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    7 Top Tips for Taking Terrific Vacation Photos

    Now that you’ve booked a dreamy vacation for you and your family, let’s break down some tips and tricks for documenting that awesome vacation in pictures! Here are seven tips to help you take some memorable shots and become more confident in your photography skills!

    1. Cell Phone Pictures

    Let’s face it. Most of your pictures, if not all, will be taken with your cell phone. While convenient, the downside to this is having a ton of pictures and video that will eat up a good amount of your phone storage. Having said that though, nicer cell phones actually take very decent photos nowadays, and have many attractive features!  Most cell phones have a modest megapixel count, around 8-12 megapixels or so, so if you take a gorgeous picture and go to get it enlarged as a print, it may look pixilated or grainy due to the low megapixel count. If you choose the cell phone route to document your vacation and plan to print some photos off later, just keep that in mind, knowing you will be ok if you don’t plan to enlarge them big for a wall print. Keep them small when printing them off, for example in the 4×6 to 5×7 range. If you are planning to adorn your walls with some sweet vacation pictures though, invest in a travel camera, which leads me to my next tip!

    2. Investing in a Travel Camera

    While not as convenient as whipping out your phone to snap a pic, I highly recommend investing in a travel camera. It is definitely worth it! With a designated travel camera, not only will you not eat up your phone storage with loads of pictures, you will have that higher megapixel count and  the freedom to print off bigger and better photos if you wish. Travel cameras have come a long way, and are ultra compact, making them very easy to carry around in your purse. Most have nice zoom lenses too, which come in very handy for catching farther away action vs. a cell phone. They also take great at taking videos, too!  If you are going somewhere tropical and want to catch some snorkeling underwater action, they have decent affordable waterproof cameras for that as well that are very user-friendly and perfect for the kiddos to use and have fun with. Just make sure to get a wrist float to attach it to, so if dropped, it doesn’t sink. Here is a recommendation for each one: 

    3. Get in the Picture

    Do you find that you are usually the sole person documenting your family? You need to get into those pictures, too! It’s easy to get in the habit of hiding behind the lens, however, for these memorable family vacations, you will want to look back and see that you were there, too. Your kids will be very thankful later to look back on those pictures and see their parents interacting with them when they were youngsters. It’s super important to do this, and if no one in your family offers to take up the job as photographer, speak up and ask! You will be grateful for it later, I promise. For full family photos, however, invest in a portable cell phone tripod that you can throw in your purse or backpack. They are extremely useful, and super handy to get those sweet family pictures while on vacation. If the kids are being squirmy during the family picture, promise them a silly face picture at the end, which gives them something to look forward to. It usually ends up being everybody’s favorite!

    4. Light, Light, Light!

    Photography is essentially painting with light, so light is going to be your most important tool. As you’ve probably heard before, natural light is the best for pictures, but this too can lead to its own challenges.  If it is sunny out, the best time for pictures is early morning before the sun is high in the sky, or, an hour or so before sunset, when the light is at a softer angle. Overhead mid day sun will cause harsh light, deep shadows on faces, and squinting. If possible, move to some open shade to take pictures (open shade is where you are in a shaded area, but if you look up, you can see the sky). Cloudy days, which may seem like a bummer, actually offer up some great light for photography as the sunlight is diffused, producing even light for photos. Sunset is a great time for getting silhouette photos, especially on the beach. As the sun is setting, place your subject in front of the light it gives. Your camera will want to expose for the light, and in turn, under exposing your subject, making them dark. It makes for fun, moody, and dramatic pictures, so have your subjects kiss, cartwheel , jump, or twirl in a dress, as action silhouettes looks great against the sunset.

    5. Eating With Your Eyes: Food Pictures!

    Ever ordered a fantastically beautiful meal yet end up with a dark grainy cell phone picture of it that does it no justice? You are not alone. Most restaurants have dim light to create a mood, which can be super tricky to work with, and not conducive to photography. If you are dining during the day or early evening, ask to be seated at a table nearest a window to capitalize on the light coming in the restaurant, preferably south facing if you can. An even better option if you want to take food pictures is to dine outside, as this will offer you the best light to shoot your food in (except if it’s full sun and there is no umbrella or overhang producing shade for your table. Then it’s best to sit inside). When taking pictures of your plate, get creative with the angles. Shoot from overhead looking down at your plate; weight it to the right side a bit to give it a modern spin rather than keeping the plate in the center of the photo. Make sure to remove table clutter before you take your food photos by pushing unwanted napkins, water glasses, ketchup bottles, etc. to the side so it is not in the frame. Have your dining partner grab a fork of food and take a close up of that delicious bite, or, hone in with a super tight shot of your kiddo taking a sip of that fancy milkshake. Have fun with it, but don’t get too disappointed if the light is just not working out.  You are there to enjoy your meal, great pictures of it are just a bonus!

    6. The Details

    Tell the story of your vacation by taking pictures of more than just your family. Look around at what catches your eye and get detail pictures to set the mood of what your vacation feels like.  A freshly diced mango, a busy farmer’s market table, a neat alleyway in an unfamiliar city, local architecture, a cool doorway, maybe even your rental car or hotel number plaque. They all weave into telling a picture narrative of your vacation. Don’t forget to get candids of your family when they are not giving the cheesy looking straight at the camera grin, but rather a contemplative profile look, or laughing with each other. Also, pass the camera around to your family members to get different perspectives, as each person is having different experiences.  Capture the essence of your trip, don’t be afraid to snap away at these details as they will give you a visual to help you dive into that memory of your amazing trip when you look back at it.

    7. Make It Into a Book

    You are back from that incredible vacation, now what do you do with your pictures? Make them into an album! If you can, do this within a week or two after you get back so it is fresh in your mind and you are still riding that vacation high. Otherwise, life happens, and you run the risk of them possible living virtually trapped in your phone or memory card for years. There are many vendors out there that make it super fast and easy to upload your pictures, then automatically sorts them into a book which makes ordering a breeze. This is a wonderful way to preserve those memories, and I cannot recommend this enough.  You will love looking back at these physical albums rather than having them live on your phone at the mercy of technology. Your kids will love looking thumbing through them too, as seeing themselves in print is pretty sweet.

    Here are some recommendations:

    I hope this gives you some good ideas to take with you on your next adventure! Have fun with it, get creative, and go make some great memories! : )

    *This contains some affiliate links but only if No Qualms Mom thinks highly of the product or service. While NQM may receive a small commission from some sellers if you buy from them, please know that using my links does not affect your pricing in any way. And many NQM links are purely information—listed only to help you.


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