6 Tips for Taking Great Vacation Pictures

Dec 6, 2017

Travelzoo's Director of Photography Stephen Aviano spends his days poring over the beautiful images that grace our website and inspire our members -- and our deal experts -- to set off for adventures unknown. When he's not at work, he's behind the camera: on his last trip he even got to take a dip with the swimming swine at the Pig Beach in the Bahamas. Follow Stephen's tips to take great vacation shots of your own:

1. Always carry your camera and take lots of photos

When you travel, keeping your camera on you at all times will prepare you for that magical moment when things come together in an organic and interesting way. Most of us are using digital cameras and have fairly large memory cards, so take plenty of shots and take a few variations of the same subject matter to increase your chances of getting the perfect shot. Digital camera photo sensors are pretty amazing these days, including the digital cameras in our smart phones. Sometimes taking a shot at a slightly different angle will produce different exposure results. Shoot lots -- you can always delete!

2. Lighting

As a general rule, keep the sun at your back for crisp, well-exposed images, especially if you are using a point-and-shoot camera. But don't be afraid to turn the camera lens close into the sun when it is at a low, less intense point. Sometimes you can capture a washed-out scene with lens flare that will create a more moody tone.

3. People and life

Even if you’re traveling solo, you can capture life and ambiance by having people (strangers, even) as secondary elements. If you and your travel partner are taking photos of each other, don't pose for the camera. Look out toward a view or a sunset, and be an element in the overall scene.

4. Clean composition

Keep your composition clean. Too much going on in a photo can be a distraction. Try to keep your attention on one main focus, object or thing.

5. The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds divides your photograph into three equally spaced sections, horizontally and vertically. All cameras and most smart phones have a grid that you can view on your screen to help you apply the rule of thirds to the image you wish to capture. To sum up this rule, you basically don't want subjects (a horizon line or a statue, for example) to float in the middle of the frame. Instead, you want to line up your horizon lines with the bottom horizontal grid line and position any vertical objects, such as a tall building, a statue or a monument off-center.

6. Unique details:

Anyone who uses Instagram knows that unique details can tell a story. Mix up your subject matter. Be a documentarian. Take tight, cropped shots of signage and architectural details. Food shots are always fun, as is a festive table top! These kinds of detailed shots lend a nice variation to your overall vacation album.  

Follow @Travelzoo on Instagram for more inspirational travel photography.

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