Tips for Taking Vacation Photos

Our bad vacation photos are generally a learned phenomenon. Uncle Fred had a Polaroid and lined you all up in front of Mt. Rushmore, then backed off half a mile to take the picture. That’s the kind of vacation image that rots in a drawer for eternity. If you want to take dynamic pictures that accurately recall the sights, sounds, and flavors of your trip, just remember six basics of vacation photography.

1. Don’t buy the camera the day before you leave on the trip.

There’s no more surefire way to be disappointed in your trip pictures than to spend the entire time fighting your camera because you don’t know what it can do or how to change the settings. If you’re going to get a new camera for your trip, buy it a month ahead of time and practice, practice, practice.

2. Double your memory.

Always stock up on memory for your digital camera before heading out on vacation. If you’re not filling up your memory cards, you’re not making the photographic “most” of what you’re seeing and doing. Better to take too many pictures than too few. After all, you can’t just pop back to Venice and re-stage that botched gondola shot.

3. Photograph things you wouldn’t normally photograph.

The great beauty of digital cameras is that those shots are free. Snap away. Have a beautiful dinner? Photograph your plate. Amused by the royal coat of arms on the toilet paper at the Tower of London? Photograph it. These are the kinds of images that make great additions on scrapbook pages because they add detail and flavor.

4. Resist the photographic stereotypes.

We all have drawers full of very tiny people standing in front of very large vacation “features.” You can’t see the people and the “feature” is boring. When you are photographing people, get up close. Take your husband standing beside the sign that says “Old Faithful,” then get one of the geyser erupting with crowds watching. Together the images tell the story much better than one, trite, staged shot.

5. Don’t center everything.

Good photographic composition revolves around the rule of thirds. For simplicity sake, just know that photos with the subject pushed to the left or right of center are more appealing to the eye. “But,” you protest, “my camera focuses in the center.” Focus on your subject by depressing the shutter half way. Hold it there and shift your field of view left or right. Your subject will still be in focus, but your composition will be greatly improved. (Remember, keep people looking into the frame, not out of the picture.)

6. Zoom in and take wide angle shots.

Essentially, vary your perspective. Take close up shots of interesting items like architectural details, but pull back and get beautiful wide angle shots of the Alps. In real life we don’t look at things from the same distance, at the same angle, with everything dead center. We shouldn’t take photographs that way either!

Finally, when you’re on vacation, your camera should be surgically attached to your hand. Have it with you at all times – preferably turned on and hard at work. When you’re home and want to show off your pictures, your friends will be pleasantly surprised to find out you haven’t taken the same old boring vacation shots, but instead have dynamic, interesting images to share and to discuss.