We photograph other people’s memories for a living, but when it comes to shooting our own personal memories and travels, it’s a whole different ballgame! We’re in a season of life right now that’s got on us on the road as much (if not more) than it’s got us at home. It’s exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. We’re so thankful that God’s blessed us with the chance to see the country and the world together. It’s caused us to seize every minute and squeeze as many memories as we can out of each place we go. To be intentional about looking up long enough to see things with our eyes and also documenting them with our cameras (and not just our iPhones), so that we can look back years from now and remember what a fun ride we had.
Last week, we shared our 5 Gear Essentials for Traveling Photographers, and today we’re talking sharing our 5 Tips for Photographing Your Vacation. We hope that what we’ve learned through our travels can help you make the most out of your memories, too!
1. Embrace challenging light
As professional photographers, it’s really hard for us to turn our “professional” brains off, even when we’re on vacation!We’ve conditioned our minds to constantly search for the best, softest, prettiest light, when the sun is behind our subjects lightly rim-lighting their hair or in full open shade with nice even light on their faces, which is a really good thing… except when we’re sight-seeing! The reality of traveling is that we’re not going to get to see and shoot photos of us at The Colosseum, The Vatican and The Leaning Tower of Pisa during the golden hour. In fact, we’re going to see those things at noon when the sun is harsh and high in the sky and there isn’t an ounce of shade to be found! But we had to keep reminding ourselves, these are our personal memories, and we’d much rather have a photo with some harsh light of us in a really cool spot we may never get the chance to visit again than with no photo at all. So embrace the tough light and shoot away!
When it comes to shooting large monuments during the majority of the day, we actually recommend finding the side of the monument with the most direct sunlight on it. If it can’t be soft, at least it can be even! We keep our sunglasses on, which covers the ugly harsh shadows around our eyes, and then shoot for our memories. The same light is hitting us and hitting the monument, so it’s as even as it can get, and it helps create those vibrant blue skies. Mostly importantly though, even if it’s not a work of art, it’s your memory, and because of that, it’s precious!
2. Shoot at higher apertures
The wedding photographers in us are always drawn to wide apertures because we love creamy, dreamy look of those kinds of images, but when we’re traveling, our goal changes! If we’re seeing The Parthenon for the first time, and shoot a photo of us standing in front of it at 1.2, the whole structure is going to look like an unrecognizable blur. We WANT definitive detail in images with big, famous structures behind us. We want Big Ben to look like Big Ben! Don’t be afraid to shoot your vacation photos at much higher apertures (we shot a lot of those types of shots at f 8.0) and show off the masterpieces behind you!
3. Be patient with the crowds
We’ve traveled to a lot of huge cities, where people are everywhere. Locals commuting to and from work, tourists stopping to take photos of anything that looks historic, street vendors trying to make a quick buck… it can be overwhelming. When we’re in a situation like this and trying to grab a few quick photos, we stay in the viewfinder longer than normal. Most crowds are passing through, and there is normally a brief moment or two when everyone walks out of your frame. If you can be patient, you can get some pretty awesome images without any distracting “extras” in the background. In other spots, this might just never be possible. And that’s okay too! Take the photos anyway!
4. Include yourself & shoot for pairs
When you’re sight-seeing, it’s tempting to focus all of your frames on the location itself. A lot of historical sights have massive height to them, and it can result in you looking like an ant when you step into a photograph. We want to encourage you to make sure you take photos of you in front of all the cool things you’re seeing! You can easily pull a gorgeous stock photo of the Eiffel Tower off of a Google search, but in ten years, it’s not going to be nearly as important to you to have a photo of the tower as it is to have a photo of you at the tower. That’s the memory. In your quest to photograph all the cool things you’re seeing, don’t forget to get in the photos! Remember that you can always take a tight, close-up shot where you are the focus and the monument is just in the background, then take another shot of the monument alone, and pair them together in your travel albums, blogs, picture frames etc. It will tell a more complete story, and be something cool to pass down to your kids and grandkids.
5. Search for trustworthy faces
And on that note, when you’re traveling with someone else, it’s just as important to get a few of you pictures of you together as well! Most of our trip, we’d use a good ol’ fashioned iPhone selfie, but every once in a while, it always paid off to look for another trustworthy face (or another vacationing couple who could also use a photo together!) and ask for a quick photo swap. When we were traveling abroad, we looked for someone who spoke English, someone who was carrying a DSLR of their own, and someone who our gut told us was a good person. There’s no scientific way to predict whether they’re going to run off with our phone or camera, but we trusted it our gut and it never led us astray. Most of the time, we’d hand them our phone because it’s less intimidating, but every once in a while, we’d switch our DSLR from manual to fully automatic, and let them give it a try. Most of the time, the composition is wacky and the light isn’t ideal, but we still love those photos.
So that’s it! We hope this can be an encouragement to take the pressure off yourself to produce perfect photographs and just focus on capturing memories for you and your family! We’ve gotten a lot of questions about traveling that have nothing to do with photography, like how to pack or how to spend your time most efficiently, so over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing other tips that we hope can make your future travels easier and more fun! Stay tuned!