10 tips for Better Photos on Vacation! part 4


Tip 8: Light. This is so big. So so big. I've spent the last 15 years as a professional photographer and what I can tell you that you may not know is light is the number one thing most photographers are paying attention to and/or manipulating. Photography is documentation of the way intangible light effects tangible objects. This is why sometimes the images you take look different than they do in real life. And when non-pros start really paying attention to light their photographs see a huge shift. Yes other things are important too (composition) but stay with me in thinking about light right now. When taking a portrait, really pay attention to where the light is coming from. Direct light on the face rarely looks good, it usually creates harsh shadows. And no one can open their eyes in direct sunlight. I almost always go for back light or side light. In the portrait at the top of the post, I had these girls positioned so that the light source is behind but just enough on the side to get highlights on the left of their faces, so that it wasn't completely flat light.


This photo was taken at a train station in India. When I see that light is doing something cool, my job is to make a photo from it. So this is where we all get to have some fun. Play around and see what you can come up with!

Time of day also changes things a great deal. Generally speaking, morning light is often cooler in tones- more blue; evenings are usually warmer- more yellow or pink; and mid day is bright and colors are more true. Every situation is different of course. If you want a super blue ocean or sky- mid day might work out best. I generally prefer afternoon to early evening. I like warm side light.




These 3 photos shot in Santorini show the 3 different times of day affecting basically the same shot.

And this is how light can be fun and make a scene special. This scene shot at mid day would be a lot less interesting!


Tip 9: Look for big scenes. Big water. Big sky. Big skylines. Some of these could be great as home art (which I'll focus on next week! Whoot! I got you!) Like I mentioned during Part One of this series- instead of relying on West Elm and the like to get generic art- make your own! You can totally do this and I will show you how next week. For now, let's focus on taking the picture.


Look for scenes that are expansive and possibly repetitive. A grove of palm trees? Awesome. A big beautiful ocean? Perfect!


Take the time to get your lines straight. Play around with different times of day. Get it perfect and then do something with it.

Tip 10: Camera. Lens. Gear. I saved this post for last as I don't think it should be the most important thing. You can use these tips with any and every camera out there. As you know from my very first post- we can all get great photos from our phones. And those cameras keep getting better and better! However, none of these photos were taken with a phone. They were taken with a DSLR, which to simplify things is a camera with detachable lenses. I never have the latest and greatest gear. I truly do not think it is necessary to keep up with everything the moment it comes out, and it can make you focus on the gear instead of the art! Yikes! That said, I do update every few years. But getting a used body and lens off ebay is a totally great way to go if you don't want to spend a fortune. All of these images were shot with a Canon 5D Mark II.

Good lenses really make a difference. They are what help you have one thing in focus while everything else goes soft. As opposed to every last thing being in focus which is what you get from point-and-shoot cameras.


This photo is a nice example of that. See how my super cute boyfriend is in focus, and the background elements are soft? Could've never got that with a point-and-shooter. The lens I used here is the Canon 70-200. It is a heavy beast. I use it for work a lot, and less when traveling. Only when I'm getting really specific about the look I want.

Another feature of a decent DSLR is exposure. You can deal with tricky light situations like the one below. Through settings and a little help on a computer with the RAW file, I can keep detail in the bright area and still see the dark area.


This was shot with the Canon 24-105, which I LOVE love love for travel. I can totally have my 5D with that lens on in my hands walking around all day- ready for anything. The range is great! 24 is pretty wide, and 105 is not too shabby of a zoom.

Do people want more info than that? If you are interested in the more specifics of gear- leave a comment below. Maybe we could do a future post on the subject.

I hope all of this info was super helpful and inspiring! And that you are busy planning your next trip and day dreaming about the rad photos you will be taking on it! Next up- I will be spending the month of December sharing ideas and links on what to DO with these amazing photos you've taken... See you next week!