Snap! Not! Vacation Photos

Trying to pack too many photos into too little time can result in photos of everything but few, if any, terrific shots. To document your vacation as well as taking some great shots for Dreamstime, you need to plan ahead. It's not just about getting the best airfare and hotel for your money. I'm going to write several blogs on vacation photos over the next month as we enter prime holiday time. You'll see that a lot of the information isn't about photography. It's about planning to maximize your photographic OPPORTUNITIES.

Don't neglect the standard research in guidebooks and newspapers. and serve up the best tips from those two magazines. Many newish Internet sites are springing up to help you figure out not only where to go but also what to photograph. And in some cases, they connect you with others traveling to the same place or to the locals.

Beyond the huge booking sites such as Orbitz and Expedia for finding airfares, don't neglect the economy airlines such as Southwest in the US and the many European based value priced ones that aren't listed on the big sites. Visit for a list of all economy airlines in Europe.

My favorite for finding hotels is the old standard: combined with I find the hotel on and then jump to TripAdvisor read the reviews and get comparison pricing from five or more travel sites without leaving TripAdvisor. Before I book I go to the hotel site directly in case they have lower rates or specials. Nothing worse than spending your first few precious days in a location trying to get out of a bad hotel or trying to book a new one rather than taking pictures.

How to decide where to go and what to photograph? There is a plethora of sites to help you decide. Many of the following are either in Beta or don't yet have the critical mass of members to be useful for more than the most popular destinations but I report on them as they offer the possibility of giving you more than the standard fare. I have used either Seattle or Romania (and have used skylines and important building images from these places to illustrate this piece) as target destinations to find the best of the new sites for information important to photographers. I steered clear of all but one of the purely socially networked sites. Research is one thing but reading through hundreds of blogs that may or may not be pertinent to your trip is simply a waste of time. A full list of the sites I reviewed is courtesy of

© Tashka is in 'alpha' but I still found good information about Seattle. The site suggested The Pink Door as a dining spot. It's a favorite for the hipsters and young professionals in town and a good place to dine with a view. The site gets you started with a slide bar to indicate what you like: you can rate your intended plans by five categories including "nature" and "attractions". I noticed that more than just the tourist spots were highlighted. In fact one can eliminate "popular destinations" by checking a box. Images of popular destinations are important but remember everyone takes those shots so off the beaten path might yield some unique images. has the most promise of the sites because of the depth of its coverage. It bills itself as people interested in travel, music & art, writing & photography, sports, and positive global development. But it failed both the Bucharest and the Seattle test. I did find out about the 2nd Annual Tattoo Festival in Borneo, however. Keep your eye on this one though because if they succeed, it will be a valuable resource. suggests trips and opportunities to do good and travel at the same time. As a world traveler that has pretty much never taken a travel vacation, I highly recommend any trip that puts you in touch with the people and culture of a place from the inside. You'll hear about places and events that the tour buses will pass right by. (Although the best introduction for your first day anywhere is often the standard city tour.)

Traveling with children? Check out but only if your destination is within the US.

© Tashka

Remember the best light is not during the heat of the day. Use that time for museum visits, naps or spotting around town to return at best light. Sunrise and sunset times worldwide are here (Geez. Seattle on the 4th of July will have 17 hours of daylight. No wonder we have time for so much fun!)

Go back to the guidebooks and maps for a final review. Nothing like going past something that is visually significant just because you didn't know it existed.

How many times have you discovered an event that you would have loved to photograph but it occurred the week before you arrived? Do your event and holiday research at to avoid that disappointment.

Once you have made your reservations or plans, its difficult to do much about the weather. But you can try to determine the average temps and weather before you lock in dates. A very cold and foggy two-week summer house rental on the Northern Coast of California comes to my mind. 'Oh, said the locals when we asked why it was so bloody cold and dark, "its always this way late June. We call it June Gloom. You'll have to come back later in the year or go inland to get the sun". So we packed up everyday and went to the Napa Valley and environs instead of playing golf and swimming at our vacation house. Here's the best bet for world weather in several languages:

Next time: How to plan to get great shots from a short trip to visit friends or relatives.

Photo credits: Ciprian Florin Dumitrescu, Ben Goode, Rechitan Sorin, Pavalache Stelian, Natalia Bratslavsky.

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we prefer the Fremont Lenin, the troll and 'waiting for the interurban'; btw, since you live on bainbridge, you probably know that one of the best skyline locations for the space needle is FROM a ferry docking around sunset. Over here we have frog rock and toe jam hill. Frog rock isn't a rock that looks like a frog but two huge boulders that have been painted to look like a frog. Someone repaints it every year or so. Don't we live in a wonderful quirky place?


we prefer the Fremont Lenin, the troll and 'waiting for the interurban'; btw, since you live on bainbridge, you probably know that one of the best skyline locations for the space needle is FROM a ferry docking around sunset.


re the space needle image removal - as seattlites, we'd MUCH rather you removed the actual space needle itself!
Having just spent a year in Florida before moving back to Bainbridge Island, seeing the Space Needle was a welcome sight. So don't have it taken down. What other city has such a strange landmark? Sorta sums up what I love about Seattle!


re the space needle image removal - as seattlites, we'd MUCH rather you removed the actual space needle itself!


my wife & i have escorted hiking trips to turkey & india and are happy to discuss independent travel with other photographers -- our website is a start, but feel free to email other questions.

and whirling dervishes actually arent too hard to find anymore in both theur home in Konya, and Istanbul there are lots of chances to see them [not the real thing, of course] the grand bazaar in istanbul is an amazing photo site - and there's something new each year


There is an "annoyance" factor in the use of the Space Needle alone. So the comments below are correct and we will remove this image and all the others on the site where the Needle isn't part of the skyline. Apparently there is little legal ground to stand on if the Space Needle attorneys wanted to sue, but to avoid users getting a letter from these lawyers, it is prudent to remove the images. Thanks for catching this!


doesn't the space needle require a property release when featured as the prominent subject??


Hi Ellen : Thanks for all of your great tips, I LOVE your articles.
Thought you might want to know ( I found this out after my last trip to Seattle ) photos of
the Space Needle are a trademark violation, unless the Space Needle is included as part
of the skyline. Best regards, Jennifer


The link towards Matador website does not work... I found which seems to be the address that you were pointing at...
Other than this, great article!!


I can't answer your white balance question as I didn't take any of these images. they are all from Dreamstime's members. Roll over the image and the image number and details of the photographer will show up if you want to ask the photographer directly. But yes it is the magic time that I also favor for some travel images. Yeah too bad about those trademarked characters at all the Disney Parks!



Reconciliation Park, Bucharest, and the Space Needle all look like they were taken at the "magic hour," which Ken Rockwell talks about a lot. It is that point after sunset before the sky goes black when the sky color perfectly balances the picture.

I particularly like how the Bucharest picture incorporates all of the artificial light colors which the human eye simply cannot pick up on.

If I may ask, did you use an automatic white balance, or did you manually balance based on something in the frame?

Our vacation this year is Disney World, which unfortunately we cannot sell images of taken within the parks. Too bad because there is some great architecture and lighting combos, despite all of the characters with gi-normous heads running around.

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