’s two- or three-dimensional, like you could reach out and grab it.

beach from under a cabana

4: Use details

Include interesting color combos, texture/patterns, negative space and background.

Mountain range and a full moon at the golden hour

5: Use A Tripod

I think more people should be using lightweight travel tripods. A tripod allows you to set your camera position and keep it there. With the camera fixed, you can then take your time arranging the perfect composition.

You can also adjust exposure settings, focus points, and really spend time paying attention to the image you want to create. Or use advanced techniques like HDR, focus stacking, and panoramas.

Tripods give you the ability to shoot much slower shutter speeds (waterfalls, low-light, stars, etc) without worrying about hand-held camera shake. You can keep your ISO low (for less sensor noise) and use smaller apertures, so more of the image is in focus.

You’ll have greater creative control over your camera’s manual settings when using a tripod.

man diving into a lake

6: Use movement

Try moving a few steps forward or back, shifting to one side or the other, or crouching down. As a photographer, you have much more control over what you are doing and where you are standing than you do over the subject matter; if you just stand lead-footed in one spot, your photos will reflect this. The first thing to scan is the sides and corners of the visible area. Is there anything of interest there? If not, consider moving again, changing the zoom, or tilting the camera up, down or to one side. When everything seems to fall into place, fire away, have fun and you’ll bring back great memories of your special holiday or vacation trip.