Here are our top tips for taking great vacation photos, including photography equipment recommendations and a guide to focusing on key types of travel photos. This post serves as a crash course in taking better vacation photos.
I have a wider range of camera recommendations and also tips for taking photos in the parks (from dark ride photography to fireworks and more) in my Ultimate Guide to Disney Parks Photography. I highly recommend reading that if you want to get more serious about Disney photography. Think of this post as “Vacation Photography 101” and that post as “Disney Photography 102.”
This post is for everyone; that one is for anyone who wants to take their photography to the next level. The tips we have here should both improve your photography while on vacation, and help you focus on a variety of different subjects to increase the variety of your vacation photos.
Whether you’re a professional photographer with thousands of dollars of equipment or a hobbyist iPhoneographer, these vacation photo tips will help you improve your photography at Walt Disney World and Beyond. (Note that this post was last updated with the last photography tips & info in October 2015.)
Let’s dig into the tips!
5. Bring the Right Gear.
Before you can even capture the photos, you need to have the gear in hand to enable you to take the shots. This tip applies to casual vacationers as much as it does pros packing multiple bags full of gear. Vacations present unique circumstances from your average day of taking photos in the park, and thus require different planning.
If you’re serious about photography, you might spend years purchasing the perfect lens that will work best for your style of shooting. I have spent years refining my camera bag for a photography style that best captures the magic of Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Take a look at what, exactly, is in my camera bag. Be warned, as I am not one to shoot “light,” so looking at that page might result in a heavy (but awesome) bag full of gear!
There are other things that can be easy to overlook. It’s essential to carry spare camera batteries, so you don’t miss those special moments. Even if you can go weeks without charging your camera at home, you might find yourself using it a lot more than normal on vacation. This applies even if you’re just using your camera phone to take vacation photos.
A lot of popular vacation destinations (Disney especially!) can be a drain on batteries. you don’t want to find yourself with a dead phone before the fireworks. An external phone battery pack is pretty cheap, and good “insurance”!
Similarly, extra memory cards are really important. Some people recommend only carrying one really large card and keeping it in your camera at all times so you don’t lose it, but what if the card becomes corrupted? Worse yet, what if you lose the camera?! Not only have you lost an expensive piece of electronics, but you’ve lost all of those captured-memories.
I recommend carrying a few, high quality 32GB memory cards. Quality memory cards are so cheap nowadays that it really isn’t worth it to go for low quality ones. Believe me, you will regret the decision to save a few bucks when one of those cheap cards fails and you lose all of your photos. Along those same lines, I recommend transferring your photos to your computer after each day of your trip for extra safety.
The next question is a tough one for some people to answer: do you bring a big DSLR to capture the best photos possible, or do you travel light with a small point and shoot? I really can’t answer that question for you. You have to weigh what’s more important to you: traveling light or having the best possible photos. For me, the answer is easy, but it differs for everyone–I always take my best camera gear. If you do opt to go light, this is even more important; I highly recommend taking the best point & shoot camera you can.
Right now, I think the creme de la creme is the Sony RX100 (read our review here). Those of your with iPhone 6s (or comparable modern phones) might just use that if you don’t want a high-end point & shoot or DSLR. Camera phone technology has progressed remarkably in the last few years.
If you do choose a DSLR, which lenses do you take? Again, this comes down to traveling light versus having the best possible photos. And again, I take so much gear that I may resemble a sherpa or pack-mule on vacation. It doesn’t bother me. If you want to go light, I recommend an all-in-one vacation lens like the Tamron 18-270mm VC.
If you want to take photos once the sun goes down, a travel tripod or some type of camera-stabilizing device like a Gorillapod is pretty important.
4. Capture the Details
This is important, and something I think some people overlook. It’s also a great way to get shots that the average tourist wouldn’t take. For example, at Disney, most people get basic landscape shots of Cinderella Castle, Sleeping Beauty Castle, or Spaceship Earth.
By contrast, how many people get shots of the Sword in the Stone behind the Castle, light fixtures in the World Showcase, or directional signs? These type of shots can really set your photos apart from the average tourist’s, and give you unique (free!) souvenirs to take home.
Disney is rife with these kind of details thanks to the hard work of the Imagineers, but you can really find details just like this at any vacation destination in the world. Remember, the devil is in the details! (In a good way!)
My biggest tip for this type is to take these photos at “un-important” times. I’m a firm believer in experiencing your vacation in person rather than through a viewfinder, but I also like to take a lot of photos. This makes for a tough balance.
So, I take a lot of photos while we’re waiting in lines or while other members of my party are using the restroom or otherwise busy. The less intrusive photography is on the rest of your trip, the better.
WE’LL COVER MORE VACATION PHOTO TIPS ON PAGE 2…
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