7 Tips for Incredible Vacation Photos

There are two main reasons I love traveling. The first is eating delicious food. The second is seeing new things and taking photos of them! I will gladly take the extra weight of my camera gear in return for incredible vacation photos to help me remember the trip. Plus, my family and friends love seeing our travels through my photos. I also love including our travels in our photobooks documenting our year.

Since I’m going through the trouble of taking my camera with me, I always want to make sure it’s worth it. I want gorgeous, standout photos I can hang on my walls… otherwise I would ditch the weight and use my phone! That being said, it truly is the photographer that matters and not the camera. All of these tips apply even if you are using your iPhone as your sole camera! Here are my top 7 tips for capturing beautiful photos to document my travels.

1 – Find framing opportunities

7 tips for incredible vacation photos Quinta de la Regalaira

You can find incredible architecture all over the world. Every city has its own unique style, and I love capturing that in my photos. My favorite way to do this is to incorporate framing. Placing your subject in doorways or windows is an easy way to add an extra layer to your composition. Bonus points if you frame your subject in a pocket of light, which leads nicely into the next point.

2 – Look for light

Couple in beautiful light on Makena Big Beach in Maui

Light is the key to incredible photos, whether on vacation or not. For me, the best photos incorporate light, emotion and composition. I am constantly looking for beautiful light and it’s actually one of my favorite things about traveling, haha! I try to plan our excursions to make sure we are somewhere particularly pretty at golden hour. In our most recent trip to Maui, for example, I was obsessed with the way the light was catching the sea spray when the waves crashed against the sand.

3 – Travel light

I am always tempted to bring my entire camera bag with me on trips, but gear is heavy! You won’t want to be hiking around with tons of lenses. Think about the kind of photos you will want and pick one or two lenses to bring with you. Even better, leave your big camera at home altogether and bring a smaller camera. This could be your phone (phone camera quality is SO good these days!) or a mirrorless camera. I have a small Fuji X100T that I often bring on our vacations. It’s great for hiking too! If I bring my Mark III/IV, I limit myself to two lenses at most… and will sometimes leave a lens at our hotel/AirBNB during the day to lighten my bag even more. The shot above was taken with the Fuji X100T the first night we were in Cape Cod because I was too scared to bring my Mark III on the boat, haha. I quickly got over that 😉

4 – Get in the frame

Trust me, you won’t regret this. My favorite vacation photos are ones that I am in. Although I appreciate the beautiful landscapes and cityscapes, photos are always more meaningful when there’s someone I know in them…. Otherwise, I would just buy stock photos! Sam and I often travel alone, so we don’t have anyone to take a photo of the two of us. On most of our trips, I will bring a tripod to ensure it doesn’t look like Sam went vacationing by himself ;).

I could write a whole blog post on how to take self portraits, but here are a few quick tips until that happens! Keep an eye on your gear and make sure it doesn’t get stolen or knocked over! If you’re in a more crowded area, try to get a little bit further from everyone else, even if it means you don’t get the /perfect/ shot. Alternatively, use a wide lens and stay close to your tripod. There are a bunch of ways to focus for self portraits, but when I take a self portrait with Sam, I always focus and compose on him before joining him. It’s sooo much easier!

5 – Rise with the sun

Most people try to take their photos around sunset for the beautiful light and the stunning skies, but I think people often forget that sunrise can be just as beautiful! Even better, there are generally less people around at sunrise. This means it’s easier to get an incredible photo without people in your shot and you don’t have to worry as much about people knocking over your gear if you’re taking a self portrait. Plus, it helps you get an early start to the day and lets you make the most of the sunlight on your vacation!

6 – Do your research… but keep your eyes open!

Before we travel, I always do a quick Google search to find the most popular photographic sites in the area. For example, if you were to travel to San Francisco, you’d want to check out Sutro Baths, Baker Beach, Twin Peaks and more! That being said, keep your eyes open for different locations. I find that while the photos in the iconic locations are fun, I often prefer the ones taken in places that are off the beaten path. You’re going to be in an entirely new location and there are hidden treasures in every city. It could be the gorgeous architecture of your hotel, it could be the corner of a beach you just happen to stumble across, it could even be a door along your way to breakfast!

7 – Be respectful

Be mindful of the people around you when you are taking photos. If you’re in a popular location, don’t hog the best spots. Take a quick photo and step out of the way so someone else can take their turn. If there’s a sign telling you not to cross a rail or climb a cliff, don’t do it! Don’t ruin it for everyone else 🙂

Most of all, have fun and leave the camera behind sometimes! Capture some moments… but live the others. Hope you found these tips helpful for creating incredible vacation photos!

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