5 Tips for Taking Amazing Photos on Your Vacation

If you love traveling anywhere near as much as I do, I’m sure you also like taking pictures on your vacation. You want to keep those memories for decades later when you won’t remember all the little details that made that trip a great one. And there are some amazing sites around the world whose beauty we want to take home with us.

But often times, you get home with 2000 images from your week away and 1 of 2 things happen. You either try to show everyone your entire trip and your friends mysteriously disappear, or you never get around to sorting through them because it’s overwhelming to pick through 1000 photos. Here’s how you can take few photos and still get better images than before. 

Composition

This is probably the easiest one to start with. Since you’re likely to be photographing stationary objects, it’s important to know where to position yourself to make the images spectacular.

Chateau Chennonceaux Loire France

Using the rule of thirds, and changing the perspective, you can create some really powerful images. When taking a photo, imagine this grid placed over the scene. Place the most important elements of the image on the lines of the grid. Also try getting down low to make buildings look even taller. And use patterns and textures to your advantage! There is geometry everywhere waiting for your camera to capture it.

rule of thirds vacation

 

Exposure

This can be a tricky thing to manage when traveling. You can’t control the sun or bring lights with you to photograph every building you see. What you can do though, is plan when to photograph each location. What time of day should you arrive to get the sun in the best position? If it’s too sunny in certain areas and too dark in others, you’ll miss out on capturing everything in the scene. The range your camera has from dark to light before it becomes too dark or too light to see is called dynamic range. Most cameras are different, and they are no where near as good as our eyes. You have to learn to think like your camera to master your dynamic range. But it’s not too tricky.

The first and last hours of the day are usually the best for this. This is why I’m up with the sunrise when I’m on vacation.

sunset exposure vacation

And don’t forget your tripod! It is 100% necessary if you want to take amazing photos in low light. This can be particularly useful indoors too, even during the day time. And keep an eye out for beautiful natural light coming in from windows. Often times, it’s not a coincidence. If the building has been around longer than we’ve had electricity, window light would have been extremely important.

exposure for indoor photography

Lenses

perspective architecture photographyThere are two reasons for choosing a lens in any given scenario. The first is the focal length. Is you lens wide angle or does is zoom in really far? These are both very useful in the right times.

My favorite lens is my 50mm f/1.4. 50mm is the same perspective that our eyes see. Wide angle lenses are anything wider than 35mm and telephoto is anything longer than 85mm.

If you want to capture a big sweeping landscape and show the vastness of an area, wide angle is your best friend. It also gives you the widest depth of field. That means that more of your photo will be in focus than if you had the same aperture setting on a longer lens. Wide angles are also great for making tall things look taller and wide things look wider. Consider this though when photographing people. Buildings look pretty cool when stretched out, but people look pretty strange. Wide angle lenses are also very useful when you want to get an entire building in the shot but you don’t want to back up half a mile to do it.

landscape photography

Choosing a telephoto lens, which is often called a long lens, is best when you want to feature 1 specific subject. You might be photographing plants, animals, or people. If you’re on an African safari, or any other location where it is not safe for you to get up close and personal with the wildlife, having a long lens is the only way to get the photos you’re after.

closeup photography Belgium France

The Story

Brussels BelgiumThis is the most important element in an image. Other technical details can often be overlooked when the story is compelling. What is happening in your photo?

  • Is someone hailing a cab?
  • Is an eagle snatching a snake off the grass?
  • Did someone just propose on a bridge overlooking the city?
  • Are there 1000 cars circling the Arch de Triomphe?

Give your image a purpose. Sometimes we just want to remember what something looked like, but the real value in the photos is the way they make us feel. Capture those events that tell the story of your trip. Those memories will stick around a lot longer.

Sometimes this may take a little planning. If you know an event is going on, plan to be in a good spot to get the photo.

  • What time is the market going to be out on the street in the main square?
  • When do the wolves animals visit the lake to drink?
  • Is there a sporting event taking place near by?
  • Where is the best place to see the storm blow in? or the volcano erupt?

 

vacation photography story

Participation

If you are traveling alone, ignore this part. If you are traveling with friends or family, please take this to heart.

One of my favorite things about going on vacation is leaving my camera in the hotel. Don’t get me wrong. I’m always looking at things imagining how I’d photograph it, but it’s really, really important to be in the moment and enjoy your trip with your friends and family. You can set time aside specifically for photos. Or take some snap shots in front of the big sites. But having a camera up to your eye takes you away from the people who want to enjoy the vacation with you. 

Ways to help balance your trip:

  • Designate specific time for photography
  • Limit yourself to a specific number of photos per location
  • Bring smaller memory cards
  • Give the camera to another friend or family member who won’t be tempted to view the entire trip through the lens.



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