Amanda Joy Photography

How To Take Better Vacation Photos

Amanda MohinaniComment

As a family photographer, I photograph a lot of people. It's my job, and I adore meeting little and big people and capturing their moments of life together!

But one of the things I've had to learn along the way is how to photograph experiences. Vacations. Trips. Everyday adventures! 

Having recently sorted through thousands of photos from our trip to Turkey and Greece, and having been the designated photographer for almost every family trip I've ever been on... I've learned a thing or two about photographing experiences! With summer approaching, I thought this would be a great time to share a few tips that you can use on your next family adventure! 

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1. Start with your why.

Why are you taking these photos? To show everyone else back home? To prove that you were there? To fulfill a homework assignment? To remember what something looked like? There are lots of reasons - and pros and cons with all the reasons! As you sort through your reasons, keep in mind that your (and my!) photos will never be able to fully capture the beauty of experiencing something in person. It's just completely impossible to perfectly capture reality! If you want to make sure that you are fully present enough to enjoy the actual experience/vacation, start with your why and then make a promise to yourself that you won't try to photograph everything you see. 

I found this especially helpful when Sunil and I would vacation with family, or were in other countries like India, Turkey, and Greece. Let me tell you, there are some absolutely stunning locations in other parts of the world. Mountain top views, wonders of the world, and sunsets and sunrises that you can only dream about. But before I even turn on my camera or lift my iPhone, I remind myself of my why; it helps me reset my expectations for how my photos will turn out!

Personally, I try to capture not only the things we experienced but also how it felt to experience them. That means I do my best to focus just as much on the people around me as the sights themselves! I'll explain that part a little bit more in a bit... :) 


2. Pack light.

If you have a dSLR and multiple lenses, I would highly recommend picking one versatile lens and leaving the rest at home. If you only have a small camera with no extra lenses or you use an iPhone - guess what? You just nailed this step. Go you!! I use my Nikon D700 and my 24-70mm 2.8 lens when I'm on vacation because it's the most versatile lens I own and I don't want to be worrying about which lens I should switch to! And it's wide enough for selfies... :) 

3. Keep it on you at all times!

If your primary photo weapon of choice is your phone, this is pretty easy. But if you have a dSLR camera, this can be a bit more tricky (hence - the packing light step). When I'm in foreign cities or countries, I always have my camera on my hip at all times. Meal times. Shopping times. Wandering-down-the-street-to-find-a-bathroom-times. Why? This leads me to tip 4... 


4. Focus on the moments, not just the sights.

(Remember that part I said I'd come back to? Here we are!) Are those statues cool? YES. Is that sunset amazing? You bet! Is that one sign with your name on it hilarious? I hope so, and by all means, photograph it! But so many people go on trips and faithfully document each and every place, statue, and mountain, but they forget the most important part:

The stories.

The memories.

The time when you walked for what felt like 8 miles to look for an authentic gyro to eat for lunch at 3:30 in the afternoon when you'd been up for over 12 hours.

That is why I took my camera with me on that 8 mile journey. (It was probably more like a quarter of a mile... but I exaggerate when I'm hangry.) To get THIS shot. It perfectly and hilariously describes exactly how we felt at that exact moment - finding the most delicious gyros in Athens.

And that time we wandered the streets of Bergama looking for food and found this delicious sandwich? 


Nailed it.

If you focus on photographing the moments in between you'll capture the essence of your trip - not just what you saw, but how it felt. 

And that's it! Four tips to helping you become more intentional and prepared when it comes to photographing your vacations!

While I hope these four tips are helpful, it doesn't mean that photographing your adventures will magically be less stressful. Even as a professional photographer, trying to photograph trips, vacations, and experiences can be intimidating for me!

But focusing on your why, packing light, and being aware and ready at all times to capture the experiences you encounter will definitely go a long way in helping you be present.

And isn't that the point of a vacation?