How To Take Better Travel Photos

September 9, 2014 8:00 AM

Do you ever look at someone’s vacation photos and wish your photos could look just as amazing? Don’t worry, you are not alone. It is amazing how some people are able to capture the moment just right, turning traditionally boring vacation photos into works of art. With a little creativity and practice, you too will be able to create vacation memory masterpieces.When shooting vacation photos, it is always important to think outside of the box and seek out subjects that will make your vacation photos appear more interesting. Here are some tips to help you find subjects for the perfect vacation photos.

Preparation

Vacation photos should not start after you have arrived at your destination. Start shooting photographs of everyone as they prepare and pack for the vacation. Not only do these make great additions to your vacation photos, but you will also have documentation of what was packed in case your luggage is lost or stolen.

Other great preparation shots include places and things you experience on the way to your destination, including roadways, airports and train stations. For example, while at the airport, have the kids stand in front of the window looking out as your plane pulls in.

Storyline

Vacation photos should tell a story. Tell a story within a photo by having subjects doing various activities. For example, if you are visiting the beach, include part of the ocean and the sand as a backdrop. Capture your child playing in the sand or excitingly looking out onto the water. This story will share what the child enjoyed doing while at the beach.

Another great storytelling idea is to shoot a series of photos that can be put together in a scrapbook. For example, if you are going to the movies, shoot photos of everyone looking at the movie listings, buying tickets, looking at the concession stand, turning in their tickets, taking their seats and sitting down with a box of popcorn in their laps.

hill picture How To Take Better Travel Photos

Hill ahead (Credit, Heather Leigh Carroll)

Signs

Include signs in the frame of your picture. Think outside of the box and look for signs written in a language that represents the country you traveled to. Keep an eye open for creatively painted store signs to include in the photo.

People

Look for local people rather than snapping a photo of a bunch of tourists wandering around. Find locals who are out buying flowers, enjoying coffee at an outdoor café or spending the day in the park with their dogs. Having a human being in the photo will always add an interesting angle to your vacation photos.

Instead of shooting photos of what is happening around you, focus on the expressions and actions of your children. A photo of your daughter’s face when she sees Cinderella for the first time is much more precious than a photo of Cinderella walking around by herself.

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Action Shots

Avoid taking traditional family photos of everyone in front of a landmark. These can be boring, especially if you visit the same destination every year on vacation. Instead, take action shots of everyone in the family enjoying something while on vacation. Take pictures of the kids dancing with the Disney characters or capture your husband playing horseshoes at your campsite.

Landmarks

Take interesting shots of landmarks, rather than straight-on shots. Get down on the ground at the bottom of the landmark and shoot straight up into the sky. Capture architectural details by getting close-up shots of repeating patterns, unique accents and other special features of popular landmarks.

On the other hand, you will want to take a few steps back and include more than just the landmark centered in the frame. Include some of the surrounding details to give the photo perspective. Remember to follow the thirds rule. This is when you divide the frame into three sections and place the landmark in two-thirds of the frame offset to either side.

seashells How To Take Better Travel Photos

Seashell (Credit, Heather Leigh Carroll)

Details

Just like with zooming in on landmarks, consider zooming in on other smaller objects you encounter while on vacation. Look for native plants, bugs, flowers and other things that can only be found where you vacationed. Get close-ups of the weave of the hammocks at the beach or bubbles in the ocean where the waves crash into the sand.

Illusions

Pay close attention to what you are photographing and try to capture items in a way that creates an illusion of being somewhere else. This is something that works best at zoos and theme parks. With many different lands and themes, it may be possible for it to look like you traveled to Paris, when in reality, you were visiting Epcot at Walt Disney World. Or, if caught just right, you may have photos that make it look like you went on an African safari, when in reality you visited the Lowry Zoo in Tampa.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock



Equipment

Being able to capture the best possible vacation photos does not mean you have to purchase the most expensive pieces of equipment and other camera accessories. Of course, the better the equipment, the higher quality of vacation photos you will take. However, a memorable photo can be taken with a simple smart phone or point-and-shoot camera.

Here are some camera tips to keep in mind while on vacation:

  • Keep it simple: If you plan to bring an SLR camera, only bring the camera and one lens that is capable of shooting everything from wide angle to telephoto shots. Avoid the need to change lenses or you could miss the shot you have been waiting for.
  • Light issues: Before leaving on vacation, learn how your camera works in different amounts of lights. Practice taking photos in daylight and at night using the different settings on your camera. This will come in handy when you are somewhere you cannot control the light.
  • Shutter speed: Keep an eye on your shutter speed to accommodate for different types of shots. Most cameras will automatically handle the shutter speed based on light, but you may have to change it to accommodate for actions shots or when shooting from a moving vehicle.
  • Get everyone involved: Let the kids take their own photos to show how they say the trip. Plus, if you visit somewhere that offers a kids club where the kids can go off and play on their own, this will allow for memories to be taken while you are apart from the little ones.
  • Camera bag: Purchase a decent camera bag that will be easy to carry and will protect your equipment. Some vacation-friendly camera bags include those that are backpacks or those with long enough straps to be worn as a cross-body bag. This will make carrying your camera equipment less of a hassle.
  • Batteries: Bring plenty of extra batteries to avoid having to purchase from expensive gift shops or being unable to capture the perfect moment due to a dead battery
  • Memory: Bring extra memory cards to ensure you have enough storage for your entire trip. Another option is to download everything onto a computer at night before going to bed.

With a little practice, you will be able to take vacation photos that look like the postcards you would find in a gift shop. Taking great vacation photos will make you more excited to show them off to family and friends. Plus, the better the shot, the more likely you are to frame it and display it in your home.

Remember, the perfect vacation photo can come when you are not expecting it. So always keep your camera with you while on vacation.

Related: Ask An Expert: Tips On Traveling With Kids

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.

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