20 Can’t-Miss Vacation Photo Opportunities, Plus Tips for Vacation Photography No Matter Your Destination

With summer vacations coming up, it’s so easy to get caught up in the planning that you miss out on capturing those memories. Of course, you don’t want to spend so much of your trip behind a camera that you forget to actually enjoy it, but there are a few photos that you should definitely take time to snap, whether it’s with your DSLR or you’re Instagramming it!

Whether you’re going by plane, train, or automobile, a photo of your packed luggage is a fun shot to take. You could take a picture of the luggage being weighed at the airline, measure the height of your kids from year to year by snapping a pic of them standing next to their suitcase, or show off your perfectionist packing skills (or if you’re like me, your total mess packing skills!)

Grab a shot of all of the kids asleep in the car. Or awake. Or fighting. Or whatever it is your kids do during a long trip. Going by plane? Snap a photo of someone looking out the window of the plane!

After a long journey, you can’t miss taking  a photo of a sign showing you’ve arrived. If you’re going by car, you could take a photo by the state sign that says “Welcome to…,” or you could take a photo of the scenery that makes your vacation spot the place you love to vacation to. Traveling by plane? Try a photo of the arrivals gate or a “Welcome to” sign in the airport.

One of my favorite types of photos is action shots. They capture a spirit and energy that posed photos just can’t seem to fully get. Catch photos of the kids jumping into the pool or running towards the beach. Feeling extra adventurous? Maybe you’re snapping pics of skydiving, parasailing, or swimming with sea life. Whatever it is you’re doing, make sure to get some shots of the real action.

Food. Yeah, I said it. Forget anyone who says you shouldn’t photograph your food… if your vacation hotspot is known for a food, don’t be shy– snap a pic! Some of my favorite shots every year are of the food, whether it’s hot, freshly fried fish, or a sno-cone as big as my face, it’s fun to look back on the food that made the memories.

Yeah, sure… I’ll enjoy vacation with everyone, but first… let me take a selfie. Moms, how often do you spend the entire vacation behind the camera and don’t end up with a single photograph of yourself in the album at the end of summer? Well, that simply won’t do. It’s time to start getting in the shot, so either pass the camera to your travelmates and ask them to snap shots of you, or turn your camera or phone around for a Selfie you can be proud of. If you’re saving these photos for your kids to have memories, know that no matter what your insecurities are when it comes to the camera, they’re just going to want to see you.

Are you heading to the city and see a cool sky reflection in the buildings? What about your reflection in the water at the beach or pool? Reflection shots are a lot of fun, and they allow you to get a cool photo of both the scenery AND yourself/your family!

Did you pick up a silly souvenir? A new tee shirt? Photograph some of your memorable items before they get lost or outgrown. Or, photograph the receipt of how much you spent at the souvenir shop (or how little, if you set a nice price limit on everyone like I do!). We tend to cook most of our meals in the condo, which means an annual trip to the grocery store for the groceries. Whatever you’re photographing, snap a quick pic of some things you bought on your trip.

Is there something that defines your location. Like the Bean in Chicago, Hipsters in Portland, or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, for example… For our family vacation every year, we visit an island with a very distinct water tower. Snapping a pic of that distinct water tower is a must for me each year! Perhaps where you’re going is known for a specific building, rock, natural spring, fort, or whatever else… make sure to snap a picture!

Going somewhere with local wildlife? Take a photo! Last year, my brother caught some photos of hundreds of crabs running across the beach! It’s a fun memory and he got some really amazing photographs. Don’t forget to focus on even the little wildlife!

Do you have on super classy heels for a night of dancing with your husband? Some bare feet in the sand? A cute new pair of flip flops or tennis shoes? Grab a photo of everyone’s in your group’s feet for a silly shot you’ll all love!

The weather during your trip is worth photographing. Is it sunny the whole time? Occasional rainshowers? Maybe you ended up unlucky and had bad weather the whole week? Either way, good or bad, remembering the weather is a great memory to have. Don’t forget to write down the forecast so you won’t forget what each day was like! If you’re using your smartphone to snap pics, there’s a great app called InstaWeather (a free version and a paid version are available) that overlays your photo with the current weather so it does the work for you.

Road trip? Don’t neglect the great photo opportunities driving brings! You can take a before/after shot of the odometer, and you can take pictures at gas stations while filling up. Don’t forget to take photographs of memorable stops along the way! For flights, consider taking a pic of your layover destinations instead of road stops!

Play with angles during your trip! Take a photograph from a high angle, and a photo from a low angle. Maybe you’re taking a helicopter tour of the city, or maybe you’re on a balcony looking down at the pool– great opportunities for high angles. You could even take a high-angle photo standing over your kids– we like to take photos looking down into the crab bucket after the boys go crabbing each night. For a low-angle photo, get as low to the ground as you can and take a picture looking up the tree trunk into the palm trees or into a beach umbrella, or lay in the sand and take a picture of your child carrying a bucket. Look up at a tall building, or even at the sky! Just try taking a shot at different angles rather than just looking head-on at the item you’re shooting.

Trust JJ Abrams on this one, Sunflare is a very good thing sometimes… catch the sun peeking around a building, or around a tree, or even flare in the sky while your kids play in the pool. Catching a glimpse of sunflare is a great way to add texture to a photograph.

A super-duper close-up shot is essential! Maybe you’re getting a beautiful shot looking into an open flower, or maybe a close-up shot of your breakfast, or a mosquito bite, or whatever else deserves a super close shot.

Are you lucky enough to have a water resistant or waterproof cell phone, or maybe an underwater-safe camera? Be sure to grab silly underwater selfies, a shot of a great fish, or whatever else makes you happy just under the surface.

Photograph differences and similarities to home. This would be most striking if you’re traveling outside of your country, but I’m sure you can find some differences and similarities no matter where you’re headed! Take photos of signs in a different language from your own, or compare a local hotspot to a distant favorite. Can’t find a lot of differences? Photograph the similarities!

Sunrise, Sunset… if you’re crazy enough to be up for sunrise (kidding!) or catching a beautiful sunset, commemorate it with a photo. But don’t go overboard– snap a quick pic, then enjoy it camera-free…

Maybe you’re walking along the beach and leaving footprints in the sand, or maybe a trail of wet prints along the side of the pool, possibly even animal prints! Footprints are a very cool shot to take no matter where you are.

When you’re taking vacation photos, there are a few important things to remember…

Take time to hand off the camera to someone else. Perhaps it’s for a group shot, or maybe it’s just so you can get in the shot. If you’re traveling with family or friends, or if you’re willing to pass off your camera and trade snapshots with another family, it’s a great way to get a shot of all of you. Last year, I took some family portraits of my cousins, who were also on vacation with us. In exchange, I asked them to grab my camera and take a few shots of my family, also. It was a great way to get a whole-group shot.

Let go of perfection. A blurry memory is still a memory, and while you’ll want the best shot possible, sometimes just a memory is good enough, even if it isn’t your best photo ever.

It’s okay just to Instagram your trip or take phone photos. Don’t feel like you need a big fancy camera to remember your vacation– even the quick snapshots are great memories, and it’s much easier to carry everywhere!

When you get back, try printing an album of your travels. Last year, I decided to do a small quick album for all of my Instagram shots of vacation, with a page for each day of the week we were there and a short paragraph of what we did. I also made a larger album that had my favorite photos from my DSLR with a bit more of a description. The Instagram album, while much simpler, is a great peek into our week as a whole, and having a nicer full-week album is a great way to share my trip with family and friends. I love having a photo album to look back on when I’m home.

Be real. Don’t just capture the good moments of your trip. Include the grumpy faces, the fussy tantrums, and the parts that just didn’t seem to go right. You know life isn’t perfect, vacations and moods aren’t always perfect, so why should your photos be perfect, too?

Don’t ignore the seemingly mundane details of your trip. While our days spent playing cards in the afternoon isn’t exactly as exciting as a kayaking adventure, it’s a part of how we enjoy our vacation, and it deserves to be captured.



All of the photos in this post were taken in or on the way to the picturesque Dauphin Island, Alabama, a favorite vacation spot that I’ve been traveling to for over 10 years. The views there never get boring or tired to me, and I always look forward to going back. Want to keep track of my travel adventures this year? Be sure to follow me on Instagram!

Are you traveling this summer? Where are you headed and what sort of shots are a must-include for your trip? Let me know in the comments below!



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