Just like many people, I love everything about road trips - the interesting destinations, the long stretches of driving and taking in the landscape, the perfect playlists, the unique kind of bonding with your trip-mates that can’t happen anywhere else. In order to make those vacation memories last as long as possible, I've gotten into the habit of photographing as much as I can; as a result, I learned a lot about what kinds of pictures make the best souvenirs even years later.
If you want to know how to capture your amazing road trip memories forever as photos, here are some of my tips for getting the best images out of your travel!
Take photos of the moments in between.
Personally, my fondest memories of road trips are not of specific sites and destinations we planned for, but more so the games I played in the backseat with my sister or the random unexpectedly fantastic roadside diners. If you want to capture the memories of your trip accurately, make sure your camera roll is more than just posed pictures in front of tourist destinations; blurry iPhone photos taken on a whim can be some of the most perfect encapsulations of a moment.
Related to the above point, make sure every shot you take isn’t too calculated and perfect. If someone falls asleep with their mouth open, if someone’s having fun in the water and the lighting is great - some of the best, most natural poses are, as you might expect, unposed! (Read here for more on posing and other travel photography tips.)
Lean into unplanned photoshoots.
Some of my favorite road trip photos I’ve ever taken were at a random cactarium in the middle of the California desert that my friends and I stopped at on a whim (pictured above). I'm fond of these photos because they remind me of the time we goofed around with a camera and lighting for an hour, experimenting and letting ourselves have fun with it—it doesn't matter whether they’re technically perfect. Taking pictures can become a fond memory in and of itself! Lean into that possibility.
Experiment with different cameras and their purposes.
If you have a camera you’re comfortable with and know photographs to your preference, then by all means use that! However, I also recommend some experimentation with different cameras and their advantages and drawbacks for different situations; more expensive doesn’t always mean more appropriate. DSLRs, GoPros, iPhone cameras, polaroids, and even disposable cameras are all options to experiment with to get your perfect picture. For example, the above image was taken on a film camera to achieve that blurry, dreamy quality.
Determine what kinds of photos you like and set up those shots.
I have a friend who is obsessed with extreme close-ups on details, and when she sees a certain accessory on a friend or a color combination on a jukebox, she makes the effort to stop and get that perfect picture suited to her tastes. I love photos of someone from behind while they look at something interesting, and have dozens of shots like this at cool landmarks. If you take the time to figure out the specific compositions you love, you’ll start seeing opportunities for those shots everywhere!
Be aware of composition and lighting.
It takes practice, but try to set up each shot with intention, and an idea of the finished image in your head - it can help to look at pictures from photographers or Instagrams you like for inspiration. When the shot is intentional with a goal in mind, it will turn out better - and make YOU grow as a photographer. Here is our guide to excellent photo composition, to start!
But not TOO aware! :)
Road trips are all about fun! Make sure you’re not spending so much time worrying about getting the perfect shot to capture this moment in time that you’re not able to live it. What matters at the end of the day is that you are happy with your pictures and think they captured the feeling of your trip, not that they’re "perfect."
What's your favorite road trip photo you've ever taken? Leave a comment letting us know!
Once you have your perfect road trip photos, don't forget to print them! :)