9.5 tips to creating drool worthy images on your next vacation.

I was recently introduced to Vegas.com, a site that is full of deals, tips and info on vacations, particular to Las Vegas (check them out if you’re planning a trip there soon)! Vacations are a go-to for perfect photo-ops, so it made me think about some tips for how to make vacation photos sizzle. Yes, I’m a professional photographer, and I use a fancy shmancy DSLR that enables me to take amazing images in all sorts of light and have spent years learning to use it correctly… but no way am I lugging that heavy camera on vacation, I bring my phone. I honestly believe that weather you have a $3,500 Canon Mark IV or a i-phone 5 you can still take some amazing shots.  So let’s talk about how to best use your phone to take pictures that make your friends stop scrolling their feed to check out your picture.

  • Clean your lens. Duh! But how many images have you taken have you seen cloudy haze all over them, because your phone was in your dirty pocket or purse. Go ahead use your dinner napkin. Those little lenses are durable as heck. Bam!
  • Before you snap look at your background. The single most frustrating thing for people is when they take a picture and it’s dark. Your smartphone camera tries to balance ALL the light it sees to an average of 18 percent grey. Which in practical terms it means if you are shooting people against a bright background the camera is going to try to average out the light… so your people will be very dark. You want your people to be very light, so look at you background make sure it’s overall darker than your people.
  • Look for porch light! What? Have you noticed that all those back to school first day pictures of people’s kiddos are usually darn good? Why? Because often they are taken on the front stoop, with a roof overhead, and all the light is streaming in from the front, it lights skin and makes an almost perfect picture every time. Try it! When your in a hotel next time take your going out selfie on the covered balcony and boom!!! Perfect pic.
  • Don’t zoom. Smart phone zooms suck, they become pixilated and become more sensitive to motion blur. Today’s smartphone cameras have crazy high pixel counts.  Your better off cropping as needed, or better yet, use your feet to zoom in.
  • Angles angles angles. When I shoot anything I always shoot straight on, then I go low and shoot up, then I step on a chair and shoot down on people. It makes your image WAY more interesting than straight on boring.

Here I’m almost sitting on the ground shooting up at this couple at the beautiful Mountain Shadows resort in Paradise Valley Arizona.


  • Selfies!  I know your vacation pics will be FULL of selfies, and it took me years to figure out that the volume button will act as your shutter. It was life changing when I figured that out. Your welcome!
  • Just say NO to flash. Most flashes on cameras are just glorified LED lights, they tend to wash out your subject turn them yellow and do little for actually freezing action (which is what a flash should really do) Instead look for environmental light. Look for that neon sign and use the light it illuminates to light up your picture.
  • Don’t over edit! That fake blur app… just terrible. People can spot it a mile away, it looks nothing like what’s actually done in camera because it’s a hard line between your subject and the blur. Instead when taking the picture have your subject against a background that is not so distracting. Oh and those Instagram retro faded filters…. ugh. Keep it classic and keep your edits subtle as to not distract from the image itself.
  • Take photos with people in it! Seriously leave the epic panorama shots to the postcard makers (or whatever the equivalent of that is today) People are interesting, people show scale, people love to look at other people.
  • Put the camera down! Seriously your on vacation, if your reading this blog probably on your way to Vegas. Go have some fun, eat your dinner while it’s warm instead of trying to take the perfect picture.  Go take the pictures that stay in your hard drive (memory) forever


Thanks for reading! My name is Sara Waterman I’m a Scottsdale based portrait photographer. Momma of 4 crazy kiddos, coffee addict, Amazon prime recovering addict, and lover of light!  Learn more about me on my website http://www.sarawatermanphotography.com

Some pretty pictures to peruse:

Basha 2 LOVEdev5zimmer fun


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