Chase the Midnight Sun: Iceland and Canada tours available now!

10 Tips to Snap the Best Holiday Pictures

How to Take Perfect Holiday Photos

|August 13, 2019
Kristina has been writing for the internet of things since 2010. She enjoys writing about adventures in nature just as much as embarking upon them herself.

With time, memories tend to fade away. While the best holiday moments might stick with you long after the vacation, it’s nice to have great holiday pictures to look back to and keep the memories alive!

Maybe you think you don’t have “the eye” – but don’t worry! Photography is a skill that can be learned and perfected over time. We share our best easy-to-learn photo-taking tips and tricks to help you improve your skills!

Before You Snap a Single Photo

1. Plan before you shoot

solo kayaking on lake louise in canada

Timing is everything

Before you start snapping picture after picture of that stunning waterfall in Iceland or that grazing caribou, stop for a moment. Imagine what you want to see through the lens of your camera before you even line up your eye. 

Study your subject. If it’s landscape - which element do you want to highlight? An outstretched glacier tongue? Or maybe the raging waves of the Atlantic Ocean?

Think of how you can make it stand out differently from what you might've seen online. There's always a way to make even the most photographed sights in the world unique. Once you have a clear picture of what you want to photograph, it's much easier to capture.

2. Set up the story behind the photo

couple posing for a picture in canada canmore area

Love is in the Arctic air...

As you take your photo, think about what you want to say with the image. Imagine a story about what you see through your lens. 

It may be yellow wildflowers that caught your eye, signaling the coming of spring.

It may be the hot steam rising from the Blue Lagoon, a reminder of geothermal caverns beneath your feet.

Maybe it’s the eyes of your friends that tell a hundred stories with a single glance.

When you have that mental image, the focal point of your picture will come naturally.

3. Only use equipment you’re familiar with

taking a phone picture of skogafoss

Stick to your strengths

The tools you work with dictate the quality of your pictures and it’s fundamental that you know how to use them. While pictures taken with a phone might not be as good as those shot with professional equipment, it’s better to trust your good old phone camera than start using new professional gear on your vacation. 

If you buy professional gear, take a few weeks to familiarize yourself with the tool’s features. A quality camera will open you up to the world of stunning photographs, but if you rush into your vacation without learning how to use it, you’ll likely spend most of your time frustrated and stressed. 

When in doubt, stick to your phone! Taking photos on your phone as you go is perfectly fine and with a good editing app, you can make your pictures stand out just as much as shots taken with the latest gear.   

4. Mastering portraits

portrait photo of a redhaired woman

Hold the camera at eye level

On top of taking hundreds of selfies during your holiday, you’ll also be taking portraits of your loved ones or you’ll ask them to take one of you. There are a few tricks you can do to improve your portrait game. 

If the person in your lense is standing right next to you, don’t take the picture from a low angle. Holding the camera at eye level will focus the camera onto the person in front. They won’t have to look down at you and the background will be blurred, sharpening them as the most important detail in the photograph. 

If the person is standing farther away from you and you can see their full height, take the photo from a lower angle. This way the person will not disappear into the background. It’ll also invite the sky and breathtaking nature behind the subject into the shot. 

One other tip worth noting is that pictures with a person in the background will always look better if the person wears bright clothes. This way, he or she will pop out of the dark background, making the editing process easier. 

Set up the Shot

5. The rule of two-thirds

aurora borealis above a lake in iceland

Yes - you too can capture the Northern Lights!

The rule of two-thirds is considered one of the most important rules in composition and is used by most photography professionals. It basically asks you to divide your shot into nine squares, in a 3x3 grid. Then, place your most important objects in line with the four vertical lines.

Using this technique will help you create balanced photographs and naturally engage your viewer's eye. Some phones include this grid as an optional feature. 

If there aren’t many objects in your picture and you want to show an overall landscape, such as an amazing sunset over sea or sky, make sure it takes up two-thirds of your picture. Your subject should dominate the lens, guiding the viewer's eye in the right direction.

6. Photograph in the morning or later in the evening

sunset above a frozen field in winter

It's called "the Blue Hour" for a reason!

Not everyone is willing to wake up early in the morning when they’re on holiday. Pro photographers know, however, the early bird gets the worm. Waking up early not only gives you a chance to shoot some magnificent sunrises but also provides you with great light for every shot! In the photographers’ world, early and late twilight is called the Blue Hour.

If you’re not a fan of waking up early, then shooting great snaps in the evening might be a solution. Right after the sun has set and just before the darkness comes, that little window of soft, moody light, Blue Hour, is just ideal for photos. By choosing to take holiday photographs in the evening, you also avoid the crowds and have all the sights to yourself.

Right after the sun has set, just before the darkness comes... that little window of soft, moody light: the Blue Hour

7. It looks better from the top

thorsmork valley winter view in iceland

Is there a word for envy over a bird's eye view?

During your holiday, you might often find yourself in a situation where the object that you want to photograph is too big or you can’t find a nice angle. In such situations, you might want to do some experimentation. 

If you can’t find the right angle to take photographs from, try going on top of an object, mountain or a glacier, for example. From the top, not only will you still see the mountains or glaciers but you will also get great panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. 

If getting above an object is not an option, move further away from it. Your photograph will show the object from a wider angle, which works really well with landscape photography.


8. Photo editing apps on the go

levitating mobile phone illusion above a road

Who's holding that phone??

When you’re enjoying your time away from home, the last thing you want to be worrying about is editing those seemingly perfect holiday pictures. The quicker you can edit a photo on the go and share it with your friends, the quicker you can get back to the nature you’re surrounded by!

While everyone knows about Instagram’s and Facebook’s editing tools, there are a few other free apps that will give your pictures that look professional. VSCO, Snapseed, and Lightroom Mobile - all have paid and free versions with a bunch of editing features and filters.

Instantly share your vacation memories with friends on social media — all you have to do is find the best photo editing app for you.

9. Rein in the saturation

very saturated pictures of horses in winter

Colors to the Max

While pretty much everyone can edit their photographs to a somewhat professional level, it still looks less professional than those of our beloved photographers. So what is it that they do differently? The most common amateur photo editing mistake is using too much contrast, saturation, and sharpening. 

While vivid colors can be tempting, be careful to not overdo it. Too much saturation and contrast can leave your photo looking like a rainbow exploded all over it. Too much sharpening of an image can also show too much detail, creating a busy image that stresses the eye. Try using these tools as little as possible and keep the picture simple, yet charming.

10. Shadows and highlights

icelandic mountain landscape near akureyri in summer

Play around and go wild!

Don't be afraid to experiment. If you aren't used to an editing app yet, don’t be afraid to play around with a picture or two: make a few completely different edits, apply various filters, and change the parameters. 

If you choose to use filters, go back to shadows and highlights — play around a little and see if you can improve your picture a little more. Tweaking the light and dark in your photo will make your perfect picture pop even more.

Related tours

Related blog posts