How to Take Great Vacation Photos ~ Placing your subject
We recently escaped the gravitational pull of Rochester and flung ourselves to DC for a few days. It’s a rare place in the world that should be renamed “Photo Op” because that seems to be the primary thing that people go there to do. If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that many people walk right up to their monument of choice to be photographed, which I thought it would make a great blog post about what NOT to do. So here’s to an often overlooked principle of great vacation photos – placing your subject!!!
The temptation is real. You see this amazing thing you’ve always wanted to see, and you want your picture with it, so the most logical thing to do is to stand next to it while a random stranger snaps away. Believe it or not, that’s the worst possible place to stand because this is what that looks like.
Typically if your subject is large, for example, the Washington Monument, the shuttle Discovery, or a whale, it will only serve to dwarf the person you care about to the size of a baby chicken. Your end goal is to see them both.
How do you accomplish this? By placing your subject about 6-10 feet in front of you, and filling the background with the cool thing you’re experiencing.
After my daughter ran to the shuttle to have her photo taken, I asked her to walk back toward me until she was big enough to be identifiable.
That’s already about 500 times better. Because really we know what the space shuttle looks like – the point is that Melody was in the same room and was like, “wow, that’s really big.” So the most important thing is really the person, and that you be able to recognize (but not see every detail) of the thing behind them.
Next, we want to move her over a little. The image is unbalanced because she’s directly in front of it. Roughly, we want to follow the Rule of Thirds, which says that an image is most visually pleasing when the subject is placed in the intersection of grid lines or on a grid line that cuts through the image when it is divided into thirds.
All rules are made to be broken at some point, but in general this is true. Notice that the shuttle nose is at an intersection and Melody is on a line. This is more visually pleasing than when they’re aligned. Thanks for bearing with the snapshot quality images. 🙂 I wanted it to be realistic… and I thought it would be weird to carry a lighting umbrella around.
Next you’ll want to play around with different angles. It’s easy to take an image from just one spot and move along, but there’s a process to figuring out the best possible image. This is one part of what separates a good photographer from a bad one – a good photographer is not afraid to experiment with new ideas or to withhold them from public view.
Try moving to the side of an object to see if you like the perspective better.
Or squatting down and shooting up for a unique angle (just avoid photographing boogers).
You might also try clucking like a chicken. And, as much as you can, keep your background free of random people you don’t know or things that aren’t important to the image, like people you don’t know.
Also when you try to take a photo of your toddler being cute, be aware that he may decide to duck under the railing and run under the shuttle Discovery. And you might need to chase him.
What are your favorite vacation photo tips? Share below!