Imagine getting home from that trip of a lifetime, excited about all the glorious vacation photos on your camera or phone. You can’t wait to share them on Facebook or Instagram, maybe even a travel photography blog. You fire up the good old PC or Mac and start downloading the cards, trembling with anticipation. (Well, maybe that’s just me.) “I can’t wait to show Aunt Mary this beach sunset”, you think to yourself. Then you click on a few pics and notice that the scenes sure don’t look the way you remember them.

Was that sky really white? Where are the sunset colors? And this one, I can’t even see the family’s faces! Everyone is dark! How can that be?

In this series, I will let you in on a few little secrets.

Tips For Capturing Fabulous Vacation Photos Travel Blog Article

ย Photography Is All About The Light

Make sure when you ask a camera to take a shot, you are giving it everything it needs to work with. Take a look at the scene that you plan to shoot. How you see the scene can be a little different than how your camera see it. The human eye can see more tones in the light than a camera can. If you are shooting a high contrast scene, meaning the shadows are very dark and highlights are bright, details can get lost. Here are a few things I do to help my camera help me.

Ida Cason Church Calloway Gardens Pine Mountain Georgia Travel Blog
This photograph of the Ida Cason Church in Calloway Gardens shows how to use reflections to create symmetry and balance in a frame.

Make sure when you ask a camera to take a shot, you are giving it everything it needs to work with.

Find A Little Shade

When I am photographing my family, I make sure that I look for some shade to eliminate harsh shadows. While full sun on a face can throw some pretty crazy shadows and cause a lot of squinting, mottled light from the trees can be just as bad. Sometimes just a few steps forward or backward can make all the difference. Even lighting generally works best.

Cade's Cove Portrait Fence Mountains Sky Photography Article
Clouds are some of the best shade providers nature has to offer. They help diffuse the light on faces.

Place The Sun Behind Your Subject

But if you can’t find shade and have to shoot in the sun, position the sun behind your subject. This will also get rid of the harsh light and add a nice glow to separate the person from the background. In addition, you can use a flash to add a little fill light if the sun is too bright and low in the sky.

Backlit Indiana Sun Beautiful Girl Portrait
Placing the sun behind your subject helps add separation between the foreground and background.

Learn A Few Rules For Composition

The composition of a photo can make or break it, regardless of if you’re using a DSLR or iPhone. These are not hard and fast rules, but they can certainly take your photography up a notch. As a side note, everything I know about photography came from blog articles and YouTube.ย Stick with me kid, I have you covered!

Rule Of Thirds

You’ve no doubt heard about this one. If there is one “Golden Rule” in photography composition, this is it. Imagine your camera divided into thirds and place the subject of interest in that area. Even if you’ve already taken the shot, you can crop it in software to keep with this rule.

Chicago Lighthouse Travel Photography Tips Blog Article
This Chicago Lighthouse Sunset Tour photograph is an example of the rule of thirds in effect.

Use The Leading Lines

Lines, lines, everywhere lines! Our eyes will naturally follow lines when we look at a photo. Sometimes the lines are straight and other times they curve, but we can use these lines to lead our viewer’s eyes to where we want.

Cade's Cove Lonely Road Tennessee National Park Photography Tips Travel Blog
This lonely road photograph in Cade’s Cove uses leading lines to direct the viewer’s eyes to the mountain ridge line.

Find A Little Symmetry

Symmetry is defined as the quality of having similar elements in an exact correspondence. We use symmetry in photography to keep a photo balanced. Reflections in water are great examples of how we can add interest and harmony to our frames.

Indiana Covered Bridge Medora Travel Photography Tips Blog Article
This is probably my favorite vacation photo showing symmetry. The was the Medora Covered Bridge in Indiana and is gorgeous with a wide angle view.

Fill The Frame

What kind of story do I want to tell with this photo? Ask yourself this before you take your shot. Do I want the viewer to see the whole landscape or just this cool shell I found on the beach? Do I want to snap a shot of the entire park or just the flower that caught my eye? Don’t be afraid to zoom in on the subject and fill that frame!

Photography Tips Fill Frame Tin Roof Life Blog Article
Using a shallow depth of field and getting closer to Hayden, I was able to isolate his smiling face in the frame.

For More In Depth Learning

I highly recommend KelbyOne,, and B&H Photography’s YouTube channel for instructional videos. They can teach you everything you want to know about photography, equipment, and processing your images. Read more about how I was bitten by the photography bug here.

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Let’s let that sink in for a bit. Part 2 is coming soon!

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