Are you going on a big trip this summer? Or just planning a staycation near home? Here are a few easy tips to help you take your best vacation photos!

Look before you shoot

Train your eye to look quickly and carefully at the scene you’re framing. Is there a telephone pole behind someone’s head? Move them one step away! Be mindful of your light source – is your subject squinting into the sun, or cast in deep shadow? Move them into a more even or diffuse light. Any other distracting visual clutter in the background? Try a different angle, or get closer to the subject.

Don't let this composition happen to you!  Don’t let this composition happen to you!

Tell a story 

The best photographs will contribute to the story of your trip. Take some photos when nobody is looking at the camera; try to capture reactions to exciting events or beautiful scenery instead of just the postcard view. If you want the “postcard view” to have staying power, make sure to include someone you know in it. A picture of the Grand Canyon is nothing special, but a picture of your sister in front of the Grand Canyon, or your son’s reaction to his first view of it makes it personal. Even if you’re vacationing alone, you’re never really alone. Channel photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martin Parr and include other people in the photos (yes, even other tourists!) for a fuller sense of place.

Rainbow Springs State Park Rainbow Springs State Park

Get close to the action and fill the frame

It seems like every time I ask someone to take a picture of our group, they back up about 10 feet and include our entire bodies, plus some sidewalk in front, and tons of empty space all around. The first thing I do is crop the image to its essentials. Learning to simply get closer will give you better quality images because you won’t have to give up so many megapixels in the cropping process. With very few exceptions, the closer you get to the subject, the better the picture. Learn to use the background to your advantage.

My friend Angela at Bryce Canyon My friend Angela at Bryce Canyon

Try an unusual angle or composition

Try putting the horizon very high or very low in the frame. Shoot up at a monument or tree instead of centering it in the frame. Put your subject in the left or right rather than the center of the frame. Look up the Rule of Thirds (it’s very simple!) and start implementing it! Your composition will immediately be more dynamic and interesting.

Buy the postcard

Look, if you want a perfect postcard view, buy one! When you’re revisiting your vacation pics in a few years you’re going to want to see the pictures that remind you of the fun times you had, not the perfectly symmetrical view of the Luxembourg Gardens. Buy the postcard, and instead of waiting to replicate that shot, get out and do something fun!

 

Relax

There is a time and a place for formal portraits. Maybe you can make a tradition to do one on each vacation. For all the other shots, though, let your subjects be themselves.

 

Me and my friend Angela at Bryce Canyon Me and my friend Angela at Bryce Canyon

Most importantly, have fun! Our next post will help you sort and store your digital pictures once you return from vacation!