Any of our premiere destinations throughout the world include jaw-dropping landscapes, new cities and rich cultural opportunities you will be eager to photograph.  

Open your senses, keep a notebook of first impressions. Make time for photography and you will surely create memories you will treasure for a lifetime. Recognize what drew you here and communicate the unique feelings of place in your images.  

The following five tips will help you take the very best vacation photos, so you can enjoy the documentation process and the experience of your trip as a whole.

  1. Have Your Camera Ready

Whether it is your camera phone or fancy digital, keep the lens clean. Before heading out, adjust settings for current conditions and targets.  You can even do things like hack your smartphone to take great pictures of birds at Invest in a carry case with a strap to keep your camera safe at hand. Adjusting the shutter speed on a phone is a process that you will want to undertake before hitting the field, so you’ll be ready when the perfect shot occurs.  Luck is for the unprepared, and you never know what you will run into.  Fantastic, compact, rugged, waterproof modern cameras are an excellent investment for those who want to travel light without sacrificing image quality.  You still must keep the lens clean, though.


  1. Work with the Light

The most basic element of photography is light. Be aware of the light’s direction and quality. Accept that light is always changing and be open to the new perspective those changes offer.  How does the light fall on your subject? Direct light is great for animal shots. Side light creates shadow and drama. Take in the color; a good rule is  “heavier the sky, the cooler the color of  the light.” Warm highlights with cool shadows bring three-dimensional quality to two-dimensional images. Judge the character of the light. “Hard” light, like full sun, creates high contrast.  “Soft” light is low contrast, best for close-ups and delicate color. Any free editing app, like Snapseed, can polish off your smartphone shots in post-production. Don’t be afraid to take as many shots as possible, in different seasons, weather and hours of the day.  


  1. Use Both Hands

Like having a clean lens, this simple tip improves the resolution and focus of your photo no matter what kind of camera you use.  It also helps to steady your elbows against your body.  Actually pushing a button to snap the shutter, instead of tapping the screen on a camera phone, also keeps the camera still at that crucial moment.


  1. Be a Part of the Scene

Include enough of yourself or travel companions in the shot to keep the memory recognizable, but focus on the destination.  Try having your peeps look into the photo instead of right at the camera.  Divide the shot, visually or with tools on your camera, into thirds.  Balance the subject, scene, and horizon so that one element does not steal focus from the rest. Using the rule of thirds also helps keep the subject from “floating” in the middle of the picture, blocking out the souvenir view.  Do not use auto zoom, as it lowers the resolution of the image by simply enlarging what is on the screen.  


  1. Understand your Destination

Research local customs so as not to offend, or be offended.  Listen to your tour guide.  Be respectful of cultural objects and places held sacred or closed to outsiders. Take note of painful local history, always behaving with restraint and courtesy when photographing heritage sites or memorials.  Acknowledge the poverty that might lead locals to demand money when their picture is taken: think of it as small investment in your own art, which is huge income for them. Learn to say “hello” and “may I please take your picture?” and see how well politeness often works. If anyone seems uncomfortable, move on or ask permission.  Most will appreciate the efforts you have made to be courteous and thoughtful.


Get up before dawn. Be where the rhythm of life is. Try to visit less popular spots. USA River Cruises invites you to travel and eat like the locals do.  Many of the most special moments wait off the beaten path, so be ready, camera in hand!
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