7 Secrets to Great Vacation Photography

I just returned from a really nice vacation in Hawaii. Traveling around the island, I saw so many people trying to take good vacation photos, but making some key mistakes. Whether you’re a tourist or a pro photographer, here are some helpful tips to make sure you capture all the great moments of your vacation.

1. Straighten things up
I can’t tell you how many times people have shared images with me (on Facebook or in person) of landscapes with crooked horizons. By paying attention to any natural horizontal or vertical lines as you shoot, you’ll be rewarded with balanced photos.


2. Don’t leave home without the right equipment
If you are going to be traveling for more than a few days, I would recommend having at least one extra memory card, as well as a spare battery. Also, think about where and what you will be photographing. If you’re going to be somewhere with large landscapes, make sure to have a wide-angle lens. If you’re going to be visiting a zoo or whale watching, you’ll probably want your camera to have a decent zoom lens so that you can get up close to your subject. No less important is your camera bag. Make sure that you have one that fits everything that you need, without being overly cumbersome. This will help protect your camera gear from the elements and keep everything organized and in one place.


3. Remember to include people
Sometimes we get so enamored with the beautiful scenery that we forget to take pictures of the people traveling with us. You want to capture the place, but you also want to capture who was there with you. (I make this mistake all the time.) This will help tell your story in images. Bonus tip: When you take a photo of someone, try to have them all in shade or all in sunlight. Mixing bright sunlight and deep shadows is difficult for most digital cameras to process and should be avoided, if possible.


4. Move beyond posed images
Go on vacation to any typical “tourist spot” and you are guaranteed to see throngs of people posing in front of landmarks, giving their best smiles and trying to look natural. This is all fine, but you should also get photos of people being themselves or busy in activity (especially if it relates to the location). And for even more relaxed and creative shots, try capturing a few images of others when they don’t even know they’re being photographed.


5. Try a waterproof camera
If you are going to be on vacation anywhere near water (ocean, lake, river or swimming pool—it doesn’t matter), you should try taking a waterproof camera. These great little cameras will let you shoot images in places that were previously inaccessible. It’s also nice to use these cameras on sandy beaches without worry of ruining them. Just get back to your hotel room and rinse it off!


6. Don’t forget to create a “cover image”
Based on where you are vacationing, it’s a good idea to think of a creative way to make an image that can be used as the “cover image” of your photo book, or the first image in your slideshow. Write something in the sand at the beach or create letters from fallen leaves on the grass. Let your creative juices flow and be truly original.


7. Download and back up during your trip (or right after you return)
I know so many people who take lots of great photos during their vacation and then forget to copy the images from the card to their computer. This is risky. Transfer your photos as soon as possible for safe keeping. And, if you really want to make sure that you have them for the long haul, back them up to another device, like a USB drive, and store it in a safe place. When I take photos, especially in places where I may never return, I want to make sure those memories stay with me forever.


Remembering these simple tips will help ensure you make the most of the vacation photos you capture, and give you the peace of mind that you’ll come home with amazing memories of a vacation that you can revisit again and again.