Taking a camera along on your summer vacation is about as much a no-brainer as packing enough underwear. But once you have your camera and you set out to begin your adventure, that’s where the questions come up: Is my camera good enough? What do I take pictures of? Do I need a flash? A telephoto lens? What about video? Is it worth the time to wait for the right light? Does anybody care?
Having returned home from my first-ever trip to Europe with my wife for our 25th wedding anniversary, I thought I’d share a few tips that might help set the right visual tone for your next getaway.
I am a professional photographer and I carry around heavy DSLRs all day for my job. The last thing I want to do is carry one around when I’m trying to enjoy my vacation. So I take a much smaller point-and-shoot digital camera when traveling. Generally speaking, when people go on vacation, most will shoot photos of objects close up, or at least big enough to be photographed with a wide-angle lens. Most point-and-shoot cameras have the equivalent of a 28mm or wider lens, which is fine. Many also have a digital zoom lens function that allows you to get occasional telephoto images. The quality isn’t always the best with the digital zoom function, but to me, it’s worth the trade-off to carry a camera you can put in your pocket compared to a heavy DSLR with multiple lenses.
The camera I used on my trip was a Sony RX100 III Cyber-shot. At about $800 it’s more expensive than most point-and-shoots, but it is quite a powerful little camera with a wide range of functions. It has a 24-70mm equivalent F/1.8-2.8 lens and 5.8x digital zoom, so it has you covered on both ends of the spectrum. It also has a built-in flash, manual settings and Wi-Fi capabilities.
Speaking of flash, you will sometimes need it at night, or if you want a photo of a friend in a dark restaurant. But you won’t need it often enough to make it worth taking an extra piece of equipment. Built-in flash is the way to go.
Make sure to also carry a large enough memory card to hold more photos than you think you’ll need. It would also be smart to have several cards and switch them out every couple of days or so, just in case. Memory is pretty cheap these days, so it’s worth it to have extra space.
And don’t forget about your phone! Most smartphones these days take excellent pictures. I use an iPhone 6s, which does a better job with video, panoramas and other functions than my regular camera does.
I think this is where most people get stuck. Vacation is vacation – sure it’s important to capture memories, but you don’t want to create the wrong memories by angering the rest of your party because you are taking forever to compose your masterpiece. Enjoy yourself. Relax, use your other four senses and take it all in. You also don’t want to make a big habit of taking selfies every few feet or insisting on a group picture at every turn.
I go in with the mindset that I want to capture real memories. Most likely I am arriving in a place I’ve never been and I want to remember it for how I saw it. So I use my camera as a visual notebook. I set the camera on auto and take quick snaps as I see things that catch my eye. I do occasionally turn the camera around and get a shot of myself and my wife or the whole family. And a few times a day I set the camera on manual and really work on a composition for a subject that moves me. Maybe it’s an unusual staircase or a fantastic street scene, or you get lucky and see some incredible light on an iconic monument. These are the pictures that end up on the wall, as a featured image in an album or as the cover image on my social media page. You don’t need to do so many that you can’t see everything you want to see during the day.
Don’t miss a chance to get great video, too. Sometimes scenes don’t translate well in a single image, so that’s when you switch to video mode. On my trip, I found video better captured what it’s like to ride a bike in Amsterdam, as well as how the lights sparkled on the Eiffel Tower and how chimes of Big Ben echoed across the River Thames.
Yes, edit. No one wants to see every single shot you made on your trip. That means you need to weed them down to the real highlights. Bounce them off of your significant other or a close friend to see which ones make an impression. Include a variety of subjects, angles and focal lengths in your final edit and not too many of any one thing.
It’s a good idea to use a photo editing program to improve color and contrast as well as crop to a better composition. I use an app on my iPhone called Snapseed that does a great job making images really stand out – and it’s free! For the desktop, you really don’t need all the power that an expensive program like Adobe Photoshop has. Check out programs like GIMP, PhotoScape, PIXLR, Nik, PicMonkey and others for free.
OK, so you’ve put in all this work – on your vacation – and now you want to show it off. How? There are a number of ways.
For most people, the easiest, and cheapest way to share is by posting to Facebook. When you do that, make sure you take the edited images and post them into a single album. It’s easy; just click on the photo album button right above the “what’s on your mind” box. Here you can select all the images you want to share and easily add captions, tag people, specify locations and give the whole bunch a title.
On my recent trip, I decided to post images to my Europe 2016 folder in Facebook daily, while I was still on the trip. This gave friends and family a chance to see Europe along with me. To do that, I used the Wi-Fi function on the camera to choose specific image to edit, caption and upload through my iPhone. In Facebook, it’s easy to add new photos to an existing album so you can keep everything together.
An even easier way to keep fans up to date is to post to Instagram or Twitter. To keep everything easily searchable, use a unique hashtag, such as your last name and “vacation2016.”
If you’re like me, you might like to have a hard copy album of your images for the coffee table. We’ve come a long way since those three-ring binders of 4x6 prints and plastic pages. Apple has an easy project creator on their new Photos app. Publishing your works of art is as easy as clicking on a button. There are similar album creators from Blurb, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart and others.
Share your photos
Send us your best travel photographs for The Fresno Bee’s September ArtHop show. We’ll select shots to print and display during our ArtHop reception and put the rest in a slideshow. The images will also be shared with our readers online. Send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ARTHOP VACATION. Images should be 1MB or larger and appropriate for an 11 x 14 crop. Please describe the photo, including details such as place, date photo was taken, people IDs, story behind photo and photographer’s name. Deadline to submit photos is Aug. 15.