Get Great Vacation Photos

Part of every vacation is coming home with great vacation photos, right? And vacations, in the last year or so, seem to be the thing. After a couple of years of not being able to travel, people seem to be in a real rush to squeeze in all the trips that were missed.

If you can measure this by social media, freaking everyone is in Europe or Disney World. And there’s no need anymore to wait until you get home to share your trip with friends and loved ones. With social media, people are sharing their trips as they happen. Which is fine with us. A little vicarious trip to Italy never hurt anyone.

Sometimes, though, we really don’t need 40 photos of one meal. A little editing can be a very good thing when it comes to great vacation photos.

A couple walking holding hands on the beach (vacation photo)

Preserving memories in vacation photos goes way back…

Remember back in the day when the neighbors or an aunt and uncle would get back from their “trip of a lifetime!” and invite everyone over for a slideshow? And remember how that slideshow would go on and on and on with so many pictures of the most mundane things!? (If you’re too young to remember a slideshow, here’s an example. And if you’re too young to remember a slideshow, big deep Gen X sigh…)

It could turn anyone off from the very idea of travel and certainly from the idea of sharing our travel photos.

But there is a way to share that lets you show off a tiny bit (really… who doesn’t want to brag at least a little when it involves Paris or the Grand Canyon?) and leaves people feeling like they got to share in your experience without being made to fall asleep.

As always, we’re here to help you get great vacation photos. (Though you could just take us with you… just saying. I think that would qualify as a portrait photography gig, don’t you?)

Don’t forget to photograph your people in your vacation pics.

This is number one on the list, because, believe it or not, it’s often forgotten in the rush to capture all the sights. Perhaps you’re visiting somewhere you’ve dreamed of for years and have seen all the famous sights in other people’s photos and so you get lost in trying to capture your take on that.

But really? We don’t need more generic photos of the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum or even Mickey Mouse.

For great vacation photos, you want your people. You’re not just capturing the Grand Canyon; you’re capturing YOU and whomever is with you at the Grand Canyon.

Beyond that, you’re capturing your own personal history. You’re capturing your people at a precise moment in time.

Also? Without people in your shots, there’s simply no perspective. You don’t get a sense of space without humans.

And side note: if there is someone in your family or group who tends to be the photographer, make sure they are in front of the camera as often as everyone else.

Young woman leaning against concrete structure (vacation photo)

Follow the light for great vacation photos

This is pretty much a truth for all photography but a good one to keep in mind on vacation. Firstly, don’t use your flash. Ick. Try to find natural and good ambient lighting.

Do not shoot into the light. Find a position for your subjects where the lighting is not shining directly into their eyes..

If you’re shooting at night, see if you can find street lights to step into, for one example. If you really need it, turn on “night mode” on your phone camera. (Which is what most people are using on vacations. It’s easy and convenient and doesn’t need a lot of space.)

Consider the rule of thirds

Our brains love symmetry so you’ll notice a lot of photos with people right in the center. And sometimes, that’s a cool choice. But often? It’s just kinda… boring.

Put your people off to one side or the other of the sight you’re capturing or in the lower third or upper third of the photo. If you pay attention to movies, as an example, you’ll notice this sort of framing is employed regularly.

Even if you’re shooting a vacation selfie, you can use this trick.

For Video, Think Slow and Less

There is nothing like watching shaky video. So if you can’t hold your camera really still for the length of the video, find a place to sit it down or prop it.

Speaking of length of video: keep it pretty short. More short videos are easier to deal with than a few longer ones, and they’re more fun to watch.

Also? Keep it limited in terms of subject matter. Don’t try to cover everything that’s going on in one fell swoop.

And finally, if you are holding the camera and moving, MOVE SLOWLY. Move even more slowly. Move so slowly that you think you’re moving too slowly. Seriously. Trust us.

Two adult sisters pillow fighting on a bench outdoors. (vacation photo)

Forget about Social Media… At least momentarily

Stop trying to get the Great Vacation Photo That Will Go Viral. Getting likes and comments is fun, but don’t let it get in your head. Remember that you’re, firstly, traveling to have experiences, and secondary to that is capturing memories, and FINALLY after that is sharing on social media.

When it is time for you to consider social media, use it as an opportunity to do some editing. Again, we don’t need 40 photos of that great meal you had in that tiny restaurant down that quiet alleyway. Maybe you want 40 photos of that meal, but the rest of the world really doesn’t.

So when you’re posting to Instagram or Facebook or whatever, EDIT. Think of this as an opportunity to pick a few favorites, a few exceptional shots. Share those.

A final bonus tip for getting great vacation photos

If you travel or have traveled a lot, you might like to create a thematic approach to your photography. For example, maybe every city or place you visit, you look for interesting doors or house/building numbers or vintage cars or something specifically historical. Or you take the same photo of yourself and your loved ones in every location: posing in a certain way or all wearing hats or doing something fun and silly.

We can’t say this enough: Just remember why you’re there and why you’re doing this thing to begin with. Focus on that. (See that little photography joke right there?)