There’s nothing more special than a photo album. Whether it’s of the kids before they grew up, or of long lost loved ones, they’re a way of taking a snapshot in time.

Of course, no one wants their albums to be full of photos of them eating, or looking less than perfect! It’s not hard to learn to take great holiday photos, and we can help you do it.

Taking great holiday photos is a combination of mind set, some best practices, and developing a few basic skills. Here are 8 tips that will get you started taking your best holiday photos yet.

An antique camera on a shelf

1. The camera doesn’t matter

If you get too deep into the world of photography, it’s possible to get very focussed on gear. Getting the best camera, the best lens, or using exactly the right filter are things people spend far too much time and money on. They might be important for pro photographers, but you don’t need to worry about them.

The camera on your phone or your old point-and-shoot camera will do fine. If you have a new smart-phone, the camera on it is probably amazing anyway, so don’t worry about it. Having a fancy camera and lots of gear often makes it harder to get a great shot anyway.

2. It’s all about timing

More important than anything else is timing. That means both having your camera handy and charged when you’re out and about, as well as the timing of the shot itself. You’re trying to catch a smile, laugh, or personality, not the back of their head! 

This doesn’t mean you have to always have your camera shooting, or only see Uluru through a viewfinder. Just have your camera easy to access, and learn the shortcuts. Phone cameras typically have a shortcut to the camera that doesn’t require a pin code – learn how it works.

Close up shot of the eiffel tower

3. Look for unique angles

You don’t need to fit an entire landmark in a shot. Smaller elements of a scene can be just as impressive, and make for a more unique photo.

Let’s say you’re trying to photograph the Eiffel Tower in Paris. You would need to stand so far back to get the whole thing in that it would look tiny in the whole shot. Instead, take a shot from close by, looking up at it. You won’t get it all in, but you’ll get a much more interesting point of view.

This also extends to people. No matter how good your holiday photography skills, big landmarks will always have been photographed better elsewhere. Instead of taking 15 minutes to get a perfect shot of the Sydney Opera House, why not just get a few photos of your friends and family standing on the steps? They’re what you really want to remember after all.

4. Focus on natural shots

Staged photos look, well, staged. We all have awkward holiday photos we hate, with forced smiles plastered on our face.

Often the best photos are those that catch the subject off guard with a natural smile and pose. The kids jumping into the pool, a look of tenderness between loved ones, or a shot of Nanna smiling as she sits with her family at dinner.

Don’t be afraid to be a fly-on-the-wall, try to capture these moments where you can. Yes, some people might call you creepy, but these are the photos that many of us treasure over the long term – they’ll thank you one day.

5. Take more than one

Back in the age of the Kodak Moment, film was expensive and you needed to pick your shot wisely. That’s no longer the case. Feel free to keep snapping the shutter. The beauty of a digital camera or smart-phone is that you can tonnes of photos, then only keep the ones you like. 

In fact, if you use Google Photos, you can get unlimited cloud storage for compressed photos. That means you can literally take as many photos as you want, and keep them all. Google’s smart search will make it easy to find the best ones later one. Just make sure you have access to a wifi connection to upload them all.

If you’re using a dedicated camera like a point-and-shoot or DSLR, you will be somewhat limited by the storage on your SD card. That doesn’t negate this point though, most cards will still hold thousands of shots!

Backlit photo of a couple on holiday

6. Lighting is important

One of the tricks worth learning is how to make the most of natural lighting. The best light is soft, diffused light, which doesn’t cast hard shadows. This happens on cloudy days, but it also happens during sunrise and sunset, known as the ‘golden hour’ or the ‘blue hour’.

If you’re keen on a great shot, get up early, when no one else is around, to make the most of the perfect light. You’ll also increase the odds of seeing a fantastic sunrise or sunset to get a photo of.

It’s also worth understanding how backlighting works. In the past, backlit subjects would be very dark and silhouetted, essentially ruining the photo. However, you can use backlighting to create halo effects, making the subject pop, which is great for Instagram. Learning how to properly expose your subject and reduce the contrast in post-processing can really open up your options.

7. Learning more than the basics

While pro photography gear won’t always make your photos better, learning some pr photography techniques definitely will. Learning how things like backlighting, composition, shutter speed, and time lapse works can expand your available tools to help you take way better holiday photos.

It’s never been easier to learn how to take great photos thanks to things like YouTube – however, lots of photography channels are very gear-focussed. Here’s a great video series to get you started with learning actual techniques, rather than how to use a specific camera.

But remember…

Don’t be so worried about capturing the perfect photo that you forget to enjoy the moment. You are in a beautiful destination that you may never visit again, so take time to appreciate it rather than looking at it all through a screen.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.