Thursday, January 20, 2011

5 Tips for Taking Great Vacation Photos

Remember the old days when friends would force you to sit in darkened living rooms, watching narrated slide shows of their jungle treks and European tours? The modern equivalent, the Facebook photo album, is much easier to ignore. Chances are people will only give your vacation photos a cursory glance... if that.

But who really wants to look at their friends' pictures? Shot after shot of slightly blurry, smiling group photos in front of famous landmarks. *Yawn* With the ubiquity of digital cameras and gigantic memory cards, people subscribe to the idea that 'more is more' when it comes to holiday snaps.

If you want to make your pictures stand out, though, here are five tips for taking great vacation photos:

1. Know your camera. It seems elementary, but then how many of us spend hundreds of dollars on a nice camera, then never go beyond the automatic setting? Learning how to adjust the shutter speed and aperture can help you immensely when trying to capture active children, or candle-lit restaurants. Be familiar with your timer as well, to avoid irritation when you're trying to get into the group shot.

2. Tell a story with pictures. Years from now, your photos will be the story of your vacation. Don't just whip out your camera at the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, take a picture of that beautiful salad you had for lunch, or your significant other dragging their suitcases through the streets of Paris. The 'in between' moments are often what you remember most about your holiday, so be sure to document them, rather than forcing every shot to be posed.

3. Find a different perspective. Don't limit yourself to straight-on 'postcard shots'. Get acrobatic: down on your knees, on your toes, stretching around a corner. Things look different and unique from varied vantage points (ex. Indiana Jones up there!), and your pictures will cease to all look alike.

4. Be a part of it! This can be especially hard when you travel alone, but make sure you're in the pictures as well. There's nothing worse than a photo album from a wonderful trip with no record of you on it. Tripods, timers, trusting someone with your camera, or even the famous 'self group portait'... what ever it takes!

5. Edit your photos. Even when taking pictures in a hurry, you can still improve them after you get home. Don't just dump them onto Facebook or print them out immediately, but take the time to make them look their best. Remove red eye, crop out that unnoticed camera strap, re-frame the picture for better proportions. Professional photographers spend weeks on this, surely you can spare a couple of hours?

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