As the best-selling travel author, Bill Bryson, once said — “the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time.” It’s this excitement that travelers (with camera in tow) try to capture, along with the inherent beauty that many popular vacation destinations can offer.
Professionals can schedule entire trips around such imagery, but most of us have to snap what photos we can while on family vacations or the odd business trip. But with thorough planning and the right mindset, you can come home with breathtaking vacation pictures. The globetrotters at travel blog Uncornered Market offered their best tips to help make your next vacation a photographic success.
Pack Carefully (and Get Insurance)
As with any form of vacation packing, it’s tempting to take all the photo equipment you own. While it makes sense to give yourself the best chance of nailing every photo op, travel restrictions make it important to pack equipment judiciously.
Daniel Noll, one half of the husband-and-wife team behind Uncornered Market, is highly experienced in these matters. The pair have been on the move since leaving their native USA in 2001 to work in the Czech Republic, and they circumnavigated the world in 2006. On every trip they tend to take a “selection of lenses for landscape, portrait, and panoramic photography” along with their Nikon DSLR.
Just as importantly, plenty of provision is made for backing up photos—”we carry laptops, a series of external hard drives, and iPhones. We also use an online data backup service so that if something were to happen, all our data is safe.” This level of protection is probably unnecessary for most photographers, but it’s certainly worth having some form of backup.
Equipment of this kind can make you a target, though. “Don’t be flashy with all the gear that you’re carrying—this may mean keeping your camera gear in a low-key bag while walking the streets or going through markets. Lock up your gear when you do leave it behind in the hotel…and take out equipment insurance for your gear so that if something does happen you have some protection.”
Study Your Destination
The other key task to complete before taking off is to research your destination thoroughly, focusing on images taken at places you intend to visit. Noll and Audrey Scott (the other half of the Uncornered Market duo) do this before every trip—“That gives us a benchmark for when we are on the ground, as to what has already been captured, and what angles and images might be new.”
Even searches for images of relatively unknown destinations can be instructive. Referring to their hike through the Peak of the Balkans, Noll recalls being astonished at “how few photos showing the depth and perspective of the trail, region, and culture seemed to be readily available online.” He and Audrey made sure to capitalize on the opportunity.
Make Friends and Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Aside from matters of basic technique, much of what makes an impressive vacation shot is an appreciation for the culture or landscape being captured. “I think travelers and photographers ought to experience and enjoy what it is they are photographing,” says Noll. Likewise, when photographing people, his recommendation is to “establish a relationship first” before attempting to take a portrait.
Scenery is harder to get familiar with in just a few minutes, so a mixture of experimentation and variety is your best bet—”a reflection of perspective always helps, as does capturing different qualities of light,” advises Noll.
Know When to Put the Camera Down
As an enthusiastic photographer, you don’t need much encouragement to take pictures of an awe-inspiring place. The key is to know when to put the camera down. “Maybe we ought to be prepared for the life moment that got away because we became too attached to our cameras and other recording devices,” Noll says.
If you’re using an Iphone and still want to take great photos, here are some pointers!
Didn’t pack your professional equipment? Master vacation photography with an iPhone as well.