with Courtney Slazinik
Vacation Photography Tips: 7 Ways to Capture your Trip

Cameras and vacations go together like milk and cookies. We invest time and money in planning and we want to capture those fun memories. Many times I have arrived home after a vacation with regrets that I did not get certain shots. With a little planning we can avoid those regrets and come home with images we can be proud of.

My family just got back from a week on our houseboat at Lake Powell. Since we go a few times a year my challenge is always to try and get shots that I didn’t get the last time. I have to laugh at myself because I was actually thinking of this post while I was there! I brainstormed some ideas on what helps me take better vacation photos. I want to share them with you! Here’s some quick pointers to help you get your creative juices flowing so you are prepared for your next vacation.

1. Capture your senses. Extraordinary sights, smells and taste (i.e. food), texture/touch, and sounds (i.e. music or entertainment). Things that remind you of the sensory feelings and moments you want to remember.

2. Capture the culture. The people, the food, local industry, homes, architecture, atmosphere.

3. Capture the things you see at sunset. This is the best time to take photos, no matter where you are in the world. The light is soft and everything looks lovely and dreamy with that warm glow. Most people can figure out how to take a nice photo of a sunset. The trick is to think outside the box and try to capture it in a different way. An emotional silhouette, sunrays or soft bokeh peeking through the trees, a unique angle or perspective. I love silhouettes and their emotive appeal. Here’s a couple of my favorites.

4. Capture extraordinary light and/or apply what you know about composition. Be on the lookout for the way light hits a person’s face, an object, or a certain place. Then grab your camera quick! Beautiful light will give your vacation photos that “wow” factor. With an ample amount of photo opps, vacations are a good time to practice what you know about composition. Before you hit the shutter button think creatively about how you can make that photo unique.

5. Capture the little details that tell a story. Anyone can take snapshots while on vacation. That’s easy. Challenge yourself to think outside the box and pay attention to the small details around you. You will be glad you did later when you would have otherwise forgotten about them! My kids etched messages and designs into sandstone on our recent Lake Powell trip. It was an activity they had dreamed up themselves and I wanted to remember their creativity.

6. Get playful and do mini photo shoots. Take advantage of your beautiful surroundings and finagle one of your kids or hubby to be your model. Plan some family pictures or give the camera to someone else so you can get an updated photo of yourself. My 9 year old daughter took this of me and my sweet babe last week at the lake.

Think ahead about where you will be visiting and plan accordingly with clothing and props.  One year I had a friend snap some family pics for me while we were visiting the beach in California.

7. Shoot with photo collages in mind. Most likely you will place your vacation photos in a album, a digital photo book or on the web in a blog collage. In any case, you will be displaying them in groupings. It’s visually pleasing when you have a variety of landscapes, architecture, portraits, animals, details, macros, etc. in a collage. If you are prone to taking mostly portraits, challenge your creativity by focusing more on details or landscapes next time.

I’m sure there’s more great tips out there, but these are the ones that came to my mind as I was brainstorming. Do you have a thought process behind your vacation photos? I’d love to hear any additional ideas if you do!

  • August 10, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    I just got back from a cross country road trip, and I have to add one more- in addition to the tiny details you might otherwise forget (I’m a big one on shooting food! I love pictures of all the interesting food we eat on vacation…aka- I just ate cactus for the first time!) I also like to take pictures of signs- town signs, signs of restaurants you ate at, favorite shops, destinations, etc. Perfect to add to your collage!
    Love this article- wish I had seen it sooner! Lol

    • Jen Bacher-Contributor
      August 10, 2012 at 1:21 PM

      Wow, cactus! How do they prepare that? I never knew you could eat cactus! I do love shooting food as well. Tells such a story about the culture you are visiting. And signs is definitely one I forgot to add! Signs are great for collages and also remind you of where you’ve been. Thanks for more great ideas!

      • August 12, 2012 at 9:40 AM

        The cactus was cut into strips, battered and fried– it had the texture of eggplant. Most of the flavor came from the batter and prickly pear dip they served with it. I LOVED it– my fiance, not so much…lol.
        Here’s a picture of it:

        Everyone always makes fun of me for taking pictures of signs– I’m glad there’s others out there who do it as well!

  • Kira
    August 10, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Such a great article! It seems like our repeat family vacations have similar pictures every year. Thanks for all the ideas to get new perspective. Can’t wait to try them out!

  • Sue
    August 11, 2012 at 1:35 AM

    I just love these tips! We are heading to Hawaii next month and we have been many times before, but I will be on the look out for lots of different photo opportunities this time. Can’t wait to get there!

  • Cristin
    August 11, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Hi Jen! I always love seeing you beautiful images and blog contributions. Do you limit yourself to a couple of lenses or do you tote along everything while on vacation? A few months ago, we took a mini beach vacation, and the wind was blowing so hard, my brand new Mark ii was covered in sand! I think I spent more time worried about my gear than actually enjoying myself! Any tips for keeping your camera safe while braving the elements?

    • August 11, 2012 at 2:58 PM

      Cristin, I usually bring two lenses on trips. A mid-range zoom (walk around lens) and a telephoto zoom like my 70-200 for further reach. If I plan on doing a photo shoot, I’ll bring a prime for portraits, but I rarely use those while touring around. I leave the lenses I’m not going to use in our hotel room when we go places so I only have one or two to carry around. I use my backpack as my touring bag with my personal essentials so I don’t have two bags to carry. I use my camera bag as my carry-on if I’m flying so I am the only one who handles it. I keep it with me at all times, like a child…haha! I am way overprotective of my camera gear, so I totally get ya girl!

      I get worried about my gear in the sand as well. I have a camera gear backpack that zips up completely so I can keep the sand out. You can also put it in a plastic ziplock for extra protection. I pull out my camera just to get the shots I want, then zip it all back up immediately and put it out of harm’s way. I probably wouldn’t bother bringing it if it was windy or wet.

      • Monica L. Boudreau
        July 8, 2015 at 11:36 AM

        These are great tips. We are going to Hawaii in September for the first time. I have a telephoto as well as a wide angle lens. Of the two which would be more useful? Do you recommend buying one of the underwater cameras that you send away to determine the prints. Want to get some underwater photos. Suggestions?

        • July 23, 2015 at 10:35 AM

          I think it really depends on your style. Do you want more close up images or more of the whole scene. You can’t go wrong with either one. Unfortunately, I don’t have any recommendations on underwater cameras. Enjoy your vacation!

  • August 11, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    My husband and I leave for Northern Ireland next week. This is quite an adventure for us! Thanks for sharing such great travel tips. Some I know, but this was a great reminder!

    • Courtney
      August 12, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      I hope you share some of your images on our Facebook page when you get back!! Have a great time!

  • Born27
    August 20, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    I think I spent more time worried about my gear than actually enjoying myself! Any tips for keeping your camera safe while braving the elements?

    • Kathy
      August 21, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      I have the same question, except we are taking our 5 yr old grandson to Disney in a couple of months and I worry about taking camera gear and being able to ride rides. Any suggestions?

  • July 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    This is a great set of tips!! Thanks! I will be sharing a link to your blog. Really a lovely set of images and very helpful tips!

  • June 26, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    Great tips! I am going to Ireland, London and Paris this fall and this is just the post I have been looking for! Thanks so much!

  • June 26, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    I am from India and I am very passionate about photography I have just stated my work but I need a proper guidance
    My work

  • Bea
    April 11, 2015 at 4:58 PM

    What about buying a small good camera with everything on it like a Samsung WB800f? I am traveling to Greece and I only have a kits lens and a 50mm 1.8 . I don’t know if I will take my camera. I am thinking about getting a small camera. Reasons: I will be worry about my camera at all times. I will be more focused on taking photos than enjoying the views and the company of my family, I am still learning to use my D7000. I dont even know if I have the right lens. It looks like I need a 70-200. What do you think?

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