My Tips for Taking a Vacation as a Photographer

May 6, 2010
A photo from my most recent trip.  f/11; 1/320 sec; 28mm; ISO 200

A photo from my most recent trip. f/11; 1/320 sec; 28mm; ISO 200

Whenever I go on a vacation, I feel torn between taking a lot of photos and putting the camera away and enjoying where I am. Obviously, when I’m at a new place, I look around me and start thinking like a photographer and what would make great photos – and I’m itching to take them, especially when I’m somewhere that I may never have an opportunity to get back to. On the other hand, I go on vacation to get away and spend time with John, and I think he would appreciate actually being able to see my face without a camera in front of it when he’s with me. Plus, I tend to hold him (and anyone else I’m with) up. He wants to take a nice leisurely walk through the park and I’m stopping every 2 seconds to crouch down or look up and take 50 photos or so.

So, how do you find a good balance? I still haven’t completely figured it out. But here are a few things that I’ve tried to do on each trip to help with that struggle.

Do Your Research Before You Go

The goal here is to get a short list of Must Go To Places for photography. If you have a short list of places to go, you can decide to take your camera to only those places, get the photos you want, and then enjoy the rest of the time with your travel companions.

I’ve discovered a couple of different ways to go about this task, but my favorite – especially for more popular destinations – is flickr. Did you know they have a page called Places? It’s pretty cool. Just go to the search box in the upper right hand corner and type in your destination. For instance, I went to Washington DC recently, so I typed that in and it took me to the Washington DC page. Not only does it show you interesting photos from the area, but it also shows you flickr groups that are about Washington DC, too. Looking through the photos can give you an idea of places to shoot, but you can also post messages in the groups asking for ideas, too.

The other thing I’ve done is to mention my quest on my facebook and twitter accounts. People who happen to live near where I’m going are usually happy to point out their favorite spots in their hometown.

Plan a morning to wake up early

An early, foggy morning.  f/9.0; 1/20 sec; 38mm; ISO 200

An early, foggy morning. f/9.0; 1/20 sec; 38mm; ISO 200

Everyone loves a good sunrise photo, right? And no matter where you are the light is always warm and beautiful in the earliest hours of the morning. For that reason, it’s pretty obvious why it’s a good idea to take one morning of your vacation and drag yourself away from that warm and cozy hotel bed.

But there’s another good reason, too – chances are, no one else will want to. I know, I know, vacations are supposed to be about spending time with your friends or family, but don’t you feel guilty when you’d rather be taking photos? So give yourself a morning to yourself. You’ll probably find it quiet, peaceful and beautiful, and you’ll feel more content to put the camera down and just spend time with people for the rest of the day when you already know you’ve got some great shots on your memory card.

Plan some outings without the camera

If you’re like me, sometimes the only way to force yourself not to spend all your time looking for the best photo is to actually leave the camera back at the hotel. I find that when I do this, I actually do enjoy myself. I take in the sights in live in the moment. There’s no stressing about getting finding the best angle and waiting for people to get out of the shot, it’s just me and my company and enjoying being in a new place.

Bring a point-and-shoot

I took two cameras on my latest trip to DC (well, three, actually, if you count the camera on my Android phone). My Point-And-Shoot was in my purse at all times, and my DSLR I only brought out on certain outings. The beautiful thing about this was that, with just the P&S, I wasn’t concentrating on taking photos, but if something happened that I really wanted a digital memory of, I had it with me and could get a shot, like this photo:

Point... and then shoot. NO THINKING!

Point... and then shoot. NO THINKING!

Sure, it’s not as pretty as it might have been on my DSLR (though, I also didn’t edit this photo at all), but I can still look at it and remember being there and how pretty it was in person.

Have any tips about vacationing as a photographer? I’ve got some more short trips planned throughout the year, so I’d be happy to hear ‘em!

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  • I agree with you all. Photography is the most important thing in traveling, Mostly people are like to take a photography, When they are traveling in a different destination. i also like photography. Here these photos looking awesome. 

  • I agree with you,  These tips are nice, to taking a vacation as a photographer. Here these photograph are nice. I can read all tips which you present here such a  nice thought.

  • Also... mostly you are going with the family.. in which case you may take a great snap and end up sleeping on the hotel sofa!!

  • Christian

    I think communication is the key.
    On my last vacation I had my DSLR with me all the time. Everything else would have given my wife a reason to give me a speech.
    I made some photos (until wife and daughter got bored too much)
    and took lots of snapshots (Everything else would have given my wife a reason to give me a speech, like having no pictures of our daughter or of beautiful places is a crime...).
    BUT there was one day for my wife to do whatever she wanted and me caring for food (selfcooking) and daughter (2 years, first time at the sea)
    and one day was for me to do whatever i wanted. 900 DSLR-clicks and 2 1/2 rolls of 35mm film later I saw my family again. Broke and repaired my tripod in the field, waited 5 Minutes for the rigth waves, made photographs for some panos ord hdrs, wandered 5 hours all around the island of Norderney, well clearly a photography related day.

    No stress (but the wrong light), because all the possible problems were out of the way by asking my family for the time and getting it. This is much better than simply taking the time or regretting not to have the time.
    BTW, I took the last day for photographing. Whenever I saw something that needed a good picture made I added it to my list.

  • I think a good one to add is "Check the weather forecast" - I spent a weekend in London recently, and though the weather usually isn't stellar, it was rainy *and* very windy which meant I could barely hold an umbrella much less a DSLR and think about changing lenses, etc. I ended up ditching the camera most of the weekend and enjoying myself with no thoughts about photos. If I had planned differently, I might have brought a different camera / lens / bag so I take a few shots in bad weather or perhaps foregone that extra weight in my carry-on altogether.

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