Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to Breathe Life into Your Vacation Photos

Amy is not only one of my dearest friends, but one half of a talented husband and wife photography team, Reams Photo. She lives in San Diego with her husband, Paul, and their adorable baby girl, Lucy.

We've all seen vacation photos - a series of pictures of people standing in front of one gorgeous view or historic monument after another. But vacation photos so often lack those amazing emotions you felt while taking the picture! Here are a few tips to help bring some life to your camera:

Stop. Breathe. Appreciate where you are.

What makes the place you're standing in feel beautiful, monumental... reviving? Is it the way your husband is tightly holding your hand? The clouds and the tension of soon-to-be rain? The little girls running around with their souvenir snow globes? Then take pictures of those things! Then if you have time, try framing the "worthy" subject with the "feeling" subject. Shoot from a different angle so the fancy castle is surrounded by the ominous clouds. Or focus on the joyful girls with the view in the background.

Get some guts.

Ask the shop owner if you can take his picture in the middle of his store. Get closer than you normally would to the boy walking his donkey. Stand still for 2 seconds longer to reshoot something you didn't get the first time even if it's awkward. Here's the thing, though - be nice. Photography has the potential to be the medium of theives. You aren't looking to steal an image at the expense of someone else - especially not on vacation when it really doesn't matter. Give street performers and beggars money before you take your picture. Ask people for permission whenever you can. Say thanks a lot. As much as photography can be about taking, it can also be about connecting - about finding yourself in a conversations with people who you might not have stopped to talk to, but now keep up with on Facebook.

Take pictures on 2 and 4.

1,2,3... cheese! Maybe it's all those awkward family vacation photos mom took when we were growing up, but the real smiles always stop on three. If you're in the market for a new camera, get one with an instant shutter and take three pictures every time you say smile. Or better yet - say something funny or do something ridiculous then take the picture before your subjects collect themselves.

Don't be critical.

This is HARD for me. I document memories for a living and it's all too easy for me to ruin vacations because I don't feel like I've captured a moment well enough. Silly, right? But it's so important for me to remind myself that the memories are first and the photos are second. I was not sent to this place by The New York Times. I bought my ticket here so I could hang out with my husband, my girlfriends, whoever and to make lots and lots of awesome memories! So what if my gelato picture lacks dynamism? It's vacation. Forgive and move on.


  1. Great advice from a wonderful photographer!

  2. These are great great tips. I always "chicken out" in asking people to take their photo---and I always walk away thinking "opportunity missed"!

  3. I love these tips and these photos! My biggest problem is wanting to photograph everything and then I get a sense of "I should actually be living this vacation instead of trying to photograph everything and live through them later"... oh well!

  4. Great post! I love the suggestion to "Take pictures on 2 and 4" I always feel like I end up smiling too long and get a strained look in my face. :)

  5. Amy: Well. Freaking. Done. Well done. This is SUCH a beautiful post. You're living a gorgeous life. Thanks for sharing.

  6. these are great tips. I especially like the idea of taking photos on 2 and 4.

  7. this gets right to the heart of it! thanks for the great tips and reminder that it's not about "perfection" but capturing a bit of the moment.



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