Last week my husband and I spent the evening at his brother's house watching a slide show of his trip to Paris. Whoever said, "A picture's worth a thousand words," never saw my brother-in-law's 30 shots of the Eiffel Tour. Who knew one of the most amazing man-made structures in the world could look so boring. These pictures belong in a shoe box under the bed and not in a slide show. There are ways to make sure your photos collect memories and not dust after your vacation. Here are some of them:
• Know your equipment. Before Lisa Cramer left on an East African safari, she bought a new digital camera, but did not buy new memory cards. She found out too late that her old memory cards didn't work in her new camera. Lisa went home with only memories and no photos from her dream vacation. If you do purchase a new camera, practice before your trip and bring the manual with you.
• Get up close and personal. Details make a photo personal. Instead of taking a shot of the entire throng of worshippers waiting for the pope at the Vatican, zoom in on the woman praying in the midst of the crowd.
• Look for the unusual. When we visited Nicaragua, I was awed by the sunset. But when I got home, my picture looked like every other sunset. My husband also took a photo of the same sunset, but only as a backdrop to a Ridley Turtle laying her eggs on the beach. His gets the awe factor.
• Follow the light. Take advantage of early morning and late afternoon sunlight. Photographers call it the sweet light. It's when the colors pop and even a blah scene shows interest. When the sun is bright, it washes out the colors. It's a great time to take pictures in the shade or indoors.
• Include people. A snapshot of the White House looks like every other picture. Add a toddler eating an ice cream cone to the scene and you've got a winner. Children, old adults and puppies are human interest magnets. And most people are happy to pose for your shots if you ask them.
• Take notes. When Susan Gates returned from a trip to Peru, she had several memory cards filled with photos, but had no idea where she took most of them. Digital cameras record when each picture is taken. Some even have a GPS system and keep track of where the picture was taken. But that's only a point of reference. Keep a notebook and jot down what is happening around you. When you get home, sorting your photos will be much easier.
According to Ewen Bell, one of Australia's top travel photographers, great photography has more to do with changing your attitude than changing your equipment. His website, photographyfortravelers.com, offers practical advice for amateur and professional photographers. With a little work, anyone can learn to avoid ho-hum shots and make outstanding pictures a snap.
• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.