5 Tips To Take Better Vacation Photos — From A Renowned Photographer

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There’s nothing more exciting than flinging yourself far to an unforgettable destination—and documenting your trip has become part of the travel package. Ever since social media gave us a platform to flaunt “vacation envy,” more travelers have become skilled in selfies, perfect poses, and finding the perfect backdrops, as if they are true experts taking better vacation photos than they did last time.

But there are secret ways to take better vacation photos some people still don’t know, and it doesn’t take much effort, according to famed photographer Mark Edward Harris, who has shot iconic designer Kelly Wearstler’s coffee table books and has his prints in five-star hotels like Nobu Las Vegas.

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Travelbinger spoke to Harris on maximizing your Kodak moments. Whether you take a selfie or strike a pose with a photographer, here are 5 tips to look better in your vacation photos for your social media — or just take better vacation photos in general.

5 tips to taking better vacation photos

  1. Find good lighting

Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta birthday party.

Lighting is crucial in a portrait. You never want to be too dark or too light, and one of the biggest photo fails is taking a photo of yourself with a light source directly behind you so you’re covered in shadows (unless you know how to “open up” the exposure on a professional camera).

“The trick here is to find a good balance with lighting,” says Harris. “Professional photographers have a favorite time of day that they refer to as “the golden hour” (or “the magic hour”). It’s the period shortly after sunrise, and one to two hours before a sunset when the lighting is soft and, well… perfect. These are the best times to take a photo.”

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Also, if you’re taking a photo in a sunny destination during the day, pose in your favorite sunglasses. “If you’re going to be photographed in direct sunlight, you’re better off wearing sunglasses. Squinting never makes for an appealing photo!”

  1. Angle your body

Syria vacation photo
Travelbinger in Syria.

There’s a reason why models on magazine covers and celebrities on red carpets angle their bodies: it works. The easiest way to do this is by pointing your feet toward the camera and shifting your torso so that your shoulders are angled 10 to 15 degrees out of line from your feet, giving you more dimension.

Even pulling your shoulders back can work wonders. Also helpful? Slightly separate your arms from part of your waistline. “If your arms are directly against your body, it will give the illusion that your waist continues to the outside of your arm,” says Harris. “Not too many people want to add inches to their waistline.”

  1. Keep your chin down to look better in photos

For the better part of our lives, we have constantly been told to keep our chin up. Here is where there’s an exception. Keeping your chin down with head turned slightly away from the camera is a good vantage point when taking photos. The angle will highlight your jaw and make it look stronger, while also prevents the photographer (or you, if it’s a selfie) from showing the inside of your nose.

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That said, you also never want to be looking down at a camera so make sure your photographer isn’t shorter than you, like a child. If someone takes the photo standing higher than you, it gives you a better chance to show off your chin. There’s a reason why vacationers taking selfies aim their arms high above their head! It’s one of the best tips to taking better vacation photos.

  1. Think of something funny


There’s nothing more contagious than a smile, and most people can detect when a smile is not genuine in a photo. Lucky for you, you’re traveling to one of the most beautiful places in the world, so happiness is already achieved and translated in your photos.

But if you’re just finishing a mega, miles-long hike or waking up way earlier than roosters and someone is snapping your photo, think of something funny to laugh quietly to yourself, which will light up your whole face. You can also smile with your eyes (“smizing”), which has an impact on delivery.

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  1. Focus on head and shoulders or ¾ shot to look better in vacation photos

Wolf Park Norway
Meeting wolves in Norway.

Sometimes we’re not the only object in a vacation photo. Whether a sprawling landscape or an ancient monument, chances are high that we’ll share the spotlight. But always remember to focus on including head and shoulders, a classical cropping technique, one of his best tips to look better in photos.

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“If you crop someone at the waist in a photo, you’re cropping them at possibly the widest part of the body,” says Harris. That’s a major fail to avoid. This cropping point also ensures you’ll actually be more present for a close up in the photo, so remember all the other four photo tips to look better in photos!”

Here’s our recommended camera to help you take better vacation photos.

Do you have any tips to take better vacation photos? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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