Posted by: Debbra Dunning Brouillette | June 24, 2010

10 tips for terrific trip pix

Wanna take better vacation photos? While today’s ‘automatic everything” digital cameras almost take the photos for you, there is still a human element involved. Of course, improving your pictures from snapshot status to a creative image that deserves to be called photographic art takes time, instruction, experience, the proper equipment, and a creative “eye.”

These 10 tips may not turn you into a pro, but hopefully you’ll be a step closer to taking photos you’ll be proud to include in your photo album…or at least post on Facebook!

1.    Fill the frame with your subject. First, determine what the subject or focal point of your photo is. If you are photographing people, make sure there isn’t too much space around them, but also don’t cut off their heads. (This was a unique characteristic of photos taken by my Mom… Can anyone else relate?) Being able to look through the viewfinder (or display on a digital camera) and really see what is within the frame takes practice, but it is a skill you can develop.

2.    Don’t shoot into direct sun. Unless you have a “fill flash” setting, taking a photo of a person standing with the sun or other bright light in back of them will cause the person to be dark. The camera will pick up the bright light, not the person’s face. Instead, allow the sun to be at your back with the light on the person, but not so much light that he or she has to squint! Position him or her so that they are in indirect light or open shade.

3.    Don’t take photos when the sun is directly overhead, if you have a choice. Photos taken early in the morning or later in the afternoon, when the light is soft and warm, rather than bright and harsh, will become your best photos. For example, many professional photographers get up at dawn to get the best landscape shots.

4.    Look at professional photos of the area you’ll be visiting to get ideas. Brochures, websites and magazine articles about your vacation destination can give you some great ideas for shots you may want to take. While your photo of the same location may not look exactly like the one you saw, it can stimulate ideas for your own creativity, and perhaps give you a tip about where to locate yourself to get that angle of a famous landmark.

Nevis, West Indies (photo: Debbra Brouillette)

5.    Who doesn’t love a good sunset photo? Preparation and patience are needed to get a really, really good sunset photo, not to mention luck! You have a short “window of opportunity” before you lose the light. Take lots of photos to make sure you capture the beauty you are witnessing!

6.    Review the photo you just took. If you need to get closer or farther away, take another photo. If you have a zoom lens, take an overall shot, then zoom in for a tighter one. When you have some downtime, review the photos you’ve taken that day and, if shooting digital, delete duplicate shots and bad ones so you’ll have more room on your memory card. Preparation and patience are needed to get a really, really good sunset photo, not to mention luck!

7.    Take photos from lots of different angles. First take an overall photo of a historic building, straight on. Walk to one side and take another. Stoop down and shoot up. Take a vertical shot, then a horizontal. Next, concentrate on “pieces and parts.” Photos of an interesting window,

Monkey Crossing sign, Nevis, West Indies (photo: Debbra Brouillette)

an old iron gate, an interesting carved door, or other feature can make your photos stand out from the standard snapshot.

8.    Take photos of road signs, license plates, restaurant and hotel signs, historic markers, and other unique signage that will add interest and information to the photo album you’ll put together of your trip. If you are on a beach vacation, write the place and date in the sand and take a photo, which can become the title shot of your album.

9.    Take your camera’s manual with you to refer to, especially if you aren’t totally familiar with all its settings. If you can, review the settings before you leave on your trip (or read it on the plane). You may find out about a cool feature that you didn’t know existed.

10.    If at all possible, take an extra camera, extra batteries and an extra memory card, in case your primary camera quits working, or is lost or stolen. (Believe me, I have learned this lesson the hard way.) If you travel with your laptop computer or a portable digital storage device, download your photos daily, to preserve the images you’ve already taken.

BONUS TIP: It was Marcel Proust who said: “The real journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” As you take photographs on your next vacation or day trip, take your “new eyes” with you. You might be surprised at what they are able to “see.”

If you have a photography question or a tip you would like to add, please leave a comment here, or email me at:  If you are on Facebook, become a fan of my Word Journeys page at



  1. Great article…I’m going to make a copy of your tips and put it with my camera for future reference!
    Best Regards,

  2. Debbie, what a timely article. Thanks for the fantastic tips. I look forward to utilizing some of them this weekend.
    Thanks again.

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