I just finished processing my snaps from my fabulous Disneyland birthday weekend and I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for getting great vacation photos.
As a die-hard photographer, I understand the tendency to want to capture every single moment of life, rather than experience it. While this will result in more photos of your trip, it may not result in the best photos. After a day of continuous snapping and being asked to smile and pose, even the most enthusiastic subjects will look like annoyed-looking grumps in your photos.
Instead of continuously shooting throughout the day, pick three or four times for posed family photos in front of main landmarks, and casually snap candids the rest of the time. Know when to put away your dSLR and just enjoy the day.
All this goes out the window if there is amazing light. In that case, give your kids $10, point to the nearest ice cream store, and say, “Yay!! Ice cream!!” I find I can capture a lot of great shots when people are distracted with food or shiny things. I call it the “distract and snap” method.
2. Pack the right gear
5DMKII + 16-35mm + 430EX with an Omnibounce
On this trip to Disneyland, I brought minimal gear with me to the park because I knew that I would be trekking around a lot and going on bumpy, wet and generally gear-unfriendly rides. I brought my 5DMKII with the 16-35mm f/2.8, 430EX flash, Canon SD 1300 point & shoot, and my iPhone 4.
I only brought one lens because I find that I can capture great scene shots at 16mm and great people pictures at 35mm. Plus, it’s relatively small and unobtrusive. A 35mm, 24-70mm or a 18-55mm kit lens would work as well.
If you are missing a zoom lens or wide angle, use a point and shoot or phone to grab these shots. Remember it’s all about about capturing moments, not perfect photographs.
2. Bring extra memory cards & batteries
I usually have 4 X 8GB cards and an extra battery for my dSLR on me at all times. I tore through all of these on this trip, especially when I was taking video. So depending on what you are shooting, I would recommend having at least 4 cards with you, if not more. Always pack an extra battery and make sure you charge your phone the night before.
3. Capture the story
While it’s great to capture the big breathtaking scenic moments of your vacation, try to capture all the seemingly mundane moments in between to connect all your images into a story of your trip.
Snap a picture of your breakfast, the view from your hotel window, your family getting ready to go out, or any little candid moment you’d like to remember.
I find that these shots are the ones I really cherish, because they remind me of my experience, rather than the place itself. I love this shot of my epic R2D2 “Mostly Lisa” Mouse Ears getting made.
4. Capture the entire scene
Always take a step back and capture the full scene. It’s a good opportunity to actually focus on your photography for a moment. I usually try to grab a few good shots when I’m waiting in lines for food, transport or Space Mountain :)
To maximize your photo taking, set your camera to burst mode, so you can fire off a bunch of shots really quickly. Another way you can increase your chances of getting a great shot is by bracketing the exposure to +2 and -2 EV. This way when you fire off three shots in burst mode, you get three shots of varied exposure: 1. Over-exposed; 2. Normally exposed; & 3. Under-exposed.
5. Don’t forget to get in the picture too!
Cotton candy & magic hour in California Adventureland.
There are so many times when I come back from a trip and realize there are no pictures of me, almost as if I wasn’t there. I know most photographers hate being photographed, but your loved ones and demanding Facebook friends will appreciate a few pictures with you in them :P Before you pass of your camera, make sure it’s set up correctly so that anyone can just click the shutter. I usually set up the frame and settings on someone and then swap with that person, so all my settings are correct.
I’m not keen on strangers handling my dSLR, so if I want a shot with me and someone, I’ll either set up my point and shoot on a little gorilla pod and use a timer or just hand hold it. NB. Hand holding a dSLR is not recommended unless you’ve got the guns to support it :P
I look forward to seeing all of your shots of the upcoming holiday season!!!