What to Photograph on Your Vacation

Vacation time is drawing rapidly nearer. You’re surely looking forward to many new experiences and moments that you’ll want to preserve. But if you don’t want to come back home with a huge pile of photos and then throw away three quarters of them, get inspired by our tips on what to photograph and how.

Every photographer with even a little experience knows that it’s not too smart to constantly snap everything you see. However, traveling in a foreign country tempts you to do just that. You get the feeling that you’re somewhere special and that you’ll miss something if you skip anything. But then you’ll probably end up throwing away hundreds of boring, ordinary, and blurry photos.

Photograph Responsibly

Before each press of the trigger, carefully think through your composition. The foundation is to never forget the golden crop and the rule of thirds.

Unless converging lines in the photo beg for it, avoid center composition. And remember that you can add life to ordinary photos with unusual angles. Don’t be afraid to sit, lie, or lean with your camera. But never take your pictures while you’re moving.

For this photo, I deliberately put the man in the center, towards the left third. Note the converging lines of the semicircular colonnade. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/100 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

For this photo, I deliberately put the man in the center, towards the left third. Note the converging lines of the semicircular colonnade. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/100 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

You should also think hard about when you’ll be taking your pictures. Around noon the sun casts hard shadows, and its rays are too strong. Skip it and shoot in late morning or early evening instead. During the day, if you run into objects that you want to immortalize and you can’t come back to them later, then of course there’s nothing to be done. Just don’t forget to adapt your camera settings to the light.

But if you do have a chance to come back to the spot, try to do so. Nearly every beach photo looks best in the morning or evening.

Cold, damp, fog, calm. That’s the nature of the north. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/160 s, f/6.3, ISO 100

Cold, damp, fog, calm. That’s the nature of the north. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/160 s, f/6.3, ISO 100

You also need to get to know the site well. So be aware. Perceive with all your senses. Listen well, always keep a look out, and absorb the atmosphere. Once it gets under your skin, you’ll know what’s worth photographing and what not to give your attention to.

What to Photograph

If you’re still not sure what, when, and where to take your pictures, then take inspiration in this list of photographic subjects. Ideally before you head out on the road:

People

The best photos are the ones that are natural and depict moving objects. Something interesting and lively shines from them. Try to capture the emotions that reigned during your travels.

A calm evening by the lake with my friends. Notice how natural their expressions are. They had no idea I was taking the picture. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/1600 s, f/2.2, ISO 100

A calm evening by the lake with my friends. Notice how natural their expressions are. They had no idea I was taking the picture. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/1600 s, f/2.2, ISO 100

Don’t forget the locals, either. They often reveal more in their faces than your fellow-travelers will. They make photos more authentic.

A local resident in the tropical heat. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/500 s, f/5.6, ISO 100

A local resident in the tropical heat. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/500 s, f/5.6, ISO 100

Close and Semi-close

You’re sitting in a café eating cake, when suddenly you notice a minor detail on your table. A interesting little vase. Even an ordinary object like this can lead to a good photo.

The objects in your pictures don’t always have to completely fit in the frame. Not at all. Pictures that force one to think are often among the most interesting.

An unusual vase. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/160 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

An unusual vase. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/160 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

Closeups and semi-closeups are also relevant when photographing your fellow travelers. Try photographing them in an interesting nature spot from an unusual angle. Then your photo will feel like something from a dream, or from a magazine.

These flowers suit this woman well. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/100 s, f/5, ISO 100

These flowers suit this woman well. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/100 s, f/5, ISO 100

Don’t Forget Architecture

One key part of your travel photos is architecture. Houses, churches, streets, and cottages. Most people are interested in what was different about your vacation compared to what they’re used to at home. So photograph unusual buildings or views.

German churches often have unusual architecture. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G,1/50 s, f/1.8, ISO 400

German churches often have unusual architecture. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G,1/50 s, f/1.8, ISO 400

Play with lights and shadows and don’t be afraid to convert your pictures to black and white. In some situations, it can make a picture more mysterious. Even when you’re photographing something quite ordinary. Like a bike leaning against an outdoor wall.

A bike. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/200 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

A bike. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/200 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

You can also bring back interesting photos from the local galleries. Their exhibition spaces are often unique.

Overexposing this picture and including the young boy has given it a very “pure” feeling. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/200 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

Overexposing this picture and including the young boy has given it a very “pure” feeling. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/200 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

Photograph Your Food

I consider food photography a good way to document local customs and culture. Here too it can pay to shoot semi-closeups. And you don’t need to depict the whole plate of pizza. Slice off just a bit instead. Everyone can fill in the rest in their heads.

Photos of local foods can serve as a reminder of which ones you really enjoyed. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/80 s, f/8, ISO 100

Photos of local foods can serve as a reminder of which ones you really enjoyed. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/80 s, f/8, ISO 100

Likewise even an ordinary mug of coffee from a gas stop can be valuable as a reminder of what happened when. Don’t forget that your photos will mainly serve to document your trip, so they should tell the viewer a whole story.

There’s often a story hidden behind seemingly ordinary pictures. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/1600 s, f/2, ISO 100

There’s often a story hidden behind seemingly ordinary pictures. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/1600 s, f/2, ISO 100

Nature

The last important photography tip for vacations is nature. You can use photographs as a reminder of trips to places that are unlike what you can find back home.

The forests of Sweden are myrtle green and covered in a layer of moss that you won’t find just anywhere. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/200 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

The forests of Sweden are myrtle green and covered in a layer of moss that you won’t find just anywhere. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/200 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

You can also photograph nature from close up. When you’re doing that, focus on details that remind you of your experiences.

This photo of grass reminds me of how windy it was on our vacation. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/1250 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

This photo of grass reminds me of how windy it was on our vacation. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/1250 s, f/1.8, ISO 100

Nature photography is one of the most demanding genres. Often you’ll see something that feels unusual and bombastic, but after taking your picture, you find out it’s uninteresting.

So put some effort into your post-editing as well. It can often spice up an otherwise boring picture, for example by giving it a mysterious atmosphere.

A calm seashore. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/160 s, f/6.3, ISO 100

A calm seashore. Nikon D3300, AF-S NIKKOR 35 mm 1:1.8 G, 1/160 s, f/6.3, ISO 100

Are you already looking forward to your trip and to lots of new photos? When you go to pack your camera, remember: people, semi-closeups, architecture, food, and nature. All of this should be there in the photos from your trip.

If you have any further tips on what should appear in your vacation photos, please share your ideas and experiences with us!

Last updated 11. July 2017

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Author: Lenora J.

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