5 Indispensable Tips for Great Vacation Photos

3. Establish the Scene

If you’re photography-minded like I am, this may seem like pointing out the obvious. A lot of us naturally gravitate towards the beautiful sunset photos of beautiful landscapes. For those of us who don’t do this, though, (some people instead might focus on the details too much) it’s important to remember to stop and take some “big picture” shots.

In film, these shots are referred to as “establishing shots.” Before a lot of scenes, there is a quick view of the location of the scene to give the viewer a frame of reference. Likewise, in photo-sharing, it’s good to establish the scene before you start focusing on the details.

Your Facebook friends/subscribers may love seeing those 34 Mickey waffle photos you took at the Crystal Palace, but they may also wonder where the heck you ate so many Mickey Mouse waffles! Let them know by starting out with a nice shot of the gorgeous exterior of the Crystal Palace.

It’s important to remember to capture establishing shots of a variety of scenes, not just those breathtaking landscapes. This was a hard one for me to learn, but I’ve made an effort to focus on the less-obvious landscape shots and photographing the “unspectacular” in unique ways to make the photos (sort of) interesting.

Instead of just beautiful shots of the Castle and other icons, I have started taking landscape photos of ice cream stands and other places we visit throughout the day. I’ve found that, in retrospect, these shots are the ones that instantly transport me back to that moment in time from our vacation more than any other landscape photos.

2. Get in the Shot!

This is a really tough one for a lot of photographers. In fact, I think a lot of people become the designated vacation photographer specifically so they won’t have to be in the photos. No matter how shy, self-conscious, etc., you are, GET IN THE PHOTOS! Seriously. It may not interest you, or you may not want photos of yourself right now, but what about in 2, 5, or 10 years?

This is especially true for parents vacationing with small children. Mom or dad may choose to be the designated photographer and not care that they’re in the photos, but what happens once your kids are older, and want to look through those old family albums? “Why did only mom/dad come on this vacation with us? WHERE’S OUR OTHER PARENT?!!?” Rather than induce hysteria into your children in the future because they think you didn’t love them enough to come on the vacation with them, “prove” you were there by getting in at least a few photos.

If you’re worried about handing your expensive camera off to a stranger (don’t be–people are mostly good!), carry an inexpensive point and shoot that you don’t mind handing off, or carry a GorillaPod that you can set up with the self timer. Or, just turn the camera on yourself with an outstretched arm! Trust me, your family will appreciate you being in the shots.

1. Focus on the Moments.

Signature Shot - That Classic Disney Moment When the Princess and Her Prince Look Into Each Others' Eyes and Kiss

It’s good to have a few posed photos (I know we take more than that each trip!), but it’s also really important to capture photos during those candid special moments when people least expect it. I’m not suggesting that you surprise photo bomb old Uncle Orville while he’s picking his nose. Rather, I’m saying that candid photos and photos without everyone properly posed and smiling ear-to-ear are often some of the best shots.

For me, Sarah makes this easy when we’re at Disney because she stares longingly into space and daydreams about being a Disney princess at various times during the day. She gets a lot of shots of me this way, too. Well, except I’m dreaming about being Figment rather than being a princess.

If the people in your party are human beings, it should be fairly easy to capture their emotions at various times on your trips. If you’re having trouble finding the right moments to capture this type of shot, there are things you can do to distract your family from looking at the camera.

These are the shots you’ll cherish for years, more-so than any “say cheese” posed shot.

One thing that will help you better achieve all of these goals is to do a little advance planning. I’m not suggesting you plan your trip down to every step you’ll take while in the parks, but if you have a general idea of what you’re doing, where you’re dining, etc., you can then do some advance research for photography. Go on Flickr or Google Image Search and see what others have captured in the restaurants, attractions, etc., that you’ll be experiencing.

Hopefully these tips will help you take better vacation photos–let us know if you have any other tips in the comments! I look forward to seeing your best vacation shots on the various social media websites!

Want to learn more about photography to take great photos in the Disney theme parks and beyond? The best place to start is Tom’s Ultimate Disney Parks Photography Guide, which covers a variety of topics from links to tutorials, tips, and tricks to recommendations for point & shoots, DSLRs, lenses, and more!

If you do want to purchase new photography equipment, we recommend the following trusted & authorized retailers. Buying from these retailers helps support this blog, and doesn’t cost you a thing:
B&H Photo

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, we’d really appreciate it if you’d share it via social media. We put a lot of work into making this site a helpful planning resource, and hope it’s useful to you! 🙂

Your Thoughts…

What are your tips for better photos at Disney? Any recommendations or ideas of your own that you’d like to share? We love hearing from readers, so if you have any other comments or questions, please feel free to post those, too.

54 Responses to “5 Indispensable Tips for Great Vacation Photos”
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