The world of digital cameras and high quality cell phone cameras have made it easier than ever to bring home that perfect shot to remember your trip. Want some tips to make your vacation scrapbooks full of personal memories? Want to keep people interested through your vacation slideshow? Here are our favorite photography tips to help you snap like a pro!
Search out unexpected angles and views Often times, when you visit a popular landmark or attraction, you see a line of tourists armed with cameras queuing up for the same standard, wide-frame shot that you see reproduced in dozens of postcards at the gift shop. The photo may capture the overall scene, but it will be boring because it lacks emotion. Go ahead, take that token photo, its a great way to introduce your subject. But dont forget to look for unexpected photo opportunities that capture a more personal experience. Let people know you actually EXPERIENCED the place, you didnt just pass through. On a recent trip to Washington DC around Christmas time I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is a moving tribute to our countrys veterans, but the scope of the monument makes it difficult to capture in a single shot. They had laid Christmas wreaths every few feet along the wall. By crouching down and making the wreath a focal point, the shot was far more intimate.
Catch people being natural Planned and posed photos are fine, but to really capture the moment be sure to add in some unscripted photos. Photograph your friends & family laughing around the dinner table, window shopping for souvenirs or taking a nap on the beach. Cherished photographs often are the ones that went unplanned. Avoid the urge to constantly ask your loved ones to pose for photos, especially when doing so will interrupt their fun. This photo was taken of my daughter meeting Tigger on her first trip to Disney. You can feel her excitement! Did I make her pose for a photo with them both smiling at the camera afterwards? Of course, but this is the one that helps me relive the moment. This same rule should be applied to people you may meet while traveling. Try to capture the baker kneading fresh dough, the farmer working his field or tending his flock, the lobster boat hauling in a fresh catch. These pictures all will be more interesting, and truly capture the moment by allowing people to act naturally instead of posing for the camera.
Frame landscape scenes carefully How do you capture something as large as a majestic mountain or as wide as a tranquil ocean? One way to give these large scale shots depth & dimension is to be sure to capture something in the foreground. While shooting that beach scene try to find a colorful umbrella, graceful palm tree or weathered lifeguard stand to add to the frame. For that mountain shot, try shooting from behind some branches, or including some people in the shot. For this shot of Montmorency Falls in Quebec I captured the decorative railing that lines the walk to the falls in the foreground, as well as some of the surrounding landscaping to frame the falls.
Use the rule of thirds This is a simple trick that professional photographers use that can transform an uninteresting shot into something more dynamic. When framing a shot, imagine two horizontal lines bisected by two vertical lines within your frame. Position the subject of your shot along those imaginary lines. Sound confusing? Heres an example. This is a photo I took last summer of Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham. I framed the shot so that the lighthouse would be in the left 1/3 of the shot, rather than right in the middle like a traditional shot. I also framed it so that the trees & grass would take up the bottom 1/3 of the photo. It instantly becomes more artsy and makes for a more interesting photo. Compare it to the same photo cropped to make the lighthouse in the center.
Dont pass on a photo opportunity just because its not a traditional shot One of the keys to memorable photographs is to photograph what you love. It sounds simple, but it is often forgotten. On many tours you will see fabulous architecture & sweeping vistas. Certainly, take photos of those, but also snap shots of things that make you smile. If it makes you happy while on your trip, it will make for a photo that makes you happy while flipping through a scrapbook. Did you love the artful dessert at that quaint café? Find a beautiful outfit while window shopping? Intricate city graffiti? That adorable cat lounging in the sun .all of these photos are a great opportunity for you to remember the small moments that made your trip special. This photo was from a candy shop in Universal Studios in Florida. All the beautiful colored candy and sparkling containers made me smile while visiting and makes for a whimsical shot for my scrapbook.
Hand over the camera and get in a few shots yourself! Many people who love to take photos dont love being in photos. But its nice to have a few shots, candid or posed of you enjoying your vacation. Enlist a traveling companion, store clerk, or even friendly passer-by. Most people are glad to help out. There are plenty of times I get back from vacation and do not have a single shot that I am in, almost like I was never there. I am definitely one who does not like having my picture taken, but I do love this picture of my son and I on a camping trip. It makes for a nice memory for both of us. So it is worthwhile to get on the other side of the camera once in awhile.
Become familiar with photo editing
Photo editing software has become very user friendly, even for novice computer users. I personally love Google Picasa. First of all its free to download and who doesnt love that? You simply upload your pictures and within minutes you will be surprised to see your photos transformed. With digital cameras you can snap as many pictures as your memory card can hold, and now it is your chance to narrow them down to the shots worth keeping. You can also play with the color, contrast, brightness and crop your photos until they are just right. Dont know where to start? Most editing software has a one touch correct button if you dont want to fiddle with the controls yourself. Click that and instantly the software will decide the best way to enhance your photo. Dont worry you can always revert to your original if you dont like what they have done. Feeling confident with your editing skills? You could move up to some more detailed (and pricey) editing software where you can make yourself look younger, thinner, clear up your skin or give yourself more hair! Too bad you cant do that in real life! Below is a picture I edited in Google Picasa. The day I took this picture in Washington DC my kids had grown tired of looking at monuments and were whining to go back to the hotel. I saw a beautiful photo opportunity and snapped a quick picture. The resulting shot was nothing fabulous, the monument was too far away (and looked crooked!), was too centered in the shot and the color was washed out. It took me about 30 seconds to straighten the Washington Monument, crop it to follow the rule of thirds and auto enhance the color. Now it is worthy of a frame!
In addition to editing individual photos Picasa also lets you easily create photo collages with several easy templates. You can then print your collage for framing or for your scrapbook, or you can easily upload the collage to your Facebook or other social media page, or to your email account. I quickly made this collage using pictures from our recent One FAN-tastic Day tour where we visited Fenway Park & Gillette Stadium.