How to Take Better Vacation Photos: 10 Best Tips

10 Tips to Improve your Vacation Photos

Travel and vacation photography is a great way to capture the memorable moments from your recent adventures. Yet, with the phenomenon of traveling photographers you may be wondering how you can keep your images looking fresh and artistically unique? Here are the 10 best vacation photography tips to help you create stunning, intriguing, and visually appealing photos.

1. Find the Best Light

When shooting outside, finding the best light is important. As most of us photographers already know, there are specific times of day that are ideal for shooting. These pockets of soft light are often referred to as the golden hour, either in the morning at sunrise or in the evening during sunset. By photographing your surroundings during these times, you are sure to achieve some beautiful images. But, as you are most likely capturing images throughout the day, direct sunlight will be inevitable.

Even though it may be a bit more difficult to adjust to, you can use the sun to your advantage. Instead of shooting in an open space where the sun is harsh and heavy, try choosing a pocket of shade where the sun may be gently shining through. Be creative with the use of the sunlight and frame yourself to grab the perfect shot.

Improve your vacation photos - best light.

2. Photograph Your Setting with a Mixture of Landscape and Portrait Shots

Whether you are photographing architecture, nature landscape, or a cityscape, switching up the orientation of your photographs will add variety to your vacation photos. Use landscape when you photographing any setting this is wide and horizontally long, this way you can create an image that fills up the entire frame.

vacation photo tip for landscape.

When photographing a monument or landmark that stands tall rather than wide, utilize the portrait orientation to create perspective and depth. A great example of alternating viewpoints is when photographing the Eiffel Tower. If you are close to the tower, as to be standing underneath it, a portrait with a low vantage point would create a sense of power and dignity to the attraction.

If you were to photograph the tower from a distance, such as from the platform of Trocadero, you could employ the landscape method in order to capture not only the tower but the surrounding streets of Paris.

Portrait orientation image.

3. Add the Element of People

It is often noted that vacation photographs are heavily influenced by capturing the landmarks and elements within the city or landscape. Although it is important to photograph the architecture, facades or mountain tops – a collection of vacation photographs should also include the culture and people of the destination. The integration of people into your work may lean more toward street photography than traditional travel imagery, but I believe that including subjects in your images gives them new life and perspective.

As much as you want to remember the beautiful Norwegian cottage situated on the river, you will probably evoke true and lasting memories from the photograph of the market owner who sold you fresh fruit every morning. It is important to not only photograph the physical surroundings of your vacation, but to infuse the life of the city and your personal experience into your images.

photographing strange people.

4. Capture the “Out of the Ordinary”

When visiting a destination that is popular and known for its touristic elements, it can be easy to create photographs of only the well known landmarks or scenery. For example, let’s say you are visiting Rome, a beautiful city that attracts visitors from around the world. You may be inclined to focus solely on photographing the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps or the Vatican.

Even though these are worthwhile sites to see, there is much more to Rome than what is in plain sight. Instead, choose to take the back alleyways and cross into the quiet areas of the city. Witness the true Italian culture of hidden cafes, an authentic spot where the owner’s hand rolls his own pasta or the kids peeking out from their window frames in the apartments above. Capture the essence and lifestyle of your destination’s culture, for it is often the out of the ordinary sites that reveal the true breadth of a city.

Improve your vacation photos - Out of the Ordinary.

5. Use Unique Framing

Another tip to remember is to be intentional with the framing of your images. Just because you may have seen a spot photographed at a certain angle does not necessarily mean that is the only option for capturing the scene. Choose to alternate your perspective with shots that are of full composition, low or high vantage points, and varying in distance. This is your opportunity to create an image from how you perceive and view the setting around you.

Improving visual design of the vacation photos.

6. Pay Attention to Visual Design

In cities with ornate and delicate architecture, the impeccable design will highlight your photographs. Just as in sprawling nature landscapes, the peaks of mountains and the way they meet with the sky will create visually alluring lines of depth and composition. Whether you follow the lines of your setting or choose to go against the grain to create a varied viewpoint, using the designs of both man and nature will allow you to envision and infuse the artistic elements into your vacation photos.

7. Create a Different Perspective

image perspective.

In order to ensure that your vacation photos are not a carbon copy or replica of an image you have already seen, focus on photographing your setting from your own perspective.

I want to go back to the Eiffel Tower example to explain how perspective can be altered based on the photographer’s eye. For most, an image of standing in front of the Eiffel Tower is a standard vacation photograph. But, for the creative artist – the city offers an array of ways to capture the Iron Lady and your subject without conforming to the masses.

For example, a once unique perspective was to have your subject sit on the downward incline of the steps at Trocadero. This created a juxtaposition of lines – with the tower standing tall and the subject on a diagonal intersecting within the frame.

This image was once a new take on the monument but now has become popular among many tourists. I encourage you to try and create a new perspective such as this with your photographs – you may end up creating the next go-to perspective for tourists to follow suit.

8. Don’t be Afraid of Nighttime Photography

Shooting at night is a hit or miss for most photographers. I can admit that I was always wary of shooting night time images due to the lack of usable light. But, for some destinations, the city or landscape becomes even more alive and remarkable in the hours of darkness – some examples include New York, Tokyo, or Paris as well as nature’s wonders such as the Northern Lights.

nighttime travel photography.

When taking photos at night, use external sources such as the lights of the city or the illumination from stars in the wilderness to help light your frame.

The best advice I can give is to understand your camera and lens nighttime capabilities and practice prior to your trip – this way you can create memorable photos from sun up through sun down.

9. Integrate Your Personal Style

One of the most important tips to remember when capturing vacation photographs is to never change your personal style. This applies to when you are both shooting and afterward in your post production editing.

If you’re not a professional travel photographer, you may feel the need to change up your style in order to fit the mold of this niche. Instead of changing your technique and vision, focus on creating photographs that represent your personal style – your vacation photos should still align and be aesthetically cohesive with your work. This isn’t to say you should rule out creativity or be afraid to take risks. Just remember that when you are creating your photos, you want to envision a setting to create work that is recognizable of your unique visual eye.

Personal Style vacation photos.

10. Don’t Forget the Small Details

The final tip to remember for your vacation photos is to pay attention to the details. In cases where you are shooting a street scene, creating a portrait, or photographing a vast landscape – pay attention to the elements that define your image. These can appear as the bright red door on a quaint cottage, the ducks sunbathing in the garden, or the lip-stained coffee mugs on cafe terraces.

Improve your vacation photos - Personal Style

Paying attention to the small details will create a visual story for your viewer – one that captures a breadth of moments where time, place, and experience collide.

Now you’re ready to go out and create some visual vacation masterpieces. Do you have any tips on how to create your best vacation photos? Share with us in the comments below!


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The 52 Week Project is a photography challenge that encourages photographers to take 1 photograph every week for 52 weeks.