How to Take Good Photos on Vacations
Gene's 5 Top "Non-Technical" Basic Vacation Photography Tips
(These Top 5 Tips also apply to Digital Landscape Photography
Scenic Photography, & Vacation Travel Photography)
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During the approximately 3 weeks prior to writing this "How to Take Good Photos on Vacations" page, I was working on selecting about 130 "Top Pick" digital scenic photo favorites from about 11,000 US Scenic Vacation Photos I had taken over the last 30+ years of my Wife and My Travels & Vacations in the US.
Why this "How to Take Good Photos" -- Digital Vacation Photography Tips page?
This enjoyable 135 Top photo selections from 11,000 Scenic Vacation Photos project emphasized how important some of the "Basic" Vacation Photography Tips which I had learned on how to take good photos over the last 30+ years of US Vacations really were! Hence this "How to Take Good Photos -- 5 "Non Technical" Basic Vacation Photography Tips" page
I have found since I switched to a Digital Camera, that Canon has very effective computer Photography "firmware" built into their newer digital Cameras that automatically "chooses" for you the correct settings from the available light, scene, etc. (Obviously I am a Canon fan -- I am sure some other brands do a good job in the "Auto" mode also.)
-- The result of this is that I use the "Auto" dial "Scene Select" setting for about 98 % of my Scenic Vacation and Landscape photos!!! -- (a mistake, actually -- should use the various "Fine tuning" Scene Select automatic camera modes mentioned below more.)
Automatic "Scene Select" Dial Settings
If I do "fiddle" with lens Aperture or shutter speed settings, do not do it Via "manual" settings, instead do it Via the "Scene Select" Dial on the Canon camera to select "Category" automatic scene settings such as: "Landscape" - "Kids & Pets" or "SCN" -- which has special sub-categories such as "Beach" - "Foliage" - "Snow" - "Indoor" - "Night Scene" etc.
My digital scenic vacation photos in recent years have been with a fairly basic "Point & Shoot" Canon PowerShot SX100IS with a built in 10x Optical Image stabilized Zoom lens.
My current (11/14/2013) recently purchased new camera is a well User Reviewed Canon Powershot SX280 HS Digital Camera with a 20x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and a wide angle lens + 1080 pixels wide HD Video capability. The Canon SX280 HS also has a GPS Location Tracker that puts the location where you took your photo in the photo image file so you can later view where your photo was taken on a map using Canon Software.
Also really like the fact that the SX280 HS is still smaller handy "pants pocked sized" like my old SX100IS, Vs so big that you have to carry it swinging on a strap around your neck!
We recently purchased a very compact Canon Powershot SD4000IS as a new camera for my Wife after her "old" Canon Powershot A540 got smashed after taking over 8,000 photos and videos. (It had been Gene's prior camera)
We both really like the new Canon SD4000IS -- especially for indoor photos! It has a much less light needed F/2.0 lens for great indoor no flash Candid Grandkids shots and HD Videos -- and is very compact and "small purse sized" so it now goes everywhere we go. (Gene gets to borrow it for some indoor "no-flash allowed" Museum & old Mansion Tour photos + candid indoor no-flash Grandkid photos & videos!)
If we were purchasing a new very compact low light needed camera today, we would probably consider a Canon PowerShot ELPH 500 HS 12.1 MP -- with a low light needed ultra wide angle f/2.0 lens so you usually would not need flash indoors, plus with 4.4 optical Image Stabilized zoom and HD Video capability. (Unless a new model version of this camera with more features was out by then)
Why Use Your Camera's "Automatic" Settings?
The real point of using your camera's built-in "Automatic" setting is so you have more time to focus on the "Non-Technical" subject matter or focal points in your Scenic Vacation Photos plus the composition of your photo subject -- so you can take more, better composed, and more interesting to view pictures!!!
-- Vs having to spend so much time doing all of the special camera setting Technical "stuff" which a good digital camera can actually do for you very well in one of the "Auto" Scene Setting Modes!
Plus you then have more time to take extra slightly varied shots and "backup" shots -- and do some fine tuning on your photo composition + find more good subjects to photograph! -- see Tips # 1 and # 2 below.
(I have been a BIG Fan of Canon cameras and their well reviewed built in "Auto" photo settings computer "firmware" for taking "technically" top quality pictures for several years.)
-- Plus -- Our Web Site and Photo Viewers download a lot of photos from our 4 US Vacation Sites + at GeneSeecann.com Photos, so my Canon camera must be doing the "Technical" aspect of the Photo Taking process very well in the "Auto" mode.
The, I believe, more important to your photo viewers, "Non-Technical" part of the basic photo taking process is covered in the 5 "How to Take Good Photos on Vacation" Photography Tips below.
If you are a Photographer ("Hobby" or otherwise) and would like check out selling your Images online at a very popular Stock Image Photo Downloads Site, see more Info on setting it up at this link - Sell your Photos Online - I have used them for over 4 years and have been very happy with their service.
Gene's Basic 5 Vacation Photography Tips -- How to take Good Photos on Vacations
(What I have learned in 30+ years of "Hobby" Scenic Vacation Photography and
over 11,000 Scenic Vacation & Landscape photos. -- You likely won't use all of
these Tips in every photo, but you probably can use at least the first 2.)
# 1. Have a Photo Focal Point and Place it in your Picture using the very Important Basic Photo Composition "Rule of Thirds"
Many "Technical" Photography Tips articles say the "Rule of Thirds" is often one of the first "How To's" taught in Photography Schools. It was one that thank goodness I learned early at a "Landscape Photography" day seminar that I took many years ago -- along with the "Take many shots" Rule #2 below!
Every Landscape, Scenic Photo, or Vacation Travel Photo should have a main Focal Point -- whether a building, a winding trail, a mountain peak, or a lone bird on a beach with waves breaking in the background. Where you place that focal point is very important as to how "interesting" your photo is to viewers. It often determines how much the viewer is "drawn in" to viewing that particular vacation photo and does not move on quickly to the next photo in the group -- probably without realizing a specific reason why this photo draws their attention. (Sometimes this is called Photo "Pop" -- how much it stands out from the rest!)
Rule of 3rds Photo Composition Grid with Focal Point
for a picture taken in the horizontal plane.
-- Took many shots of this rapidly changing sunrise to
luck out & get the 2 flying birds + reflection in same Photo.
We won't go into some of the eye movement and other studies that led to or that back up the importance of the Rule of Thirds in Photography, but according to many Photographers, centered scenic or landscape photos -- or "centered" photos of most types -- are "Boring" to the Viewer.
The use of the important "Rule of Thirds" can help many of your pictures be more Interesting to you and your photo viewers. (The major exceptions to the basic composition rule of thirds in photography are most Portrait photos & some close up Macro photos.)
The rule of thirds basically says that you mentally draw two horizontal lines on your viewing screen or viewfinder dividing the screen into thirds vertically, as well as two horizontal lines so you divide your prospective image into thirds in both planes. Then, place the focal point of your photo on or very near one of the "thirds" lines in your screen "grid." The Photo above illustrates this for a photo taken in the horizontal plane.
Tip 1 - Many newer digital cameras have a setup option to turn on the "Thirds" grid in your camera viewing screen -- to help you use the Rule of Thirds to compose better photographs. I have this 3rds grid turned on all the time! -- (The thirds grid lines also help you remember to be sure your horizon is level -- a often occuring photo flaw many of us have to level out later with our image editing software!)
Tip 2 - Even better for many photos -- especially ones with a distant focal point. Place your focal point on one of the four intersect points of the vertical and horizontal "Thirds" lines. (See sun focal point in photo example with 3rds grid above.)
This # 1 Rule of Thirds Tip is very important for most types of Photography -- it is one of the most important "Non-Technical" Landscape and Scenic Vacation Photography Tips that you can easily use to improve your vacation photo memories!
# 2. Take Extra Slightly Varied Shots + Back-up Shots! -- especially of any subject you really are interested in! (This Tip is a very close "second" to Tip #1 in Importance!)
Quickly changing sunrises and sunsets, ocean waves and surf photos, and any pictures with wildlife (or always moving Grandkids!) can be particularly important for this!
In the "Rule of Thirds" example photo above, would not have lucked out and got a picture with both the sunrise reflection in the water and the two birds flying by had I not been taking a photo every few seconds of this rapidly changing St Augustine harbor sunrise -- (Plus watching close and hoping for a bird to fly by to add some interest to the shot!)
This "Take Extra Shots" Tip is also important for indoor "candid" grandkids shots taken without flash -- (with a f/2.8 or lower number such as f/2.0 f-stop "less light needed" camera lens suitable for lower light photos -- The "lowest light needed" f/stop number is usually marked on the front your camera lens.)
No flash is so you don't have to deal with "red eye" and reflections on glasses + nothing is "candid" after the first flash goes off! Kids are often moving and are blurred in your lower light no-flash indoor shots!
For indoor group "posed" shots of Kids or Adults, someone always blinks -- especially if some other photo takers are using flash! -- Allow for that by taking extra photos as backups!!!
This is so simple to do. Don't waste your time "Reviewing" each of your individual photos in the small camera viewing screen where you often cannot see minor blurs or composition flaws -- just take a couple more quick pictures!!! You can vary your photo's focal point location and composition slightly and also take a couple of photos from a slightly different position if you have time.
It is much better to have multiple photos to choose from for your top pick favorite later, Vs having only one image with a "flaw" that you have to "live with" forever! (Sometimes, however, those photos with irritating "Flaws" do give an additional reason to return to a favorite vacation photo spot on a another later vacation!)
You can always delete down to your top photo favorites later when you can look at them larger size on your computer screen or on your HD TV!!! -- it is so easy now with digital picture files as compared to the "Old Days" when we had to wait for the expensive prints after we returned from our vacation travels!
You will learn this #2 Rule the "Hard Way" a few times when you later find flaws in some very important shots that looked OK in the small camera Viewfinder photo "Review," but were ones that you had not bothered to take "Back Up" or alternate composition pictures for. It is very hard to go wrong by taking a few extra digital shots of an interesting subject!!! -- especially when you have spent a considerable amount of travel time and vacation dollars to get to that Scenic Vacation Photo location!
Tip - You do need to purchase a couple of extra Lexar Platinum II 4 GB 100x "Fast" Camera Memory Cards -- or better yet - a Lexar Professional very high speed 8GB or 16GB Memory Card - with a very fast 400x or super fast 800x speed for fast photo saves on your camera so you can easily take quick back up shots and more pictures -- plus have faster transfers of photo files to your PC from your camera memory card.
Lexar Professional memory cards are my favorite brand and type for my Canon SX280HS digital camera -- "Fast" 400x or 800x speed Cards so the images save to your camera faster and you can take more "Backup Shot" pictures + have less drain on your camera batteries.
-- Why get more Photo Memory storage cards? -- So you don't ever have to waste precious daylight vacation time trying to figure out which "bad" photos to delete off of a full camera memory card using your small camera viewing screen during the day -- when you could be using that time seeing more scenery and attractions and taking more vacation picture memories!!!!!!!!!
This #2 Take Extra Slightly Varied Shots + Back-up Shots -- How to Take Good Photos on Vacations Vacation Photography Tip could you save you a lot of disappointment from bad photos that show up later when you view them larger on your computer and see flaws that you did not notice when you took the photo. You can always delete the images you don't want to use later when you can view them large size on your computer.
From a "Value" standpoint -- Take more photographs and more "backup" shots -- Extra Camera Memory Cards are cheap compared to missed Photo Memories!
# 3 "Frame" your shot on a side or two if possible (with trees, low hanging limbs, the beach, etc) + look for items of interest in the foreground to help give your photo "depth" and make it more interesting.
Eample: A scenic shot of a mountain lake (or winding valley road as below) from a high overlook vantage point -- have nearby tree branches and/or part of the Scenic Overlook viewing area railing in the foreground of your picture to help "Frame" your shot and give depth. (Kind of like putting your scenic photo in a "frame" to hang it on your wall.)
Or, when taking shots of the ocean beach from your Oceanfront Condo Balcony or the open viewing deck at the top of a lighthouse you have climbed to the top -- have a section of the balcony railing in the shot to give perspective and depth -- and even to help frame the shot.
Tip - Don't try to "crop" your photos too close with your camera Zoom when you are framing your shots. You can do that better later with your Image Editing program when you have more time, are viewing your photo in a larger screen, and aren't risking chopping off the very top of a lighthouse or a mountain peak!
(Or in the case of Candid photos of your Grandkids -- chopping off the top of one their heads, or half of Uncle Charlie in a group photo!)
Also, sometimes there are some interesting Photo "setting" and "context" tems in the foreground or along the sides that can add interest to your vacation photo that you may miss while taking the shot, but would have been gone forever if you had cropped your photo too close "in the field."
Any needed photo editing to level a tilted horizon in photos with your Image Editing software later also emphasizes the importance of not cropping your photos too close "in the field" mentioned in the Tip above -- so you have some image around the edges to "lose" in the leveling cropping process!
Tip 2 - Turn off "Digital Zoom" in your camera settings so when you are using your camera zoom, it only zooms to the extent of your Camera's Optical Zoom, and also doesn't utilize the lower quality digital zoom where your photo image can get fuzzy or "grainy." You can always crop out an area you want zoomed in more with your photo editing program and get a higher quality image.
My favorite photo editing program is the highly reviewed downloadable, Free, and very easy to learn and use XnView basic image editor and fast loading image viewer. User reviews and download link for the XnView program are at this XnView Download.com page.
My favorite Photo Organizing, "Tagging," and Sharing Photos program is the recently upgraded and easy to use CyberLink MediaShow 6 -- CyberLink MediaShow-Organizing, Creating and Sharing your Photos and Videos. MediaShow 6 even has very fast and accurate Facial Recognition capabilites + it can put your Photos on a Timeline in it's searchable database. -- Then you can quickly and easily for example Face Recognition Tag all of your Photos of your Grandkids -- and then easily search for all photos with a certain Grandkid in them taken in 2007.
The new CyberLink Media Suite 10 includes the MediaShow 6 above and has a total of eleven seperate programs to use to Organize, Edit, Produce, and Share Photos and Videos + Create and Burn Slideshows and Videos. -- More Info at: CyberLink Media Suite 10 - Organize, Play, Edit, Burn and Share!
The Tip #3, Framing your shots, can end up being an important how to take good photos vacation photography Tip to giving you more "Top Pick" photos from your vacations.
Close round post gives depth + interest in the
foreground & the mountains on sides frame
the winding valley road to distant focal point.
(This photo will be added soon on our brand new
-- Interesting how the trees grow vertical on the
This Oregon Coast Sunset is one of the more
viewed & downloaded Photos
at GeneSeecann.com Photo Previews
& High Resolution Downloads
The ocean beach and clouds frame the shot
-- small rocks on beach close add some
depth to shot + was great that
the beach was wet enough
to add some sunlight reflections close
#4 Use a photo sequence to Tell a "Story" or show a series of events
This is not appropriate for many photo topics, but a lot of photo subjects lend themselves to a "Story" sequence.
For example, a lighthouse series of 3 to 6 photos: You could take the first shot from a distance showing the rocky coast (the reason the lighthouse is needed!) or the high point the lighthouse sits on, a 2nd photo from fairly close showing the immediate lighthouse setting, the lighthouse paint pattern, and the walk or stairs up to the base of the lighthouse, a 3rd shot from close to the base looking up at the lighthouse tower structure to emphasize the height + show a close up of the painted design and construction, a 4th photo of the spiral steps going up or down inside the lighthouse, and a photo or two of the great view from the open viewing deck at the top.
Tip - Remember to include a piece of the viewing deck railing to emphasize your height when taking the top photos.
The photo sequence below is of the old and new + "newer" Virginia Beach Historic Cape Henry Lighthouses.
The 2nd photo -- "Stairs to Light" is one of my "reflective" vacation photo favorites -- plus for the "memory" of the many steps we climbed at the Cape Henry Lighthouse! -- This vacation photo has now moved up to page 2 of the most viewed photos at GeneSeecann.com Photos.
The last "New and Newer" Lighthouses photo in the sequence is now one of the more viewed and downloaded photos at at GeneSeecann.com free Photo Previews and High-Resolution "Stock Photo" Downloads + Viewer Stats.
(The historic old lighthouse has no open viewing deck so could not get a piece of the railing from the top in the last photo. The photo was taken from a high point on the ground.)
# 5 Use a Tripod or Monopod to help capture a wide Depth of Field in your Photo
Will try to not get too "Technical" with this last Tip.
Good Scenery and Landscape photos are pictures where you usually want a wide "Depth of Field" -- that is, objects in both the foreground and in the distance to be in focus, unlike wanting only the subject's face in focus and the background to be blurry as in much Portriat photography.
The increased depth of field to get both near and far objects in focus is usually the result of using a larger "F/stop" lens setting -- This may be done automatically for you by your camera if you are using the "Auto" setting. (The larger lens F/stop number means that the lens opening is actually smaller Vs larger as the larger "F/stop" number would indicate. -- an optional more "technical" explanation of F/stop setting and size of camera lens opening or "Aperture" below at **)
Having both near and distant objects in focus is an important characteristic of much Landscape and Scenic Vacation photography. As the lens opening gets smaller (Higher F/stop setting), less light can pass through the lens, and so the compensation that the camera automatically makes for this -- or that you manually make -- is to slow down the shutter speed to allow more time for light to pass through the lens. (We have purposely avoided the additional Photography "speed" topic of IS0 number here to keep this Tip as "non-technical" as possible!)
Any time you or the automatic computer settings in the camera slow down the shutter speed, you run an increased risk of your image blurring from camera shake. Camera Image Stabilization can correct much of the small instances of camera shake, but sometimes not all -- expecially any "big" shakes. -- Thus the need for a Tripod or Monopod to steady your camera is often very important in much landscape or scenic vacation photography.
This is especially the case if you are using your camera's built in optical zoom at a setting of 3x zoom or more where vertical image "shake" starts to become a major factor. According to many landscape photography articles, tripod or monopod support for your camera to prevent blurring or "fuzzy" shots is generally also needed when the camera shutter speed gets slower than 1/60th of a second.
Many articles recommend a tripod for almost all landscape photography, but I have found that a lightweight and easy to carry collapsable "walking stick" style Monopod works fine to "vertically" steady your camera when you particularly need it. (The horizontal "stabilizing" by you is easy once you have the camera attached to the monopod and the monopod securely resting on the ground.)
Tip - A monopod is also very handy in taking video horizontal "panning" shots and "stitched" horizontal panorama multiple photo shots.
A tripod will do everything a monopod will do and more to stabilize your camera, it is just that tripods are usually heavier and much "clunkier" to carry around than a small quality built collapsable lightweight monopod. Since a monopod is easier to carry and use, you will tend to use it more, and the result will be less "blurry or fuzzy" vacation photos!
The well user rated monopod that I purchased and have now carried and used with good Landscape and Vacation Photography results for several years is the Opteka MP100 67" Pro Photo / Video Monopod available at a discount from Amazon. This lightweight, but sturdy, monopod collapses to 21" long, has a cushioned hand grip to help hold the camera steady and for use as a walking stick, and has a handy canvas carrying case.
Important Backup Tip - BACK UP YOUR PHOTO PRINTS & DIGITAL PHOTO FILES!!!
-- Scan your favorite Family & Vacation Photo Prints into digital image files, and then back up those photo image files from your computer to an external hard drive. I read recently that having a computer hard drive fail is comparable to having a house fire. Having had two different hard drives fail, I can personally attest to the fact that it wastes a lot of time to fully recover from -- even if you do have good backups!
I "try" to remember to back up my desktop computer to my External Western Digital 1 TB Hard Drive every Wednesday night. We store our favorite prints and "off Computer" back up files External Hard drive in heavy plastic bags inside a fairly large, heavy, waterproof and fireproof chest in a corner of our basement -- along with some DVD disk back-ups of some of our important family photos as an added precaution.
(I was once a Boy Scout Leader, so am taking the "Be Prepared" for everything that can go wrong motto seriously!) Plus, I have had 2 (Two) hard drives fail in the last 12 months, so I am a bit "paranoid" about loosing my Photos -- and other files!
We gave each of our Kids a waterproof/fireproof chest a few years ago to store their own family photos and important papers -- plus several DVD's of our family event and vacation photos up to that date. Now at Christmas, we give them one or two additional DVD's with that years family photos taken since the prior Christmas -- so now they also have copies of all of our family and vacation pictures!
We have recently subscribed to Mozey Online Backup Service with Unlimited Backup Storage for a very reasonable annual fee, so now also have our photos backed up to there. (Which hopefully provides a "safety net" in case forget to do one of the weekly backups to an external hard drive since do not leave it connected and running all of the time.)
Plus see "Top Selections" Photobucket Vacation Album link below.
Hopefully this Non-Technical article on "How to Take Good Photos on Vacations -- 5 Basic Vacation Photography Tips" will provide you with some easy to use suggestions to improve the photos you take on your next scenic vacation! -- and also remind you to back up your non-replaceable Family and Vacation Photo Memories!
Send us a note regarding any "How to Take Good Photos on Vacations" comments you have -- or suggestions for other Scenic & Vacation Photography Tips on this page -- or comment on any of our 4 US Vacation Web Sites using this Gene Seecann Sites Comment Form
-- Or -- use the easy Fill-in Form in the light blue box below and include a Photo!
Have one of your own Favorite How to Take Good Photos Tip or an addition to our 5 Vacation Photography Tips -- Send it to us Via the easy fill-in form below. Include a favorite Vacation Photography Photo which illustrates the Tip you are commenting on or your added How to Take Good Photos on Vacations Tip submission -- We and our Viewers always appreciate good Scenic Vacation Photos! (Not ones, however, of people posed in front of statues, signs, or buildings! -- we will take your word for it that you were at that location!)
** Lens Aperture Explained: (This is a little "Technical" since the "opposing" way the Lens Aperture and the lens "F/stop value work is kind of confusing.) -- The 5 Basic Tips above will help you improve your Vacation Photos without knowing this "Technical" Info -- If you are still interested -- Read on, but consider yourself warned!
-- The Lens "Aperture" setting is usually shown as the "F/ stop or f/value -- example: F3.1 or f/3.1. The smaller the F-stop number or f/value, the larger the lens opening (aperture) to let light through.
Smaller lens openings such as F/16 and F/22 (Larger lens Aperture settings) often are recommended for high depth of field Scenic and Landscape Photography (where near + far objects are in focus in the same photo) with good outdoor lighting for digital Photography on Vacations.
If you are a Photographer ("Hobby" or otherwise) and would like to sell your Images online at a VERY popular Stock Image Photos Site, see more Info on setting it up at this link - Sell your Photos Online - You set your own image prices and can set up your own custom Photo "Watermarks" or Logos which show on all pre-purchase photos shown on this Photo Downloads Sale Site. I have used them for over four years and have been very happy with their service -- and have sold quite a few high resolution photo downloads using this popular Photo Sales Site!
Top Pick Digital Cameras + Gene's Digital Camera "Reviews" and Top Picks on our Online Travel Electronics page -- Link drops down on page to a few easy to use "Point and Shoot" Top Pick Digital Cameras and Reviews.
Reviewed Kids Travel Game Activities + Books, Educational Games, CDs, some DVDs, & CD Sing along Fun
Vacation & Travel Discounts Magazines - Wide selection at good discounts
Top Pick Online Merchants listing - Categorized by Vacation & Travel product type with links - discounts & deals
Top Pick Florida Vacation Guide Books: Vacation Florida beaches & Attractions Books & Guides.
You can see the Item User Star Ratings & Reviews on any Individual Amazon Product page