8 Tips for Better Vacation Photos

Nothing’s better than reliving your vacation afterward through the photos. If they turn out well, that is… and it’s so frustrating when they don’t!

Here are 8 tips for taking better vacation photos. They are compiled from a variety of resources and out of our own experiences. See the end of this post for links to more articles about this subject.

Don't hesitate to hand off the camera so you get good pictures of you, too!

1. Appoint a photographer. We are the worst for this! If you’re having a really good time on vacation, it’s hard to take the time to stop to take photos. We find this to be especially true now that we have the kids. We spend so much time enjoying them on vacations that we often forget to snap even once. If you think this is going to be a problem and are traveling with someone, hand that camera off to a grandma. They will enjoy capturing your special moments when you are too busy. The other pro to this is that you will actually be in the photos, instead of always behind the camera. It’s nice to remember that you were there, too. Here’s an example from an amazing trip to Italy. My sister-in-law snapped this photo while my husband and I were laughing in Venice.

How's this for a 4-year-old view of the world? The girls would never have done this for me. I love it!

2. Hand the camera to a little one.
Digital cameras have made this possible! Take advantage of it! Back in the days of film, we’d never let the kids take pictures. It was too expensive to develop them. But now, we often hand the kids the camera. The pictures we get are surprising — they are rarely things we would have thought to capture. True, we end up trashing most of them, but they occasionally get something really unique. See the picture at the side for a picture my four-year-old took. It’s a favorite!

Which do you prefer? The one without my adorable daughter in it...

Or the one with her? (She's pretty cute, huh?)

3. Take a variety. My husband and I always argue about this. He loves the scenery shots, but I favor the ones with people. My advice? Take a variety. It’s fun to see what a great shot you can get, but the ones with people are the ones you’re likely to print and put on the wall. Here is one of each from a recent trip. I’d argue that the people one is more compelling. What do you think?

Who isn't wandering what's going on in this picture?

4. Tell a story. Try to avoid a whole bunch of stand-here-and-get-together-and-say-cheese-and-smile photos. You may need one to remind you of where you were. But try to take more photos that capture the spirit of what you were doing on vacation. The best vacation photos beg people to ask, “Now just exactly what was happening during this photo?” For example, in the photo, who isn’t curious about exactly why the chicken is on this guy’s head? (If you really want to know, and trust me, you do, leave a comment and I’ll let you in on the story.)

You can get great pictures at sunset -- like this one from Dale Hollow, TN.

Here's what happens when you shoot into the sun (from fun Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio).

5. Keep an eye on the sun. The best pictures you’ll get will come on cloudy days or at dusk. But let’s face it, we usually aren’t taking photos under ideal circumstances. If the sun is out, keep your back to it. You don’t want to shoot into the sun — it will wash everything out. Here’s an example of what happens when you shoot into the sun.

Edited with Adobe Photoshop software, now the photo is usable.

A fun photo caught with a zoom lense at Cedar Point Amusement Park. But it's too dark.

6. Buy a photo editing software. You might as well have a way to remove red eye, crop a photo and adjust lighting. Photoshop is the obvious forerunner as far as digital editing goes. But it will cost you — to buy the full version without any discounts will cost up to $700. It’s also very complicated and more than you need just to touch up vacation photos. More practical options are: Photoshop elements (an easier, simpler version of the original, also by Adobe — runs about $100); Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo (great for editing and organizing — runs about $70) and Flickr (for a small price, you can use online editing tools that are very easy and very efficient — cost varies depending on your needs). At right, you’ll see two vacation photos — the first is the original and the second has been retouched.

7. Look for inspiration. Go to a website like www.flickr.com and search for the name of the place you’re visiting. This may give you ideas for taking shots at the same place.

My daughter is telling her father, in no uncertain terms, that she is too tired to take another hike in beautiful Yosemite Park. (I love her brother peeking in from the backpack on dad's back.)

8. Don’t make things look nicer than they are. People often try to take a postcard perfect photo of a location. But you can buy a postcard at any tourist shop, so why do that? Instead, take the photo that really shows the place. Don’t hide crowds or ugly buildings. Let your photos be true memories of what happened. In the same way, don’t only capture the happy moments from a vacation. My favorite photos are often the ones that show how utterly exhausted or grumpy someone was. Those are the ones that will make you smile. And will really remind you of the trip. For example …

Sources: www.ehow.com; www.makethephoto.com

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