7 Tips for Photographing Your Next Vacation

School’s out, summer’s here and it’s time to play! I recently returned from my annual trip with my photography club. This year we went to Chicago (blog posts coming soon), home of great movies like While You Were Sleeping and Transformers. Ok, the 3rdTransformer movie wasn’t that great, but if you like a lot of explosions it’s not too bad. 😉

As summer gets into full swing, and we all escape the confines winter places on our lives, I thought it would be a good time to share some tips for capturing your vacation as the amazing and fun trip it was. Whether you go somewhere exotic or explore your own back yard, these tips will help you look back on your vacation photos with rekindled memories and all the exciting emotions of the time.

1) Slow down – I generally get to a location and start taking pictures like a crazy person. I have to remind myself to slow down and really see where I am. Slow down, explore, and look around you in all directions. This will help you find better angles or maybe see something you would have missed by only focusing on what’s in front of you. It will also allow you the chance to really enjoy this new location.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit Hawaii for the first time. Of course, I went on one of those BIG tour buses around the whole island of Ohau. This Buddist temple was one of our stops. The top picture was the first thing I saw when I arrived at the location. Notice how the building looks flat, and the sides of it are cut off. If I hadn’t explored the location I would not have gotten the bottom image. Notice how you can now see all the textures and layers of the building. In addition, the different angle has allowed me to get the entire temple in the frame. Much of the time the first, most obvious shot is not the best or most interesting. You have to explore!

2) Find new angles – The majority of all photographs are taken at eye level. By getting down low, up high, looking down on a subject or looking up you will get a different view of the subject that is not normally seen. This will make your image stand out from the rest.

These pictures taken at the National Cathedral in Washington DC show how getting up high can change the look of your image. The photo of the sanctuary on the left side was taken at my eye level. You get an idea of the size of the room. But the photo taken from the balcony gives you a different view that really shows off the size and grandeur of the room.

Here’s another example of how changing your shooting angle makes an image stand out. On the left, you have the obvious shot of the Washington Monument. To capture the shot on the right I stood under the flag and pointed my camera straight up. By shooting from this angle, I got a unique but still recognizable photo of this national icon.

3) Don’t forget people – The people you go on vacation with are as much of the experience as the location. Family, friends or even tour companions add flavor and fun to your vacation. When taking photos of those you’re with, go for more than the cliché “here we are in front of this cool monument/building/landscape”. Get the photos of everyone interacting, get in close for expressions or go wide for the environment. Years from now, it’s the photo’s you take with your people that will elicit the feelings of the fun and excitement of your time together.

When my photography club gets together we generally try and get photos of the weird and embarrassing positions we get into when we take pictures. I thought about posting some of the funnier photo’s I’ve taken of them . . . but I decided to be nice. I want to get invited on the next trip. 😉 So I chose 2 of my favorite images. These were both taken on our first trip to Las Vegas in 2011. The photo on the left still makes me laugh. Thousands of dollars of camera equipment hanging around their waists and they’re both taking pictures with their phone! The photo on the right is one of my all-time favorite photos. This photo shows most of the members of my photography club as we took a break in the shade on a hot day at Hoover Dam. It’s been my computer wallpaper and hangs on my desk at my day job. I love it because to me it represents the community and family I have in this group.

4) Get the details – Most vacation photos are the wide shots to show off the location. These are great for giving a sense of the environment. But don’t forget to get in close and capture the details too. Doing this will give your vacations photos a unique and richer feel of your trip. The details of the side of a building, getting a close up of a unique flower in a foreign landscape, or even the close-up expression of a travel companion rounds out your vacation photos, giving your wide environment shots more life.

Two years ago I had the honor of visiting the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. It’s sobering to see the giant empty squares were 2 tall iconic buildings once stood. I was amazed at the depth of the memorial fountains. While the wide shot on the left shows off the size of the memorial and the city environment, it’s the photo of the flower in one of the engraved names that evoke the feeling of solemn remembrance I had while I stood there.

5) Include signs – This little trick I learned from a member of my photography club who always asked where photos were taken. He loved to look up the location on Google and do a virtual tour. Also, I have a terrible memory so I had to start taking pictures of the signs, just to remember where the photo was taken.

While in Las Vegas with my photography club we spent a day in the Valley of Fire. An amazing and beautiful location. One of the places we stopped had these very old etchings in the rock face. By taking a picture of the sign, I can now remember not only the kind of etchings but also some of the history.

6) Give everyone a camera – This can be a hard one if you’re the photo fanatic in your family. I‘ve learned the hard way not to give my dad my camera. If you think I take a lot of pictures, you should see what happens when my dad gets ahold of my camera. LOL!!! But in truth, letting everyone have access to the camera can produce interesting results. One of my favorite parts of hanging out with my photography club is how we can all go to the exact location and come out with such different photos. Everyone sees the world so differently. Another advantage of giving others a camera, you end up in the pictures too. This way you can prove you were there! LOL!!

Remember the weird positions I mentioned my photography club likes to capture? Well, my friend, Rita caught me trying to be a contortionist to get a shot of the supports of a bridge. I’m pretty sure I hurt myself bending over the steel like that. The picture on the right illustrates both of my points about giving others access to the camera. 1) People see the world differently: I walked right over this puddle. Rita instead had us all line up so she could get this awesome reflected shot. 2) I’m in the shot proving I was there on Ellis Island 😉

After every photography outing with friends, I usually end up asking for copies of the pictures taken of me. I do this because I’m a memory saver. Ya, I have all the photos I took of the location and the fun we had. But I don’t have photos of me in those locations. I enjoy seeing the pictures of me through my friend’s eyes. Dale captured these 2 pictures of me. The one on the left is a very common place to find me when I’m taking pictures . . . on the ground. I love the angle of the photo on the right, the lines of the large picture window pulling you into the frame. It’s not a shot I would have thought of, but I’m glad Dale did. 🙂

7) PUT THE CAMERA DOWN – This may seem like an odd tip on how to capture vacation photos. But I say this from experience. Years ago I had the opportunity to visit The Arizona in Pear Harbor.  I moved up one side of the memorial and down the other taking pictures. As I completed the last of my photos I decided I wanted to go through again and really take in the experience. Unfortunately, by the time I’d made this decision, it was time to get back on the boat. So while I’ve seen The Arizona and have the pictures to prove it, I don’t really feel like I’ve been there. Take the time to be present on your trip. Put your camera down from time to time, it’s ok to miss some shots to really experience your vacation.

Enjoy your next vacation, be present, capture the people and the fun. You are freezing time and saving memories.

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Teresa Hunt Photography

Serving The Greater Portland Area

Teresa Hunt Photography

Serving the Greater Portland Area