15 Tips for Taking Great Vacation Photos

Tell a story

The most engaging vacation photos will tell the story of your trip from start to finish. Taking pictures at key moments, such as traveling from point A to point B, will help build a narrative of your journey. Consider photographing the contents of your suitcase before you leave, the view from your airplane or car window, and the people and places you encounter along the way.

Take your camera everywhere

Always try to keep a decent camera within arm's reach, even if it's just your smartphone. You may want to consider packing waterproof bags and cases, which will come in handy if you're shooting from a kayak, on the beach or even underwater. In this image, the photographer brought her DSLR to get shots of her friends zip-lining in Costa Rica.

Use a self-timer or selfie stick (if you must)

The person with the camera is often left out of vacation photos. If you're traveling with friends or family, remember to ask them to take photos of you as well. If you're vacationing solo, you will have to use your camera's self-timer function or resort to a selfie stick. In this image, the photographer was shooting an assignment alone in the Maldives and used a 10-second delay to capture herself swimming in the pool.

Take scenic shots (but don't overdo it)

Unless you're a skilled landscape photographer, filling your vacation album with dozens of scenic shots is a bad idea. No one wants to scroll through mediocre photos with no people in them, and you can usually find a better picture of the same location on a postcard if you want to remember it. That said, you should still take at least a few scenic shots, especially if you see a striking landscape. Consider adding your travel companions to the picture to make it more interesting.

Be prepared to capture the local wildlife

If you're vacationing somewhere with unique wildlife, be sure to bring the right gear to photograph it. Having a long lens or a powerful zoom function on your camera will help you capture birds, monkeys, dolphins, lions and other animals that are tough to get close to. You may want to book a whale-watching excursion or guided nature tour to increase your odds of an animal encounter. If you don't want to spend the money on an expensive lens for your camera, you can always rent equipment instead..

MORE: Best Bridge and Zoom Cameras

Capture candid moments

A great way to remember your trip is to shoot candid moments of your friends and family. Posed vacation photos are inevitable, but with a little extra effort, you can nab a genuine laugh or expression that will be more meaningful down the road. 

Shoot memorable meals

Going on vacation is a perfect opportunity to discover new restaurants and local cuisines. Remember what you ordered by photographing special meals before you dig in. Sitting close to a window and shooting your plate from above is a good way to get food photos on the fly.

Photograph the locals

Nothing conveys a sense of place quite like seeing the people who live there. If you have an outgoing personality, consider photographing local shopkeepers and interesting characters you spot on the street. If you're a bit more introverted, try asking waiters, bartenders, tour guides, taxi drivers and innkeepers to pose for photos; they work in the hospitality industry, so they should be accustomed to tourists asking for pictures.

Find unique ways to photograph landmarks

Famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty have been photographed millions of times. If you find yourself shooting a popular tourist attraction, give it a unique twist by using a creative composition, or consider pulling back to include other tourists in your shot. To get this image of the Duomo in Florence, Italy, the photographer climbed to the top of a nearby tower and shot the famous cathedral from above.

Go to a local event or festival

Check to see if any special events or festivals are happening during your vacation. Annual celebrations are not only great photo opportunities; they also offer a glimpse of the local culture. In this image, the photographer shot an Aztec ritual dance on the Day of the Dead in Mexico.

Don't overlook the details

Whether it's a picture of a Venetian mask in Venice or a hand-rolled cigar in Cuba, focusing on small details conveys a sense of place and will remind you of your trip. In this image, the photographer asked a Brazilian fisherman to display a freshly caught fish.

Include your travel companions in your photos

Remember to take ample pictures of your friends and family, even if it comes with lots of eye rolling. Years after your vacation has ended, the photos you're likely to value the most are of people you know — not landscapes, buildings or inanimate objects. Your travel companions will thank you later.

Look for interesting architecture

When you're exploring a new town or city, don't forget to photograph unique architecture. You'll want to remember things like the narrow streets in Rome, skyscrapers in Manhattan and whitewashed houses in Greece.

Remember to shoot interior spaces

Most vacation photos are taken outside, but there's plenty to see indoors, too. Don't forget to photograph beautifully decorated restaurants, swanky hotel rooms, cathedral interiors and museum exhibits (if it's allowed). The light can be dim inside, so consider using a tripod or a camera with high ISO capabilities. This image was taken in the Icehotel in Sweden.

Shoot from a high vantage point

Taking an aerial shot of your destination is a great way to set the scene and get a different perspective on the place you're visiting. Consider buying tickets to an observation deck or making reservations at a rooftop restaurant to get the shot you want. This image was taken from the top of a skyscraper in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Credit: Lacey Johnson