5 Tips for photographing your vacation

Our family recently cruised to the Caribbean to celebrate my parents’ 50th (!!) wedding anniversary. It has been awhile since our big family gathered in one picturesque setting, so I knew capturing memories would be among our top priorities. Early on in our trip, I realized how distinctive travel photography is. It comes with a set of challenges that can be very fun when handled correctly. Below are my top 5 tips to ensure you have an amazing vacation while capturing beautiful photos to re-live precious moments for years to come!

1. Pack the Right Gears

I knew I wanted our vacation photos to have professional quality, but packing my entire collection of gears would be impractical. If you could only bring one lens, opt for one that is versatile and can handle wide angles for those breathtaking sceneries. The 28-70 mm is my go-to! It is wide enough to capture epic landscape and its ability to shoot at a longer focal length will result in flattering portraits. 

Bonus tip: I typically shoot wide open (aperture = 2.0) to give my images more depth of field. 

2. Be Patient with Crowds

Any place worth visiting will likely attract huge crowds of tourists. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to handle this challenge:

1. You can visit that famous monument at sunrise, when most people are still sleeping. Sunrise will also give you soft, even, glowy light that results in creamy dreamy images. Employ this tip especially if you’re experiencing jet lag and is running on a very different clock than the local time zone. 😉

2. Strategically shoot your images so you can edit out the crowds in post. My favorite tool to edit out distractions is the “patch” tool in Photoshop. An inexpensive alternative is an app called Retouch. Give it a try!

3. Embrace Challenging Light 

You will want to take photos even when the lighting scenarios are not ideal, and that’s okay. Harsh light at noon? No problem. Face your subjects toward their shadow (so they’re not squinting at the sun) and avoid sun glares on your lens.

4. Include Yourself!

We might be fascinated with the landscape, but very rarely do we enjoy flipping through vacation albums that are entirely mostly landscape photos. (That’s what postcards and National Geographic are for!) So instead, put down the camera and really take in the sights. When you’re ready to make memories for your album, take photos of your companion(s) with the scenery as backdrop. Don’t forget to ask your companion(s) to take photos of you as well!

5. Look for a Friendly Face

We travel with loved ones because at the end of the day, it’s not where we travel, it’s who we travel with that matters. No matter how many photos we take, the Holy Grail is still that one group shot of everyone looking at the camera, beaming with happiness. Packing a tripod for this purpose may be impractical. Instead, scan your surrounding for a fellow tourist who seems friendly, speaks your language, and is also holding a DSLR. The last detail is important because it means they have familiarity taking photos beyond phone cameras and point-n-shoots. Furthermore, you can always offer to take their photos in exchange. Win-win!

Bonus tip: Don’t be shutter happy. Take photos with intention. You do not need 1000 photos to tell your story. Highlight key moments and be selective. Sometimes, I feel I need a vacation from my vacation because I spent so much energy crossing off a long list of attractions. When you come home feeling depleted, the last thing you want to do is cull and edit thousands of images. Take care of the culling in camera by slowing down and shooting intentionally. 🙂

I hope these tips are helpful to you! Vacationing is a true balancing act between savoring the moments while capturing enough details to look back upon your amazing adventures. Go travel the world, have fun, and bring back memories! 🙂 

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