Vacation and Travel Photography Tips

The first step toward an Instagram-worthy vacation is booking your tickets, but the next step is considering how you will capture all of these memorable moments on camera. Whether you're headed to the city or the countryside, by following a few simple tips, you can return home from your tours with all of your memories brilliantly displayed for sharing with friends. Great vacation photography will also allow you to relive all of your memories long after the suitcases are unpacked. Thankfully, it's not too difficult to learn how to become a better vacation photographer.

Pay Close Attention to Lighting

When lighting is poor, photos will suffer. The three big issues to pay attention to with lighting are:

  1. Overall quality of light

  2. The direction the light is coming from

  3. Light intensity

For example, when photographing other people, light that's directly overhead will tend to cast shadows in the photograph that detract from the subject. In addition, harsh light that's directly behind the photographer often causes subjects to squint.

The best bet for good lighting is to take photos on overcast or cloudy days. These days provide a much softer source of light.

When taking photos of scenic areas, do the bulk of your photography in the late afternoon/early evening or in the early morning hours. The coloring and shadows projected at these times will take your breath away!

Don't Be in a Hurry

Sometimes, great photography just happens by luck. Most times, it doesn't. When you find a subject you'd like to focus on for a photo, take some time to survey the rest of the area and see what other elements you'd like to incorporate into the photo. Take your time: These are pictures you'll be looking at for years to come. Capture the full scene in the exact way you want it while you can. You may never get another opportunity for that perfect shot.


Often, an amateur photographer will take a shot with the idea that they can crop it down later if need be. But post-photography cropping is not always a good idea, except to avoid obvious issues with a photo that weren't recognized when it was taken. For the best resolution and the highest-quality photo, "pre-crop" the photo before you take it by paying attention to how you're framing your subject. Make sure that the parts you want to stand out are featured in the photo and everything in the background is exactly as you want it. Not only does this save time in editing, but it produces a more organic-looking photo.

Use Reflections to Your Advantage

When you're in a place where the reflections of the trees and buildings in the water are just as eye-catching as the structures themselves, don't let these opportunities go to waste. Frame your photos to include these reflections as equally as the main subject of the photo.

Keep the Horizon Straight

Purposely tilting your camera to try to create a more artsy feel rarely works out well. It can also be a bit disorienting to viewers: You'll often see them tilting their head while looking at the picture to try to straighten it out. When you find that perfect shot, don't ruin it with a tilt. Capture it as it is in nature, with a straight horizon.

Capture Natural Depth

The human eyes are used to seeing natural depth, with images in the foreground, background, and center. Use this to your advantage in your vacation photography by incorporating depth in every photo. Pay attention to what's close, what's far, and what you're focused on as the main subject.

Interact With Surroundings

Whether you're the main subject of the photo or your friends and family are, standing still next to a forest or historical site makes for a rather boring photo. Instead, be creative with how you interact with your surroundings. Become a part of them in your own unique way. Let your personality shine through!

Don't Be Afraid to Experiment

One huge advantage of digital photography is that you can take as many pictures as you want until you find that perfect shot. The more photos you take, the better your chances of capturing a great image, and you can always delete the bad ones later one. Try different angles, different lighting, and different poses.

Use Selfies Sparingly

Selfies are always tempting, but they're not a great way to fully capture scenic surroundings. Of course, if you're traveling alone, you may not want to constantly bother strangers to take your photo next to that epic background, so a few selfies are probably inevitable. But when possible, avoid the selfie temptation and see if that friendly looking stranger would take a few moments to photograph you while you creatively interact with the surroundings.

Wait Before Sharing Your Work on Social Media

It's tempting to instantly upload that shot you just took to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, but don't.

First of all, you'll probably find yourself sucked into likes and comments instead of enjoying why you went on vacation in the first place.

Second, it's best to revisit what your favorite photos are once you get back to the hotel for the night. Find the cream of the crop and share away once your adventures are over for the day.

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