Pro Photographer Erin Manning on Taking Great Vacation Photos

Erin Manning

Erin Manning

Professional photographer, television personality, and author Erin Manning is our guest writer for this month. Be sure to check out Erin’s latest book, Make Money with your Digital Photography.

Are your vacation photos looking a little…blah? Are people falling asleep during your slideshows? Help is on the way! I have some tips and techniques for capturing memorable family vacation photos, whether you have a DSLR, compact camera, or smartphone.

Photos in the Shade

1. Stay in the shade

Take beautiful pictures in the middle of a bright, sunny day by placing people in a shaded area near direct sunlight, for example, an open doorway or under the shade of a building or tree.

the rule of thirds

2. Go off-center

The rule of thirds can help you create more compelling photographs. Envision a tic-tac-toe board on your viewfinder and place something of interest at one or more of these intersections.

interesting photo background

3. Get framed

Choose an interesting frame for your image, for example, an arched trellis, a unique doorway, overhanging tree branch, or an unusual architectural opening.

action beach photo

4. Capture the action

Use a fast shutter speed or your camera’s sports mode to freeze the action. Even smartphones can stop motion if you’re shooting in bright light. Take a lot of images in sequence. Encourage movement and play and watch those “ok” shots turn into something interesting.

surfer in soft light

5. Use soft light

A general rule for beautiful images is to plan your photo shoot for early morning or late afternoon light because softer shadows equate to less contrast in your scene and more flattering light.

6. Fill it with flash

Use your camera’s Forced Flash setting in bright sunlight to fill in shadows or avoid a silhouette.

dark photo
photo using flash

7. Change your point of view

Mix things up and shoot from different angles and distances. When you put these images together in a slideshow, it’s much more fun to watch.


8. Read the signs

Capture the essence of place by photographing interesting locations, local people, architectural details, and signs.

self timer

9. Get in the shot

Use your camera’s self-timer so you can appear in the family photo, too.

sandy foot

10. Play

Experiment, get a shot of the entire area, capture details, get in close, and be silly. These are the images that show off your unique personality and help create a compelling story about your adventures.

Once you’ve captured your experience on your camera, it’s time to create an amazing slideshow with your images

I like to use Animoto because it’s unbelievably easy to do, and it looks creative and hip. I just upload my images, pick a template, choose a song, and a few minutes later I’m watching my own professional-looking video.

The templates really show off your images and if I don’t want to use my own music, they have a library with a choice of music to fit any mood – plus I can upload my video to social media sites, send a link, download the file, or burn a DVD. Check out this 30-second video I created from my trip to Venice, Italy. My friends all think I spent hours creating it, but it only took me a few minutes:

I hope these tips inspired you to capture your own vacation experience in a creative way. Now it’s your turn! Learn more about creating your own travel videos!