It’s vacation season! Every week I’ve been seeing new vacation pictures on Facebook and Instagram from my friends as they go on trips to places all over the country (and the world!) My husband and I are actually heading to Niagara falls and the Toronto area for a few days later this month, so in honor of that, I have a few tips here for taking great photos while you're traveling.
Of course, all the standard photography advice applies, (look for good light, create a strong composition and focal point, etc), but these tips focus on finding ways to capture the story of your trip, so your pictures are memorable and meaningful when you share them with your friends or look back on them later.
Pictures of People
When you look back on this trip in a week or a year or a decade, the pictures that matter the most won't be pictures of trails or beaches or flowers; they will almost always be the pictures of you and the people you're traveling with. I don't mean that you shouldn't take pictures of sunsets or mountains or architecture. But even though you may see some lovely scenery and unique sights, it’s so important for you to actually be in the photos as well.
If you’re traveling with a group of friends, take turns taking pictures of each other just exploring a new city. Take candid shots of your kids building a sandcastle. Take selfies, or if you're feeling really ambitious, bring a tri-pod and set your camera (or phone) on a timer. Don’t be afraid to ask random people to take a picture of your whole group together! Just about anyone is happy to do this for you, and you can always offer to return the favor.
The picture above was taken in Boston when I was there for work (for my "other" job). I took the same picture for a pair of tourists, and they offered to take one of me too. The one below was taken by a friendly stranger at the park surrounding Nubble Lighthouse in Maine when Brad and I were on our honeymoon.
Look for Details
In any creative writing class, you'll hear "show, don't tell." What this advice means is that you should give your readers examples to illustrate the point you want to make, rather than making broad statements. An anecdote about a teacher spending her free period tutoring a struggling student is much more meaningful than simply telling the reader that she cares about her students. It's the specific examples that give the most to the audience.
This same principle applies to photographing the setting around you. When you’re standing on a mountain or on a beach, the obvious photograph is one that captures the entire landscape. Take these pictures to document the scenery you got to enjoy on your trip. But don’t forget about little details too. These details can be anything: a street sign in a foreign language, a little cactus along a trail, or even the fancy soap in your hotel. The more you look for them, the easier it will be to find them.
Tell a Story
People connect with stories. Your pictures will be more engaging and interesting if there is some sort of story to tie them together. Telling a story with your pictures doesn't have to be hard, either. Think of pictures that can answer a few basic questions about your trip and your activities: Where did you go? Who did you go with? What did you see? What did you do?
The pictures below are from our trip to Colorado last summer. My college roommate is a Colorado native and a pro at hiking in the mountains, so she took us on an adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Moments that Matter
Finally, I'm going to share a quote by Shawn Spencer from Psych, my favorite TV show from the late 2000s:
“Take lots of pictures. Not of sights. Don’t take pictures of buildings. Take pictures of moments, because that’s what matters.”
I love this quote, as a photographer, and as someone who tends to take lots of pictures of sights. I really am trying to get better at capturing people and moments, rather than just taking pictures of scenery. The important thing is to take pictures of things that matter to you in the moment, and that will matter to you later.
And, above all, have a great time making new memories and having new experiences with your family or friends!