Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book

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Putting together a great photo book of your recent trip to show friends and family isn’t always easy. The majority of people always fall into the trap of too many photos, most of which are too similar. To stop your family and friends from switching off and instead really engage with your photos, you need a clear flow with a few key shots. Here are some tips to help you put together a killer photo book.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - Venice

Venice Italy

The Wow Shot

If you were photographing a story for a magazine, your wow shot would be a double page spread. This is the photo that needs to capture the viewer’s attention and make them want to turn the page to see more. This is no different if you are putting together your own photo book from a recent trip.

Depending on what the trip or story is about, you’ll need an image to capture the basis of the narrative. For example, if you are in a national park, your double page spread might be of a stunning landscape vista, or if you’re in a city it might be a famous landmark. The key for this image is that it has the wow factor so choose wisely.

The Landmark

Everyone has seen the world’s landmarks thousands of times and they have been photographed even more. That is because they are amazing works of art or architecture, natural wonders, or historically important places or things. Thus, they should be on your destination shot list and subsequently in your photo book.

How you photograph them is up to you, so that’s where your research and creativity can help set your images apart. It is key though to not overwhelm your photo book with photos of the landmark, just two or three images are more than enough.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - Istanbul

The Blue Mosque – Instanbul Turkey

To avoid having repetitive photos of a landmark in your book try to capture one which focuses on the whole place (the shot from the distance). Then add one or two that focus on the details or what’s happening in and around it. This will help your friends and family stay more engaged with the story and make it less boring to look through.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - Istanbul

The inside of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

Local Food

For me, the local food of a destination is one of the main aspects that should be captured and featured in any photo story about a location. After all, every country, city, or region has its own specialties. But photographing food outside a studio can be challenging. You are often battling low light conditions, as well as a product that will begin to deteriorate the longer it is left.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - USA

Food – USA

The easiest way to photograph food without the control of a studio is outside using natural light. Find somewhere with some shade which will make it easier as you won’t have harsh shadows from direct sunlight to deal with. Once you have your photos, just edit them to one or two key dishes rather than showing what you ate at every meal.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - Istanbul

Food in Istanbul Turkey

The Locals

This is the photo that most people struggle with as it requires you to engage with the subject and some photographers can often find that daunting. But a photograph of the locals is one of the key shots that should be in your vacation photo book. However, even if you have a lot of photos of the locals, pick only a few key ones rather than including everything. Try to have a mixture of traditional and environmental portraits to avoid your photo book from looking too repetitive.

One of the best places to get candid photos of locals going about their daily lives is in local markets. This is often where you will see the real destination away from the crowds. Local markets will also give you an opportunity to photograph local foods and produce as well so make it a priority for any destination you are visiting.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - Turkey

People in Turkey.

Cityscapes

The skyline of a famous city is often one of the main photos that people like to see from a destination. But doing the scene justice and ultimately having a photo that captures people’s attention in your photo book requires research and dedication to achieve. Often a great cityscape photo can work for your opening wow shot, but it needs to be more than just the city skyline.

It could be a dramatic sky, an alternative view of the skyline, or maybe just the way you have composed your image with a point of interest in the foreground. Capture a stunning cityscape and it will immediately stand out in any photo book.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - UAE

Cityscape in the United Arab Emirates.

Close-ups

Magazines often call these sort of images fillers, in that they look wonderful when used in a small size. It could be that you have a series of nine of this sort of close-up images all clustered together in a square. Not only will they look great, but they are also incredibly fascinating to look through.

Details are all around you at any destination so the most important thing is to keep your eyes open and look around. It could be carvings on a wall, local fauna, or even street signs. Not only will they look great in your photo book but they will also show the viewer things that are often missed by the naked eye.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - Cambodia

Details – Cambodia

The Alternative View

The one problem facing all photographers these days is that most places have been photographed numerous times. So how can you make it look different in your photos rather than showing people the same photos they have seen so many times before? This part comes down to you as a photographer and how creative you can be on location. Sometimes you get lucky and unique photo opportunities present themselves before you. But often you will need to think of how to make your images different.

Having a few photos which are different from the usual ones you’d expect from a destination can really help make your photo book be engaging to friends and family, and possibly even potential clients.

Tips for Creating a Killer Vacation Photo Book - London

Brick Lane is one of the historic and unusual parts of London. Most tourists stick to the landmarks, but areas like this can really offer a different view of a location.

Conclusion

We’ve all sat there as a relative has shown us hundreds of photos from their recent trip, most of which are the same. Putting together a cohesive vacation photo book from a recent trip is not only good practice for real life (if you are working on a story) but also helps you to enjoy seeing and sharing your photos. People love seeing photographs and if you can engage your viewer, even if they are a family member or a friend, then you are on your way to being a great photographer.

Any other tips or advice? Please share them below.

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Kav Dadfar is a professional travel and landscape photographer based in London. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising but loved nothing more than photography and travelling. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty, Axiom Photographic, and Alamy and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, Lonely Planet, American Express and many more. Follow his travels and imagery on Instagram and Facebook.

  • Andrew Kliss

    Thanx for the excellent check list and accompanying illustrations of them! I’ll certainly bookmark this post.

  • Pennipistle

    An excellent and helpful post to which I’d like to add that a book is not really a book if it doesn’t contain words – not just captions but a definite narrative. Without words you have an album, not a book.
    Adding words is not always easy. The app I use to produce my book supports captions only. To get around this I use a note-taking app, take a screenshot of what I have written, crop and upload to Google Photos or wherever. Now I have my note as a photo it can be incorporated in the book like any other photo.
    Another tip is to be unafraid of taking a fairly mundane shot if it will aid the narrative. I recently went on my first-ever coach tour and didn’t think to photograph either the coach or our driver. A small photograph combining both would have made sense in context and would not need to be a work of art!.

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