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Take Better Vacation Photos

Travel photography seems to be one of those things that doesn’t come naturally to most people. However with a little practice, you could be ready for the cover of National Geographic in no time. Okay maybe not, but at the very least you will make your travel photos more interesting to your friends and family. Here are a few simple things to remember.

How To Take Better Vacation Photos

Compose your shots using the the rule of thirds. I remember this from elementary school art class. It may seem like a silly thing, but this easy to remember rule can be the difference between a beautiful shot, and something you throw away. If you don’t remember, here’s how it works. When photographing something, mentally break up your “canvas” into nine equal parts with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Align your subject along these lines, and center your key image on the intersections points. For example, if you were photographing a desert with a single large cactus, you would want to place the horizon on one of the vertical lines, and line up the cactus with one of the horizontal lines, instead of centering the cactus. Here’s an example:

Vacation Photos Rule of Thirds

As you can see, the photo looks like it’s lined up on the lines. The cactus is off center, and the horizon is on the bottom line.

When photographing people, the rule is essentially the same. You want to try to keep the eye line on the top vertical line, and use the same focal points. One good thing about this is that most digital cameras have this as an option on their display, so you can actually use the lines as reference points.

Using the Digital and Optical Zoom

Know the difference between optical and digital zoom. Your average point and shoot camera will say something like “4x optical- 20x digital zoom” on the lens.  Optical means the lens is wide enough to create the zoom. Digital means the computer in the camera is expanding the image digitally. In most cases, you should avoid using digital zoom, because you would actually be better off zooming in a photo editor. Also, when you are zoomed in digitally, it’s nearly impossible to hold the camera still enough to get a good shot. Advanced cameras do not usually have this feature if that tells you anything.

Use a Photo Editing Program

Learn to use a simple photo editor. You don’t need an expensive program to make your photos more professional. There are many free photo editing programs that work great! All you really need to know are two basic functions: crop and rotate- you will find your photos are all of a sudden much more interesting.

Experiment with your camera. Before you leave, take the time to learn the basic functions of your digital camera. You may not want to use the auto function for every setting. Sometimes just knowing how to turn off the flash is the difference between a good photo, and a great photo. Here’s a hint: if you have a 12 megapixel camera, set it to take the photos at 6 megapixels. For most point and shoot cameras, it will not effect your final photo, and unless you’re planning on blowing up a photo for print, you won’t ever need a photo that large. You will also save a lot of space on your cameras memory card. If you’re just uploading your photos to the internet, many sites automatically compress your pictures anyway!

Bring extra memory. You can never have too much memory! Cards are pretty affordable, and it’s always better to have too much than not enough. Once you fill up a memory card, keep it with your luggage so you don’t lose it. If you can, upload your photos to the internet in an uncompressed format so you can edit them later. Since there are internet cafes all over Europe, this is usually easy to do.

Organize. Take your time and go through your photos before showing them to your friends and family. While it’s great to take a dozen photos of the same image for the sake of quality, you only really need to show off your best one. Sort your photos by the time they were taken to show them in a chronological order. Learn to take pride in your travel photos and you will find yourself getting more positive feedback!

Do you have a great photo from your travels around the world? Want to see it featured on our blog? Submit your travel photo and a clue for our weekly Travel Trivia and your photo could be featured on our blog and facebook fan page! Submit your photo to to be our next featured photographer!

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5 Responses to Take Better Vacation Photos

  1. Great article! We will share it with our facebook friends. Love YOU, Auto Europe!

  2. David says:

    Yep travel photography is an art in its own right. After all you are in new surroundings often with a different camera (more travel-friendly).
    Some great tips there!

  3. Pingback: Auto Europe » Blog Archive » How to Make Better Vacation Videos

  4. Melinda says:

    Nice tips for us amateurs who want to take better pictures

  5. Jane says:

    Thanks, this was a very helpful blog!

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