How to Take Better Vacation Photos
Are you the family Photographer?
In our family, I have always been the photographer. A typical working family, we had two weeks vacation in the summer and as land locked West Virginians, we usually went to a body of water, either a big lake or the ocean. Now that we're both retired from 9-5 jobs, we have more time and opportunity to travel. And when our children invite us along on their vacations, it is glorious!

Our photo albums are full of photos that remind us of special times and experiences. These photos were taken in 2011 at Anna Maria Island in Florida. I truly enjoy the ocean (rather the dry beach part of an ocean) as long as I have books, a beach chair, and an umbrella. Having grandchildren along to watch and photograph makes me even happier. I've learned a few things along the way, so if you want to be able to take better photos on your next beach trip, here are some tips.

Getting good photos in the middle of the day when the sun is bright and directly overhead is problematic: dark shadows under the eyes (raccoon eyes) and harsh contrast (really dark darks and blown out whites.) But what can we do, since that's usually when we want to be on the beach or in the water? What can we do to eliminate that problem?

We use the sand or water as as a giant reflector, bouncing light back into their faces. Our photos will be much more natural, more pleasing to the eye: no raccoon eyes, no harsh contrast. Magic!

Horizon Line
In art school, we're taught that the horizon line should never fall in the center of the painting or photo UNLESS there is a compelling reason to place it smack dab in the center. 

When composing your shot, pay attention to where the sky meets the earth (or ocean) and place it in the lower or upper third of the frame. Notice how much more interesting your photo is.

But don't get hung up on the rules and miss an important shot. Remember that you're there to enjoy yourself and your family, and your photos will be priceless as long as they evoke good memories. Some of my favorite vacation photos are not technically correct. Look at the next one; I didn't get the horizon line level. But I love the photo.

If you're photographing children, try squatting down to compose the photograph. Get down on their level. It will make your photo much more engaging.

Of if you want to capture the ambiance and environment, move way back and get a bird's eye view. I personally prefer up close and personal, people centered photos, but will try to get a few taking it all in shots too. 

Observe the Rule of Thirds
A well-know design principle is The Rule of Thirds. Many cameras (including those on cell phones) have a setting where you can turn it on. In a nutshell, you place the point of interest along one of the lines or where two lines intersect. Notice in the next photo I placed the point of interest, my husband and grandson, along a vertical line and on the point right in the center of where two lines intersect. For whatever reason (and there is much research out there that tells why) the human eye is drawn to these areas. 

Another thing to notice in this photo is that I broke the no horizon lines in the center of a picture. There are other things going on that make this a technically correct photo, but we'll save them for another day.

Wrap Up
As you go about your day, pay attention to photos and pictures you see and like:
  • Where is the horizon line?
  • Where is the point of interest?
  • From which direction does the light appear to be coming?
  • From what position was the image captured? Looking straight on? Looking down? Looking up?
If you like this post, you'll probably like This one too.


Leave a Comment