6 Tips for Taking the Best Vacation Photos Ever

vacation photos

6 Tips for Taking the Best Vacation Photos Ever

Have you ever packed your camera for your vacation and excitedly said, “I’m going to take all of the photos!,” but then you never do? You either forget, your family or companions are uncooperative, you’re insecure over your capabilities, or “insert reason here” stops you from having fun with photography.

Traveling is the perfect time to experiment with your camera and grow your photography skills. You’re in a new environment, (hopefully) relaxed, and are already in an adventurous mindset. Here are a few tips to help you take the best summer vacation photos ever:

  1. Wake up Early.

“Sunrise is the best time of day to take photos, period,” explains John Coyle, Master Photographer at Coyle Studios. “Sunrise provides a soft sunlight that can make your photos beautiful.” On his vacations, Coyle wakes up hours before the sun even thinks of rising to get ready for his photo shoots. You’ll see gentle pinks and blues as the sun rises that will create an enchanting look in your landscapes and nature photographs.

“Walk toward something interesting,” says Coyle. “You’ll see mist, fog, haze, and dew as the sun is breaking the horizon. You’ll see birds flying about, but you won’t see many insects because it is too damp. It’s a fun time to photograph nature and portraits.”

  1. Be Ready for Sunset.

Sunrise isn’t the only time to capture gorgeous photography. Sunset has a completely different look from sunrise, and it can create a very dynamic look for your images. “At sunset, the air is warmer,” points out Coyle. “The atmosphere is clearer and crisper than the morning. Sunsets are dramatic.” There are powerful colors as the sun sets that create intrigue and mystery in your photos. This is a great time to take portraits as well as landscape images.

The real fun begins after the sun goes down. “Keep your camera out. Wait 30 – 40 minutes, and the natural light will balance with the artificial light,” says Coyle. “The boardwalk, city, and more glow from both light sources.” This moment only lasts for 20 minutes at best before it becomes too dark to take photos, so be prepared.

  1. Want Shadows? Consider High Noon.

If you’re looking for heavy shadows or high contrast in your images, photograph between 10am – 2pm. “This time of day has a high contrast of light. You’ll see deep shadows with bright highlights. It’s a great time to play with shadows and create drama. However, avoid portraits of people. Everyone will be squinting and be impacted by reflected light. If you’re going to take portraits at this time, move people to the shade,” explains Coyle.

  1. Cropping is Your Friend.

If you didn’t get a “great” shot or aren’t confident in your composing abilities, don’t worry. Cropping can transform an image from being “ok” to “magnificent.” In fact, you may want to give yourself more space around the subject to crop — especially if you don’t know how you want to use the image later. For composition, Coyle says that the “Rule of Thirds” is a great rule to follow, but reminds us that all rules are made to be broken. Understanding how the rule works will help you figure out not only how to compose an image, but try to create something interesting and different.

For portraits, he has a few pieces of advice. “Get close to a portrait or group. Don’t stand too far away. Your subject should stand to the left or right of the background — do not block it,” recommends Coyle. “Many people want to center the camera on a person’s face, but you always end up with too much sky or not enough of the person’s feet. Instead, center on your subject. A camera is not a tool to point at someone’s nose.”

  1. Learn Your Manual Settings.

Whether you have a dSLR camera or a cell phone, you have manual settings. Understanding how these settings work will free you from the automatic world of photography. You’ll be able to capture interesting photos on your terms, not the camera’s. “If you can put the camera in manual and under expose a sunset or sunrise, then you’ll have brilliant color. Automatic cannot work like a professional camera. Learn how to put it in manual,” says Coyle.

However, if you don’t have a camera on hand, use your cell phone. Most phones can adapt and create beautiful photos on the fly. If you’re feeling adventurous, explore the camera settings on your phone and learn how to make changes in manual.

  1. Don’t be Hard on Yourself.

Pinterest and Instagram have done a fantastic job of allowing people to share their beautiful images, and you may want to copy a few of them on your trip. Coyle cautions against this and instead encourages you to use those images as inspiration for your photography. “Most modern digital cameras are capable of making beautiful photos, but copying a photo on Pinterest requires everything to be nearly perfect. Everything — from the lighting to the person to the weather — has to be close to identical. If it happens, great, but don’t expect it, and don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen,” states Coyle. “Use someone else’s successful image as a reference to your own.”