Vacation Photography Tips – from the Car!

Ever find yourself wishing you could take stellar photographs out your car window? Perhaps you’re planning a road trip, and you are keen to realize that not every photo opportunity will occur at a designated scenic overlook parking spot. In fact, often the most exciting and unique photo moments present themselves when you’re flying down the road, with no time to pull over to snap a picture. However, the speed at which you’re travelling and rarity of these moments doesn’t have to leave you frustrated. Check out these simple tips for how to capture quality photographs through your vehicle’s windows, no matter what speed you’re travelling at.

1. Keep that camera handy

Perhaps the most basic (and yet somehow the most often ignored) way to successfully shoot photographs from a moving vehicle is to simply have your camera handy at all times. Photo opportunities on the road typically only present themselves for mere seconds; keep your camera in a place where you can easily grab it to capture these moments. The last problem you want to face is the need to dig through a pile of luggage to find your camera while on the road.

2. Pre-adjust your camera settings

Again, similar to the first pointer, having your camera’s settings pre-set will help you capture those briefly presented photo ops. If you are shooting in manual, this will mean adjusting the ISO, aperture, and shutter speeds to appropriate values for the time of day during which you are travelling. In general, you’ll want to have the fastest shutter speed possible that still lets in enough light to fully capture a photograph.

Arizona Hwy 238 by Kevin Dooley3. Keep that flash off

Unless you’re travelling with your windows down, you’ll want to keep the flash function turned off. Firing a flash will just result in a backfired glare off of the window, and you are unlikely to successfully capture any picture of the scenery outside your vehicle. While flash can be used if your windows are down, it still may not be the best option. Typically, using a flash will slow down your camera’s speed—an unwanted problem if you are trying to capture any number of pictures quickly.

4. Use the “continuous capture” function

While not every camera has this setting, it is becoming more and more common in even the most affordable point-and-shoot models. Prior to your road trip, read the user manual to your specific camera to discover how to program it to shoot in this mode. Remember, however, that most “continuous capture” programs will only work as long as you are continuously holding down the shutter button.

5. Position yourself

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to snap a photo, only to find out that Uncle Steve’s head is in your way. Typically the best spots to shoot pictures from within a car are either the “shotgun” position (front seat by the driver) or the back seat (if you have a large back window). Both of these spots allow photographers to capture the events both on the sides and in front (or behind) the vehicle.

San Diego Driveby Sunset by Paul Sapiano6. Make movement your friend

If you’re snapping pictures from within a moving vehicle, there’s a pretty good chance that not every shot will be crystal clear. Prevent frustration with this issue by making the movement your friend. Only focus on one stationary object at a time, and allow anything else in the photograph to end up a bit blurry. Allow the blurred areas to be used artistically in your pictures.

As you head out for your next road trip, remember to combine these little tips with a steady camera hand to snap some stellar photographs. While not every photograph taken from within a moving vehicle will turn out beautifully, following this advice can help you have a better chance at successfully capturing great pictures from within your car.

Photo credits: Central Illinois by Kevin Dooley/flickr; Arizona Hwy 238 by Kevin Dooley/flickr; San Diego Driveby Sunset by Paul Sapiano/flickr

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