10 Tips for Photographing Vacations


“Golden Gate Bridge with cruise ship”
© Copyright Ed Krimen

Traveling to far off and distant lands is always exciting. So is traveling to nearby locales within a few hours’ drive. In both cases, it’s important to make sure you and your camera are set and ready to go. But it’s most important to make sure you are ready because your camera can’t take great photos without you. Remember, the photographer takes the great photos, not the camera.

Kodak has a good list of vacation photography tips on their website. Most of their tips are on track, and I have a few other important reminders I’ve interspersed below. I’ve also reordered the tips in more of a priority order.

1. Do your homework. Research where you’re going and learn about local events, landmarks, cultures, and traits that make your destination unique, such as this photo shown above I took of the “Golden Gate Bridge with cruise ship“. Also, learn the features of your camera and bring your camera manual with you. Even if you’ve already read it, you might want to look something up if you have a question about a feature.

2. Always carry your camera. That’s the easy one! You can’t take pictures if you don’t have your camera. Also make sure your memory cards are empty before you venture out for the day and make sure your batteries are fully charged by the morning.

3. Take lots of pictures. And only show the best ones to family and friends. Professional photographers often take thousands of photos a day and only select a handful as their favorites. Read more in the Photobird Daily article “Shoot Lots of Photos!

4. Protect your gear. As Kodak advises, “Sand, water, snow, and heat are your camera’s worst enemies.” If your camera gets wet, check out the Photobird Daily article “Help, I Wet My Camera!

5. Tell a story. Capture your departure, your return, and the details and emotions of your trip. Carry a small notebook to jot down quick details. I’ve written before about how it’s important to tell stories with your photos; read the Photobird Daily article “Make Your Photos Tell a Story“.

6. Capture the local flavor. Unique items make great pictures. Keep an eye out for things you and the folks back home don’t see every day.

7. Create a photo menu. Take pictures of your meals, especially the unusual foods. Similar to #5 above, you can even shoot “before” and “after” photos. Make sure you get close-ups of the food. Read “Easy Tips for Photographing Food” in the Photobird Daily. Natural light is best for your food photos. In restaurants, try to sit by the window so you can use the natural light for your photos.

8. Look for common themes. That should come naturally to you as you’ll usually visit only the places you are interested in, such as museums, gardens, and beaches.

9. Accessorize. Or not. Kodak suggests that you consider using wide-angle and telephoto lenses when necessary. If you’re an aspiring professional photographer, go ahead and use multiple lenses. But for most photo opportunities, your point-and-shoot camera should be fine. Carrying around a lot of gear may take the pleasure out of your vacation and make it seem more like work. Ken Rockwell, a professional photographer, is able to shoot gorgeous photos with point-and-shoot cameras. Read more in the Photobird Daily article “How to Shoot with a Point-and-Shoot Camera“.

10. Have fun. You’re on vacation, not a professional photo shoot. Take candid photos and try not to force your subjects to pose too much. Let them relax and pose naturally. Enjoy your vacation!


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One Response to “10 Tips for Photographing Vacations”

  1. Jorge Says:

    Good info. Basic stuff. I’m planning a five day trip to Detroit and Chicago. I’m taking ONE D300, and ONE lens: my Nikon 18-200VR Zoom. My polarizer, and my Singh-Ray Blue N Gold; and I’m limiting myself to memory cards as well.
    Very simple. It’s a vacation with my dad to visit a couple of museums in each city so I’ve thought through the “possible” scenarios I may be faced with. I was going to take my Nikon 17-55 F2.8 but that is waaayy to heavy and I don’t feel I have enough on the long-end and I only want to take one lens. It is much, much sharper than the 18-200 though…Hmmm. The choices…

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