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10 Things to Photograph on Every Vacation

When traveling on vacation, or “holiday” as they say in Australia, there are certain things I recommend photographing to showcase your experience and the destination. On my recent trip to Australia, sponsored by Tourism Queensland, I used a combination equipment explained in our perfect pack list for photographers to capture this “opportunity of a lifetime.”  Side note: I did buy a Panasonic waterproof camera but it failed while snorkeling.  Check out my review on Amazon if you want details…

As you head on vacation, bring your cameras and have fun.  I often see photographers fall into a trap, where they spend so much time taking pictures or capturing the perfect image that they forget to relax and enjoy. Don’t make this mistake.  Unless you are on a professional photography assignment, I recommend that you let go of perfection. While I understand the need to make everything into a portrait or piece of art, travel photos document memories. In most cases they should be snapshots. I often shoot in aperture priority when on vacation to keep things simple. I just adjust the exposure compensation, compose, and shoot. I want to experience everything, not just watch my travels through the lens.

Whether you are a professional photographer, hobbyist, or just own a point & shoot or camera phone, here are 10 things to photograph on every vacation:

1. Signs: From airport signage showing your destination to street signs, store signs and more, this is a great way to capture the local flavor, culture and happenings on your trip. Here is a sign in Cairns, Queensland indicating crocodiles may be found in the water. I stayed out!

queensland crocodile sign

2. Food: Take pictures of unique or interesting items as they arrive at the table. Also consider snapping images of menus, restaurant frontage, views from your table, and colorful drinks. I learned quickly that the most popular local food in the Great Barrier Reef region is Prawns. They are enormous versions of shrimp and come to the table with their heads attached. While in Australia, I also tried Barramundi reef fish, Morton Bay Bugs (which are similar to crab and lobster), crocodile and kangaroo.

prawns in queensland

3. People: Often images of the locals make for unique photographs that really tell a story of the people. Since I was traveling to Australia with a group of bloggers, I mainly photographed them.Here is a sample image taken by Tourism Queensland at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

4. Places: Take pictures of the local buildings, your hotel room, newsstands, and other places you visit.

5. Activities: Take pictures of the things you do on your vacation. Whether it’s a photo of zip lining, snorkeling, a trip to the zoo, hiking, relaxing at the beach, or even shopping, capturing your daily activities is a must. One of the highlights of my trip to Tropical North Queensland was the helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef.  It was amazing.  As seen in the photo below, we landed on that sandy cay.  What an incredible experience.

helicopter trip


6. Views: Take photos of the sights. Find look out points or interesting angles to get landscape, rural or cityscape imagery. Also consider sunrise, sunset, nighttime and full sun images of the views.

Here’s an image taken from a lookout point in Port Douglas.

port douglas

And here is my favorite image, a sailboat silhouette:


7. Wildlife: If you go to a destination with interesting wildlife, make sure to photograph animals, birds and marine life. As you can see, Australia was a perfect place for this. I photographed interesting birds, kangaroos, koalas, and even crocodiles. If there is enough interest, I can do a full post about capturing wildlife.

animals of cairns australia

8. Differences: Find things that are different than where you live. For example, if you travel internationally, it could be the currency, text written in another language, or even differences in words used at home. In Australia, there are a lot of different expressions. You might even find a t-shirt or souvenirs you can photograph showing these. “No Worries.” I bought an entire book.  Here’s a snapshot from my iPhone of a t-shirt I saw at the airport.

australian slang and english


9. Headlines: Grab a local newspaper and photograph captions from the days on your trip. This will give you a perspective of what was going on in the world and region while you were there. Also, consider getting a tabloid or newspaper with more interesting headlines. These are great to mix in with other photos from your trip.

10. Your travel companions: Take pictures of the people accompanying you. For my trip to the Great Barrier Reef, I took a lot of shots of the 10 bloggers plus five generous hosts from Tourism Queensland. Here’s a fun one of Mei, of Malaysia.  Her blog is CC Food Travel.

Bonus #11. Yourself: Get in photos. As photographers it is so easy to take photos of everyone else and avoid getting in pictures. I’ve made this mistake. I have many trips where it appears my husband traveled with my kids. In November 2011, I made a commitment to hand the camera to others so I can get in a few shots. It is important to be part of the memories, not just capture them. Many photographers hate getting in front of the lens, my included. But seriously, promise me that you will start, if you do not already.

Check out these images of me. Super fun, even if I wish I was thinner or photographed better. Imagine if I did not get in these?

MCP in Australia


And if you want a good laugh, here’s me getting interviewed about the blogger trip on Win TV in Australia:


When you travel, what do you like to photograph most? I’d love to see your favorite vacation shots. Here are some ways you can share these with us.

– Post to Instagram or Twitter and tag @mcpactions.
– Upload to our Facebook page wall and write “my favorite vacation image” – or add to your own wall and tag our page.
– Add your image to the comment section of this blog post.

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  1. June 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm —

    Great tips. Perhaps you should rename to the blog entry to “11 Things to Photograph on Every Vacation” since you have two #5’s: Activities and Views.

    Last year, I made two trips to Florida. But it was not a vacation trip for me; it was a “bucket list” trip for me to see the final Space Shuttle launch, a personal mission. I did get activities, places, views, people, and one seagull.

    I had a packed agenda, Day 1, drive, day 2, launch, day 3, visit KSC Visitors Center and attend post launch party, day 4, drive home. I did hand my camera to a stranger at KSC VC to photograph me in front of the Signature Poster for Atlantis. The second trip was an overnight trip to see Atlantis land 200 yards from the runway.

  2. June 18, 2012 at 9:58 pm —

    Looks like you had an amazing time! And what fun to be on TV!

  3. Kim P
    June 17, 2012 at 8:28 am —

    Great tips! I especially think the variety of suggestions are helpful when visiting the same place more than once. It is easy to fall into the routine of focusing on sites and landscapes but using these ideas, the photos from each trip will tell a unique story.

  4. Ana M.
    June 17, 2012 at 12:15 am —

    Awesome tips! I like to photograph the sights and people. It would be great to see a post about capturing wildlife 🙂

  5. vikki
    June 16, 2012 at 7:32 am —

    Ha I spotted you doing the Tim Tam slam in the bottom pic! Looks like you had a FAB time Jodi

  6. June 16, 2012 at 2:03 am —

    Love the differences and the sail boat shot reminds me of this that I took in St Ives, Cornwall the other week.

    I’m not too sure about the newsstands though. It could be anywhere and doesn’t feel like a location specific shot to me.

    Overall though, some new ideas for me 🙂

    Thank you


  7. Adrian Eugene Seet
    June 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm —

    The suggestion of photographing newspapers is a great insight. Will definitely give that a try the next time. I also enjoy taking signs as well as lots of unposed people actions”.

  8. Daisy
    June 15, 2012 at 11:40 am —

    This is a great post. Lots of good tips! I’d love to see more about photographing wildlife while on vacay. Thanks!

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10 Things to Photograph on Every Vacation