How to Take the Best Pictures on Your Vacation in Iceland

Our photographer reveals his secrets to awesome travel photos

Adelina Kiskyte

|July 10, 2019

Adelina is a curious writer, journalist, a keen traveler and a big fan of bonny Scotland, her second home after Lithuania.


Snap, edit, share – a standard routine and likely your initial reaction as you arrive in Iceland and are greeted by all the amazing views in front of you. Unfortunately, the joy doesn’t always last as long as it should — after we soon realize that those pictures we took don’t do justice to the awe-inspiring scenes that we just got so excited about.


Forget those lifeless photographs, it’s 2019 and nobody has time for a boring Instagram feed. We’re going to reveal how to take a good picture that will not only reflect the true beauty of Icelandic nature but also get the countless likes and comments it deserves!

Lithuania-based travel photographer Matas Dauginis has been traveling the world and looking at it through his camera lens for over a decade. He’s recently returned from a two-week trip to Iceland, where he did nothing but drive around and capture the grace of the Icelandic landscapes. 

Matas has kindly agreed to share some professional tips, tricks, and insights that are sure to make your holiday snaps in Iceland stand out from the crowd and make everyone jealous (in a good way!).

Photographer Drone Land Rover Discovery Iceland

Matas taking pictures in Iceland

Let’s start from the beginning – is Iceland a good destination for people who want great holiday photos?

Absolutely! Wherever you go and whatever you point your camera at, you’ll get a beautiful picture. Icelandic nature is extremely photogenic and this certainly helps to take a great picture.

What are the big mistakes people often make taking holiday pictures?

Quite often people don’t think before they take a picture. They just blindly press the button. My advice would be: think about what you want to capture in your shot before you shoot and make it different from every other photo of Iceland you’ve seen online. Even if it’s one of the most photographed places in the country, for example, Kirkjufell mountain on Snæfellsnes peninsula, look for a unique angle.

When ten photographers take pictures at the same event, you don’t all get identical photographs, because everyone sees things differently. Think of how you want to convey YOUR perception of that location.

Kirkjufell Iceland Mountain Lake Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in Iceland

Tell us, what is your secret for taking outstanding pictures on holiday?

First, take pictures with your phone. People ask if it’s possible to capture that holiday vibe on their phones – the answer is yes. Smartphones have great cameras with loads of tools to help you capture beautiful pictures, plus they require little technical knowledge.

If you start taking pictures with professional equipment that you got just before your holiday, then you will probably end up having more stress than fun and won’t be happy with the results.

Also, if you use your smartphone, you can edit pictures quickly and post them on social media straight away.

The second tip make the most of the light during sunrises and sunsets. The light during this time of the day and during the blue-hour or twilight, just after sunset before it gets completely dark, is the perfect time for taking pictures.

When it comes to photographing people think about your angles. If you’re taking a picture of someone who stands quite close to you, try not to take your shot from a low angle, but rather hold your camera at the eye-level. If the person stands slightly further away and you see them in their full length, then you can take it from a lower angle.

If you’re capturing landscapes, try not to put the person in the middle of your picture. They should be on either side of the frame. If they’re in the center, then the picture becomes all about that person rather than the scenery.

The rule of two-thirds is important when capturing a landscape. The object that you want to get more focus on, should take up two-thirds of the frame. Let’s say you spot an amazing pink sky above the sea. The sky is the point you want to bring more attention to, so it should take up twice as much space in the picture as the sea.

“If you start taking pictures with professional equipment that you got just before your holiday, then you will probably end up having more stress than fun and won’t be happy with the results.”

What shots are more interesting to look at — nature snaps or pictures with people in them?

Both are important, but if you have a person in your shot, it shows the size of the object in the background. For example, everyone standing in front of Skógafoss looks tiny, because the waterfall is so massive. If you take a picture of people and landscapes in the same shot it gives important information that could otherwise be missed in the picture. You want your pictures to be as informative as possible.

Also, pictures with people in them tend to be more attractive, because we like looking at other humans. It gives you a chance to imagine yourself standing in that person’s place.

"Also, pictures with people in them tend to be more attractive, because we like looking at other humans. It gives you a chance to imagine yourself standing in that person’s place."

What objects in Iceland are the most difficult to take a great picture of?

I personally found lava fields quite difficult to capture on film. They look flat in pictures and their structure doesn’t show as well as it does when you look at the fields with a bare eye. It looks much more impressive in person than it does in any of the photographs I’ve ever seen.

Also, all the hot springs are hidden by fog when the outside temperature is low. On one hand, you’re not able to capture their full size, but on the other hand, you can get creative and take some snaps that give off a mysterious vibe.

When it comes to animals, it can be challenging to take a good photograph of them. You should never put yourself or the animal at risk while trying to capture them. If you see that they’re not keen on being your model, then it’s best to leave it.

However, Icelandic horses are very friendly and extremely photogenic. They often come to you, so you can definitely take some beautiful snaps of those charming creatures.

If you struggle to take a picture of a glacier or a large mountain, try going on top of it! In most cases, you’ll catch sight of some panoramic scenery that’s just as impressive as the object you’re standing on. If you can’t get to the top of the object, then try to get further away from it and then take a picture.

Lava Field Iceland Texture Landscape Drone

Lava Field in Iceland

What can you do to make yourself look good in a picture?

If we’re talking about a landscape, then bright clothes always do the trick. They stand out from nature, especially in Iceland, where cold colors dominate the scenery. The bright object creates depth and attracts the eye. Someone wearing dark clothes would simply disappear in the picture.

I’ve also noticed that people often change completely when you’ve got a camera pointed at them. My advice is to act naturally, do whatever you would normally do and try to forget that someone’s taking a picture. The more naturally you act, the better the photograph you’ll get. Just chill and don’t focus on the camera.

"Act naturally, do whatever you would normally do and try to forget that someone’s taking a picture. The more naturally you act, the better the photograph you’ll get"

Person Mountain Inside Snaefellsnes Iceland

Try to act natural in front of a camera

How do you choose the best picture when you take 50 photos that all look the same?

When you get home, you might realize that you’ve got a bunch of the same looking photos. All of them were taken from the same angle, featuring the same person with the same outfit, with the only difference being the location. In this case, you should go with your gut feeling and just pick whatever place you liked the most and of which you’ve got the fondest memories. That’s the picture you should share with your friends!

Vatnajokull National Park Iceland Mountain Snow

Vatnajokull National Park

What picture editing software is the best?

VSCO, Snapseed, and Lightroom Mobile are the best for smartphone users and they’re widely available. The most common editing mistake is adding too much saturation, clarity, and contrast. It leaves the picture exploding with details and colors, which is completely unnecessary. Try and keep it simple.

A lot of people use filters but ignore other parameters. Filters only change the basic color palette, but they don’t create the best effect. After applying a filter, always play around with shadows, highlights, and contrast to make your picture look good. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

One very important last question: do the Northern Lights really look better live than in pictures?

The short and truthful answer is YES. From the technical side, it’s very difficult to take a quality picture of the Northern Lights. And it’s a completely different experience when you see something this extraordinary with the naked eye. This spectacular sight is one of the few things in the world to which pictures simply can’t do justice.

"Northern Lights is one of the few things in the world to which pictures simply can’t do justice."

People Looking At Northern Lights In Iceland

Northern Lights

Thank you, Matas! After all these holiday photography tips, I expect to never see any bad pictures of Iceland on social media ever again. Well, at least they certainly won’t be coming from my feed!

Have you got any photography tips and tricks? Tell us about them in the comments and don’t be shy to share your photos with us! Tag us on Facebook or Instagram and show your snaps to the world!