12 Ways to Make Your Travel Photos Awesomer

Posted on
Feb 16, 2012

Pretty. Boring.

How does the old adage go? Photos without people in them are merely postcards? Something like that.

It’s a fair criticism. But I’ve always been of the mind that photos with people in them, standing and smiling at the camera as though they were just recovering from a lobotomy, aren’t much better.

I mean, sure they’re nice. They’re the sort of photos you can give to your grandparents for Chrismukkah, or use as your profile picture on Linked In, or that the tabloid news shows can use to illustrate what a decent human being you were before you snapped. Good, solid, unimpeachable photos. The kind that won’t get you arrested.

Ugh. I know. So boring.

Years ago, when I went to Spain on a school trip, and took what amounted to 14 rolls of film (yes, this was back when people used film. I’ll tell you about that world sometime. When we had to research something, we’d go to library to look things up … IN BOOKS), I realized this. I knew that if we all took the same photos, of us smiling in front of a church, it would be dreadful.

So I encouraged the others to livened things up a bit. We climbed over railings and tucked ourselves into corners. We recreated famous paintings. We were yelled at by locals, and museum guards, and our host families. It was grand.

This time around, I was lucky enough to find myself with a group of folks who were just as eager to get yelled at. And I took a lot of photos.

And I promise, very few of them were boring.

So that you may have some fun of your own on your next vacation (or hell, when you are sitting on the couch, because why must travel be the only excuse for photos?) I am sharing some of my tips with you. Be warned: I am not a photographer. I don’t know what I am doing. But I am blissfully, consistently amused by my own life and the photographic record of it. That, and only that, is what gives me an air of legitimacy.

  1. Pose for an unreleased (and as-yet-unrecorded) album cover. –
    This usually works as long as everyone can keep their faces straight (ahem, Joanna).
  2. Find something that’s ruined or knocked over, and pretend that you did it.
  3. Squeeze into tiny alcoves or niches. If there is a velvet rope, climb under it. If there’s a fence, go over it. (This is usually when the security guards start to yell. Ignore them. Everyone knows the laws of other countries don’t apply to Americans.)

    Joanna (actual size).

  4. Make out. (Note: this only works if you are on a trip with your significant other. Otherwise, it can make a family trip really awkward.)
  5. Challenge the photographer to a duel.This is really fun to do if you are in a crowded area. Or on a tourbus.

    YOU!

  6. Take snapshots of people when they don’t suspect it.

    I call this one "Pensive Kenny."

  7. Pretend your travel buddies are famous.

    "Holy shit, it's Topher Grace!"

    And if you are said travel buddy, being an unwilling participant in this charade also makes for fun photos:

    "Despite the resemblance, I am NOT, I repeat, NOT Ed Asner. You dick."

  8. Take advantage of reflective surfaces. Like, say, this rearview mirror, which was inexplicably affixed to the top tier of the tour bus we were on, and enabled me to take this group shot of the four of us:


    And here’s the zoomed-in version, for those of you who need a little more magic in your day:

    Like I said: magic.

  9. Add awkward captions to photos that have not in any way been endorsed by the subjects.

    It had to be done.

  10. Take a series of similar pictures, and compile them into a gif.

  11. Use props.

    I promised them this photo wouldn't see the light of day. I lied.

    "I claim this camel in the name of Spain!"

  12. Be yourself.
     –

And above all else, remember: life is infinitely more awesome than what you see on a postcard.

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