What to Bring on Your Next Trip for Great Vacation Photos
Traveling photo enthusiasts are known for bringing extensive photography kits on vacation. A variety of lenses and filters, stabilizers, backups, and other complex gear isn't an unusual sight to see for the traveling photographer. But what if you are just a regular ol' tourist trying to bring home great vacation photos? If you have a getaway coming up and want to step up your photography game, be sure to bring these essential items along with you.
1. An Amazing Camera Perfect for Vacation
What makes a camera amazing? Does it have to be expensive? In my opinion, the best camera to bring with you is the one you'll actually use the most. I spent six years owning a "professional camera" that professionally stayed home every vacation. It was too large to carry in my day bag and too flashy to bring along to destinations I feared would be dangerous. Instead, my cellphone and a good post-editing app did the trick.
These days I have multiple cameras I travel with, but rely on my own trusty iPhone, Alex's Samsung phone, and my beloved Sony a5100 the most. They all take great photos depending on the setting, and I'm obsessed with how easy it is to carry them along. When I'm feeling fancy I also have my action camera and drone.
2. Bright Clothing and Unique Looks for Your Vacation
I won't provide a clothing packing list because there are so many available online. What I will give you is an essential tip for taking great photos: bring outfits that photograph well and contrast with the color of your vacation surroundings. For instance, when I hike, I try to avoid wearing dark colors if I want great photos because my brown skin and dark outfits end up making me blend into nature's surroundings (brown Olivia in front of a brown tree trunk = no bueno). A blue or red shirt in the woods instead, really pops! Don't know if your outfit is photogenic enough? Take casual photos of yourself before you leave home to better select the best outfits (and keep in mind that the wind will often affect those angles)!
Example: Look at the stark differences from when I photographed in Olympic National Park with and without my black sweater. This was on the same day and during the same hike, yet wearing a bright-colored tank top helped me stand out for a vibrant photo (even in days-old clothing). Note: I even used the same preset when editing the photos.
3. Don't Forget Spare Batteries
Whether a cellphone power bank, cords for charging in-car on a road trip, or basic lithium batteries: don't go on vacation with out back up power! Your hiking headlamp could use an extra set of AAA batteries if it accidentally turns on in your bag for too long (happened to me once) and your cellphone's battery will deplete quickly if uploading IG #vacationgoals while using international global roaming services (always happens to me). Alex and I use mini power bank chargers that hold an 80-100% charge. Here are well-rated power banks you can buy on Amazon Prime.
- Note for air travel: spare batteries must be carried on if you are flying. You can read more on the TSA's website.
4. Bring an "Assistant" with You
There are travelers who take photos of their surroundings on vacation and forget to include themselves, leaving you to wonder if they just pulled the images from a Google search. Then there are travelers who only take selfies sans context, leaving you searching for an idea of where they went in the first place. Don't forget to interact with the destination in your photos!
Whether it means receiving help from your travel partner, a selfie stick, tripod, or simply trusting a nearby stranger, remember to take photos of yourself immersing with new experiences on vacation. Stand in front of landmarks or get caught in a classic candid -- utilize technology in your favor and take advantage of remotes, timers, and shutter features on your device.
Here's the tripod I use from iKross. I either set a timer or use my PlayMemories remote:
5. Get Waterproof Gear
If your upcoming vacation includes any sort of water activity, bring waterproof gear or protective accessories to make the most of your trip, regardless of sea level and submersion. It could be as inexpensive as a cellphone sleeve (mine isn't sold anymore but here's a referral link: any one of these will get the job done) or a bit more of an investment, like an action camera that is waterproof or set in a waterproof casing.
Example: I used the Kaiser Baas x150 in its native waterproof case for this old travel video during my trip to Aruba.
6. Always Pack Sunglasses
Whether it's because the sun is in your eyes, or because you're not feeling (read: looking) your best for photos, sunglasses are the perfect way to disguise a tired face and glam up a fun photo. And yes, it is also a great way to live your best life make-up free! Alex and I collect tons of sunglasses, but my collection of sunnies from NRODA eyewear always get the most compliments. In this photo I had red eyes from swimming but couldn't resist taking a photo for the 'gram. Alas, my sunglasses saved the day.
7. Download a Great Photo Editing App
Every great photo stems from a little elbow grease and know-how. Years ago, that elbow grease was most often from techniques like dodging and burning -- today, it comes in the form of digital apps. Before you set off on vacation, be sure to download a good photo editing app to bring the most out of your photos. I currently pay a monthly fee to use Lightroom CC ($11 monthly), but Snapseed is a free and easy alternative, available on iOS and Android, that I used for years. For bright, vibrant photos, Snapseed was amazing. But now that my style has changed a bit, I use Lightroom more often.
Example: The photo below was a picture I took of Philadelphia from the observation deck. It was cold, gray, and bleh outside -- not great for photos. But I caught a bit of the sunset with just enough light and used a Lightroom preset from Photonify (called "Sunlight" that I downloaded for free) to give it a rich, warm look. While I love creating my own LR presets, there are amazing photo editors who also provide great downloadable ones too!
8. Back, Back, Back it Up
Don't lose the vacation photos you worked so hard to capture! There are many ways to back up your photos but my favorite is to hop on the local WiFi and upload them to Dropbox on my phone or laptop. I pay for 1TB of cloud storage ($99 per year for Dropbox Plus) and it is totally worth it. Not only does it help keep my images organized, it is also accessible via mobile app, browser, or desktop app. You can open an account for free, which includes 2GB of storage. If you want to try Dropbox for the first time, here's an extra 500MB of bonus storage space through my referral link.
What destination are you excited to photograph?