Travel Photography Tips for Crafting Stunning Vacation Memories

Many of us snap away aimlessly whilst on vacation, taking photos that never quite live up to the real thing. But, there’s no need to be this way.
Improving the quality of your travel photos is not as difficult as you might think. You don’t need specialist software, kit, or even any professional training. All it takes is some thought, a lot of practice and a little bit of technological know-how.

If you want to take better vacation photos that will help you cherish vacation memories forever, we have a few tips for you.

Get Familiar with Your Camera Equipment

A person taking a picture.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / mary416

Getting to know your camera is the first step toward taking better vacation photos.

Whether you’re shooting film, DSLR or even on a smartphone, familiarize yourself with your camera. This way you can get the absolute most out of your kit. Instruction manuals, blog posts, and YouTube tutorials are a good place to start. But also spend time playing around with buttons and settings until you know your camera like the back of your hand.

Always Be Ready

Woman taking a picture in Phuket, Thailand.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Day2505

A good photographer is always ready to take a picture.

Have your camera and kit out so you never miss an opportunity to take a good snap. Whether you’re trying to photograph the perfect sunset, a chance encounter with an animal, or an interesting portrait, be ready. You don’t want the moment to pass whilst you’re still getting your camera out. Staying alert and prepared will help you get the most out of your vacation snaps.

Invest in a Tripod

Camera on a tripod at sunset
Image Credit: Shutterstock / redstone

A tripod is one of the most powerful weapons in a photographer’s arsenal. They’re especially handy when it comes to vacation photography.

A tripod offers you more creative freedom, enabling you to take long exposure shots. It also encourages you to think more about composition, forcing you to slow down and consider your set-up.

Plus, best of all, there are so many compact and portable tripods on the market now. So there’s no need to worry about suitcase space.

Make the Most of Golden and Blue Hours

Photographer at Sunset
Image Credit: Shutterstock / satit_srihin

If you want to take better vacation photos, you need to think about light.

As a general rule, natural light is always better. But, to take it a step further, you might want to play around with Golden Hour and Blue Hour.
Golden Hour is when the sun is just rising/setting. The light is warm, golden and magical, which makes for some great pictures.

Blue Hour is that moment just before/after sunrise when the sun is below the horizon. During this time soft blue light filters in, offering the chance for some truly unique shots.

Learn About Composition

A rear panel on a camera
Image Credit: Shutterstock / RTimages

One of the easiest ways to improve the composition of your vacation pictures is to think about the rule of thirds.

In this concept, you imagine your image divided into 9 even squares (in fact, your camera might already have a grid feature built-in). You want to place any interesting subjects or people in one-third of the grid, leaving the other two-thirds more open.

This simple trick is an easy way to improve your vacation shots. But, don’t get too bogged down in it. Remember, rules can be broken too.

Plan Your Trip Accordingly

A bridge with leaves
Image Credit: Shutterstock / sun ok

If you really want to up your vacation photography game, you need to plan your trip accordingly.

Whether you prefer to shoot landscapes, people, sunsets… or even underwater, do your research and scout out possible locations ahead of time. You can’t expect to stumble past something inspiring on every trip. Sometimes you need to put the work in and track these things down.

Get Moving

Hiker taking a photo
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dudarev Mikhail

When you do find something inspiring, get moving. Don’t arrive at a spot and take a snap from the first place you land.

Walk around, try different angles, and experiment with heights, maybe you can squat down or climb something nearby. Try as many angles and compositions as you can, that way you can be sure to find the one that works best.

Ask Permission if You Want to Take Portraits

Woman posing for a picture.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / silverkblackstock

Pictures that give us an insight into other lives are truly magical. But remember, these people are just going about their day-to-day lives. Maybe they don’t want to be the subject of your next vacation shoot!

If you want to take portraits, always ask for permission first. And, respect people’s boundaries if they say no.

If you do get permission, try to linger around after you’ve taken a few posed photos. You might snap a better, more candid shot once the person relaxes and turns their attention elsewhere.

Learn How to Post-process

Before and after example of a photo edit.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Creative Travel Projects

Some people think that editing is cheating. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the magic happens during the post-processing phase. Every photo you see on travel blogs or magazines has been edited in some way.

So, if you want to get the most out of your vacation photos, play around with editing. You don’t need to download specialist software like Photoshop or Lightroom, free apps such as Snapseed or iPhoto are a great place for beginners to start.

Think About Framing

Snow through a window
Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Tetiana Yemets

As you’re looking through your viewfinder, or at your screen, remember to consider everything in the shot.

Cast your eyes around the whole frame to make sure you aren’t cutting off something important. Or, if you are cutting something off, make sure this is a conscious decision. It can work well when done intentionally.

Also, look for something in-shot that might help frame the subject you want to focus on. Maybe there’s a break in a bush you can focus through, or a nearby window to photograph out of. Experimenting with framing is a great way to improve your travel photography.

Play Around with Focus

A picture of a road
Image Credit: Shutterstock / nadia_if

Playing around with focus is another great way to create stunning vacation photos.

You can experiment with focusing on the subject in the background, leaving the foreground out of focus, or vice versa. This can lead to two very different pictures of the same thing.

To play around with focus you can try different camera apertures. The aperture is a measure of how much light comes through your lens. If you want to focus on a subject and blur the background, you need a wide aperture. If you shoot with a low aperture everything will be in focus. If in doubt, try both and see what works best!

Action Shots Add Interest

Two elephants in Botswana
Image Credit: Shutterstock / CherylRamalho

Despite our tips so far, remember that not every photo has to be perfectly framed, focused and staged. Off the cuff, spontaneous action shots can also turn out great.

Capturing a moment in motion can add energy and variety to your vacation shots. Whether it’s something as exciting as an animal on a safari. Or, something as simple as a family member jumping into the pool. Be aware of what is happening around you, ready and waiting to take the perfect action shot.

Experiment with Reflections

A mountain reflections
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Andrew Couwenbergh

Reflections are another way to spice up your vacation shots.

Natural pools of water, mirrors in the street, or even the reflection in someone’s sunglasses… any reflective surface can help create a truly stunning shot.

You can even experiment with a small handheld mirror, holding it under your camera lens. This will create an interesting, reflecting effect that will make your friends and family double-take!

Take Lots of Pictures

A cabin on a lake in winter.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Mumemories

If you want to take stunning vacation pictures that immortalize memories forever, stay snap-happy.

Don’t be afraid to click away at that shutter button. Take as many pictures as you can and then, when you have time, you can get rid of the ones you don’t like. You’ll never regret taking ‘too many’ pictures… it’s better than looking back and wishing you’d taken more. Plus, practice makes perfect.

Don’t Forget to Enjoy Your Trip

Couple mountain biking in Slovenia.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Umomos

Taking vacation photos is an important part of your trip. You’ll look back on these pictures for years to come, smiling at the happy memories, and reminiscing about the experience.

But, don’t forget to enjoy your trip too. Some things have to be seen and admired with your own eyes, not just through a lens. Remember to put the camera down now and then.

Ready to Take Stunning Vacation Shots?

Hot air balloon over flowers
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Andrew Mayovskyy

Hopefully, you can put some of these tips into practice on your next trip. There are so many ways to improve your travel photography. From investing in kit and developing your editing skills to playing around with focus and composition.

Experiment as much as you can. Don’t be disheartened if pictures turn out different to how you imagined, every travel photographer starts somewhere. And, most importantly, remember to enjoy your trip.

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