Travel Photography Tips: Capturing Great Vacation Photos

Eiffel Tower Paris red car selective coloring

Yes, the iconic Egyptian pyramids are photo worthy, as are Paris’ Eiffel Tower and the majestic Big Ben clock tower of London, but that doesn’t mean your vacation photos need to look just like those of every other tourist to visit these popular destinations. Save it for postcards. If you want unique and memorable photos of your holiday, follow these travel photography tips.

Be prepared

You can be presented with the best photo opportunities but it will mean nothing if your camera’s battery is dead or you run out of space on your memory card. Before you hit the road, sea, or sky, make sure you pack:

  • Extra – fully charged – camera batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Plug adapter. If you’re travelling to a foreign country, you may need a plug adapter, like the Kensington International Travel Plug Adapter with USB Charger, so you can charge your camera (and other devices) from the wall socket.
  • Several memory cards. Rather than using one memory card with a load of storage space, I prefer to use several smaller cards for a couple of reasons: first, cards with larger memory are more expensive, so if I’m going to lose one, I’d rather it be less costly to replace. Second, storing all your images on one memory card is risky; should you lose it or it stops working, you’ll lose all your photos along with it.
  • Portable external hard drive. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of backing up your photos to an external hard drive on a regular basis. While on vacation, doing so each evening from your hotel room will not only free up space on your memory cards, it will also protect your photos from being lost or stolen if you keep the hard drive locked up in your room. I highly recommend the ioSafe Rugged Portable – compared to an aircraft black box for mobile data, the waterproof, crush- and drop-proof external hard drive has been designed to withstand the most extreme conditions.

Focus on the journey

Well-known author and founder of Cancer Recovery Foundation International, Greg Anderson, has been quoted as saying, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Clearly Mr. Anderson has never been locked in a minivan full of tired, cranky children for several hours while on a “fun” family road trip! But in all seriousness, he’s right: you should focus (your camera) on the journey, even if, at the time, you think you never want to remember the moment your son thought it would be funny to stick pieces of McDonald’s fries up your daughter’s nose while she was sleeping. Years down the road, you’ll laugh about it. I swear.

Toddler sleeping in vehicle in car seat

Dog and girl in back of vehicle road trip

Ask yourself …

Rather than just being snap-happy and photographing anything and everything – yawn – imagine yourself sitting down to look at a friend’s travel photos. What type of images would you enjoying seeing from their trip? Sure, you might be interested in checking out famous landmarks, but you’d probably also like to see other things like:

  • Places you won’t see on travel websites or postcards
  • Local cuisine and markets
  • Culture and customs
  • Transportation
  • Local signs and currency
  • People going about their everyday routine
  • Accommodation, whether it’s luxurious …

Woman bathing in hotel room

… or not!

Man in a capsule hotel room

Create a photo essay

Before you start shooting, think of how you can use your travel photos to tell a story. Yes, you want to highlight your vacation, but narrow it down to a more specific topic. For example, if you’re on a trip to Disney World and your son is super stoked about going on Space Mountain, be sure to photograph the emotions and events leading up to the ride (for example, the anticipation and excitement when getting ready in the morning and the impatience of standing in line on location), the ride itself, and the after-effects of the ride. You can use these photos to create a collage, even adding text if you like, and print them on canvas or other medium to display in your home.

Photographing the locals

If you’re travelling to another country, part of the excitement is learning about and seeing different cultures and customs. To photograph an environment that’s as authentic as possible, try to visit locations that aren’t popular tourist destinations. Also, don’t just have the locals pose for your camera, try to photograph them going about their day-to-day activities. Remember though, you are photographing people, not zoo animals, so treat them with respect. Should you ask for their permission before photographing them? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Darren Rowse from Digital Photography School shares his approach to finding a middle ground in his article, Photographing People When Traveling.

Traditional Indian woman covering her face

Man selling fruit in the street of Egypt village

Group of monks standing on the view point of HuaHin mountain

Apply other photography techniques

For great travel photos, be it family vacation photos or honeymoon images, you should keep general composition techniques in mind. Here are a few of my other posts you may be interested in reading, even if the topics of these posts don’t appeal to you, you can still learn some basic composition and lighting techniques within these articles:

28 Photos to Inspire: Getting Creative With Beach Photography – Depending on where you’re vacationing, a lot of your travel photos may feature the beach, so make sure to check out this article for some great ideas and inspiration.

10 Quick Tips for Capturing the Best Baby Photos Ever – This article highlights the benefits of using natural lighting, filling your frame, and shooting from different angles.

Having Fun With Wedding Photography – This post looks at the importance of thinking outside the box when choosing your subject, using leading lines within your shots, selecting creative locations, and more. Yes, the tips in this article are based around capturing great wedding photos, but the techniques can be applied to travel photography as well.

I’ll leave you now with some excellent travel photos to look at that will hopefully inspire you to capture your own memorable vacation photos.

Russian busker monkey

Man hiking the Himalayas

Thailand street market fried grasshoppers

Travel photography tips

Selective coloring red phone booth Big Ben London England


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