Say Cheese: How to Take Great Travel Photos

Anyone that has ever returned home from a great vacation to find their pictures lacking in content or interest will appreciate our vacation photo tips.  Read on to discover simple ways to make your picture albums evoke your travel experiences.

Give Your Camera a Workout

Some of the best photography advice I ever received was, “If you think you’ve taken too many photos then you haven’t taken enough.” Sounds strange but I assure you that you’ll thank me when come home to find that you have hundreds to choose from. Remember that you may only travel to an individual place once in your lifetime so the last thing you want to do end up wishing that you’d gotten a shot of this or that. Try it the next time you travel and be sure to bring along a spare memory card.

A Little Closer…

The number one reason for a boring photo is that we don’t see enough detail to understand what the photographer saw with their eye. Your photos should not only be a report of your trip but should also invoke some kind of feeling.  In order to feel, we have to see. Use the zoom feature on your device and/or step physically closer to your subject, as close as you need to until you like what you see, and watch an decent picture become dynamic.  The picture below is of the detailing of a stone wall.  While the wall was impressive to see in person, the photo of the whole wall didn’t do it justice. The photo of the detailing, however, makes the viewer understand the painstaking skill used to carve this wall and, as an added bonus, gives me a story to tell with a visual aid. We want our pictures to be conversational pieces.

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Don’t Hold Still!

If your subject is a person (or if you yourself are the subject) try not to let them just stand there like a mannequin.  Stationary subjects are for portraits and mug shots— I doubt you’ll be very concerned with taking any of those while visiting Disney with your kids.  Just a smidge of movement can make all the difference in the world. Twirl around, move your arms, try different smiles, crouch, kneel, etc. This is the time to take a lot of photos. Remember the phrase, “Catch my good side”? We can’t catch anything if we only see one angle of you. Take a look at the photos below and see how this photographer caught their subjects in action:

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Play With Angles

When the subject can’t be moved then the photographer should reposition herself to get a better shot. It’s amazing what dropping to one knee or lying on your belly can do to a photo. Straight on pictures will do but most of the time they end up serving as a visual aid in a you-had-to-be-there-story rather than something that visually interesting. Have fun with this. Walk around your subject, view it from different heights and depths, or turn the camera. This is an excellent strategy when going to museums.

In all the photos below, I had the option to shoot them straight on so they were in the middle of the frame. Instead, I chose to play with the angles a bit which yielded much better results. This is actually called the Rule of Thirds which states the human eye does not naturally travel to the center of the photo but rather to grid-lie focal points that our brains naturally fill in. If you’re interested check out this article  to learn more: http://digital-photography-school.com/rule-of-thirds/

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Know Where Your Light Is

Depending on what kind of shot you want you might need to plan them out a little. At the beach, an idyllic shot of shady palm trees and the vast ocean is going to look much different at high noon than it would at sunset. If you can manage, put the light where you need it to go. Your eye is a much better camera lens than that chunk of plastic will ever be because it’s capable of rendering depth and shadow in a way your camera is not. Moving, increasing, or decreasing light will allow you to mimic what you’re seeing in real life. Illuminate your subject with what is naturally available for a more natural shot. For instance, I had the wolfman in the shot below move under the streetlight and waited for a time of day when the sun was behind me to get the different shades of blue in the ocean shot.

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Use Perspective

It’s really disappointing when you take a picture trying to illustrate how big something is and find its underwhelming when you try to show someone later. Attempt to put something else in the image with your subject. For example, if it’s a monument have someone stand near it and let the bigger subject dwarf them. The image below illustrates size more through the tiny person climbing the pyramid than the subject itself. Play around with this if you have time. Get shots of your kids are climbing the Eifel Tower like King Kong or of your spouse pinching Washington’s nose at Mt. Rushmore. These tricks yield hours of entertainment and infinite special memories for you to share with your favorite travel companions.

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