Headed off to a vacation?  Besides taking a much needed rest from daily life, travels and vacations present a ton of new opportunities and environments to stretch and flex your creative muscles.  No matter where you are headed or what you want to get in to, you will want to remember everything that happened and return with some amazing images. In this article, we’ll give you our top tips for capturing incredible vacation photos.

  1. Find the right balance
  2. Travel light
  3. Backup your photos!
  4. Research the best photo locations and times
  5. Carve out time for photos during sunrise and sunset
  6. Study the culture of your destination in advance
  7. Practice landscape and street photography
  8. Tell a complete story
  9. Edit your photos

1. Find the Right Balance

While you might want to take as many photos as possible, remember that you are there to experience a vacation. Make sure that you put the camera down every now and then so that you can enjoy the sights and experience the culture.

There are so many things that you might want to check out and throw yourself into, and obsessing over your camera can get in the way of a meaningful experience. For example, if you intend to go to a cooking class, take a scenic hike, or go on a city tour, make the experience the priority and the photography a secondary addition.

Travel Photo of Market in Budapest

2. Travel Light

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Example of a light camera | Sony a7c (See the Review Here)

Keep your gear simple and lightweight. The more you bring, the more you risk. Also, the more cumbersome your gear is to carry around, the less likely you are to bring it with you. Lastly, the more “expensive” your camera setup looks, the more unwanted eyeballs you will attract from thieves.

These days, most of your travel photography, especially in the day time with plenty of light, can be accomplished with an advanced phone such as the new iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones. If you’re a serious hobbyist and want to expand your options and gear capabilities, consider a mirrorless camera with a single, versatile lens in the 24mm to 70mm range. If you do pack camera gear, keep it with your carry-on luggage, if possible.

3. Backup Your Photos

Make sure to upload your photos to the cloud as you go. You don’t want to get halfway through your week only for there to be an issue with your device, with all of your photos taken thus far becoming lost to the ether. Upload to somewhere like Google Photos to make sure that your holiday snaps are kept as safe as possible, and make it a lot easier to sort through them once the trip is over – from editing those sunsets to creating Google photo books that prevent the snaps from getting lost within your camera reel.

You should also consider investing in an external backup device.  If you’re taking your laptop, you can use that to back up your photos.  Or you can purchase something like the Gnarbox for easy, portable backups.  See our full Gnarbox review for more info.

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Consider using a Gnarbox for backups

When a dream holiday is in the cards, you need to make sure that you put some energy into capturing the vacation as best as you can. Drink in every little detail and experience that you are able to and enjoy your holiday to the fullest. This may be the best holiday that you’ve ever been on, so make sure you record everything that happens.

4. Research the Best Photo Locations and Times

incredible vacation photos composition in desert

Chances are the spots you’re going to visit have already been documented and shared online. Take advantage of the groundwork laid by those who’ve come before you and use their locations as a foundation for your own “photo tour.”

This is not to suggest that you mimic the photos that others have taken in each location. Instead, find the hot spots and then look for creative new ways to capture them when you arrive. Consider various composition tools like the rule of thirds, leading lines, negative space, and framing to help you visualize unique shots.

It’s also important to remember that certain times of day will work better than others, depending on the crowds you might have to navigate, not to mention the lighting. This brings us to our next point.

5. Carve out Time for Photos during Sunrise and Sunset

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Sunrise and sunset typically offer the best natural light and most vivid colors you can find on location. During golden hour, for example, that highly sought after hour or so after sunrise or before sunset, the low angle of the sun provides the most flattering natural light of the day for portraits. Stick around a while after sunset and capture a silhouette or two during the colorful twilight before the daylight fades to night. Your windows of opportunity are limited, so be sure to use an app like Sun Surveyor to find out when the sun will rise and set.

Here’s a photo one of our writers took from his hotel at sunset

6. Study the Culture of Your Destination in Advance

For most trips out of the country, whether you’re planning to focus on photography or not, take the time to study the culture of your destination in advance. You should be able to find plenty of helpful (and free) information online to make this happen. If the primary language spoken where you’re going differs from your own, for instance, make an effort to at least learn some basic phrases so that you can properly greet those you meet and introduce yourself. Also along these lines, look up common traditions and customs. Who knows? You might even make friends with some locals and gain access to documenting these traditions or customs in a way you wouldn’t have been able to capture on your own.

7. Practice Landscape and Street Photography

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You’re traveling! Document your travels and boost your landscape photography skills at the same time. While on the road, travel and street photography go hand in hand. Since you’ll likely explore the ins and outs of the locations you’re visiting, take out the camera and commit this experience to your device’s memory (as well as your own).

travel and street photography texture

To help inspire your attempts, see photos that others have taken at your locations (which we mentioned earlier) and start following landscape and street photographers via social media. The photographers you follow might even inspire you to travel to certain locations based on the images they’ve shared. In this way, your photography may play a significant role in determining where it is you’ll travel to in the first place.

As a special note for street photography, some people in particular cultures do not like to be photographed and even hold strong beliefs against having their pictures taken. This goes back to our previous point of studying the cultural norms (or even superstitions) of the people you might try to photograph. When in doubt, ask permission before you snap any portraits.

8. Tell a Complete Story – Wide, Medium, Tight

Use the storytelling structure established in movies and television to tell a cohesive story of your travels. Photographers do this often in all genres of photography. Proper visual storytelling involves capturing wide-angle shots of the location to set the scene, as well as medium and close up shots to provide more detail.

9. Edit Your Photos

landscape photography presets

Even if you only use your phone’s camera to capture all of your photos, you should still edit the files before calling them “finished.” Modern photo editing apps like Lightroom or Snapseed can make easy work of enhancing your photos, especially if you use professional presets (or create your own).


I hope that you found these tips for incredible vacation photos helpful. With a bit of planning and preparation in advance, you can turn your holiday into both a great travel and photographic experience. The best part is that you’ll have amazing photos to look back on in the future, giving you tangible memories to last a lifetime.