Travel Tips

7 Photography Styles To Level Up Your Vacation Photos, Plus The Picture-Perfect Destinations You Should Visit

It’s easy to take an Instagram-worthy getaway with Hilton Grand Vacations

The Vacationeer
Royal Palm, a Hilton Vacation Club in Sint Maarten

We love all vacation photos, from beach selfies to family portraits. But if you’re looking to upgrade your photography skills — whether you’re interested in photography as a hobby or want to add variety to your Instagram grid — it can be hard to know where to start. As long as you have a smartphone with a camera, you can take pictures you’ll want to show off.

Here are seven different styles of photography that will help you take your pictures to the next level plus the Hilton Grand Vacations location perfect to try out that technique.

A Hilton Grand Vacations Owner in the pool at The Grand Islander, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Hawaii 
Instagram credit: yocchi_lind

1. Bird’s-Eye View

As drones become more affordable, more photographers utilize this technology to snap incredible vistas from dizzying heights. Drone photography encourages play with perspective, capturing familiar landscapes as new sights.

Where to go: For stunning aerial photography, head to Oahu. The island’s sweeping coastlines and verdant hills offer endless opportunities for unforgettable vacation pics, so don't miss Kaiaka Bay Beach Park, Sandy Beach Park or Lanikai Beach.

Drones are also fantastic for capturing the majesty of sights like Waimea Waterfall, a 45-foot-high cascade.

Photography tips: Respect Oahu’s drone laws — such as staying away from airports, military airbases and state parks — and carry proper licenses and certificates. Pack extra batteries for your drone and camera to maximize your flight time.

Where to stay: If you don’t have a drone, you can enjoy aerial views from the rooftop pool at The Grand Islander, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club.

A Hilton Grand Vacations Owner by the pool of Tuscany Village, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Orlando 
Instagram credit: Alexandria Dimitriou

2. Poolside Portraits

Have you ever taken a vacation photo only to see your subject squinting into the sun? Don’t let sunny days ruin your vacation, and embrace the light for portraits that will make your travel party look absolutely radiant.

Where to go: With over 200 sunny days a year, Orlando is an obvious destination for all things fun under the sun. Enjoy year-round sunshine on the water, on horseback or at one of Orlando’s nature parks.

Photography tips: There are plenty of ways to manage overexposure, a common issue with direct-sunlight photography — from diffusing the light with fabric like a curtain, blocking the overhead light with an umbrella or waiting a few hours for the light to change. Golden hour, just before sunset, creates softer lighting that photographers love.

Where to stay: Explore Tuscany Village, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club for plenty of on-site photo ops, from the pools, Italian-style architecture and lakefront walking paths.

Exterior of Mcalpin Ocean Plaza, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Miami Beach, Florida 
Instagram credit: skylineninenine

3. Street Style

Showcase a destination’s architectural style through photography, whether you’re capturing soaring skyscrapers or historical buildings. You don’t have to be an architecture enthusiast to photograph interesting structures.

Where to go: Miami Beach, Florida — recognizable for its colorful art deco buildings — is a fantastic spot for this style of photography. Take a walking tour from the Miami Preservation League to find the best subjects.

Across the Biscayne Bay, Pérez Art Museum Miami and Wynwood Walls offer more street-side sights for the artistic eye.

Photography tips: Golden hour is (again) a photographer’s best friend. However, other types of lighting can create specific effects, depending on how you use them. Direct light can create dramatic shadows, whereas stormy skies can make buildings look more haunting.

Elevate your street-level photography by considering your vantage point. Don’t be afraid to move around and play with perspective. For example, if you photograph a skyscraper looking up, the lines of the building will converge because of your perspective. However, snapping a picture directly across from the building will result in neat, parallel lines.

Where to stay: Stay right on Ocean Drive in the Art Deco District at McAlpin Ocean Plaza, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club for plenty of architectural inspiration.

A view of the Las Vegas Strip from Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club 
Instagram credit: jeremyh_0230

4. Neon Nights

Few things are cozier than curling up in bed and watching glittering city lights from your window or as lively as the flash of neon on a night out. However, capturing the beauty once the sun sets can be challenging.

Where to go: Las Vegas is renowned for its nightlife and signature neon signage. With a little know-how, it’s easy to find plenty to photograph around the Las Vegas Strip after dark, including the Neon Museum, which displays iconic neon signs from Vegas history, and the High Roller Observation Wheel for sky-high shots of the sparkling streets below.

If you’re willing to hike after hours, try a photography walk of Red Rock Canyon and leave with photos of the stars.

Photography tips: Use a tripod and timer on your camera to keep it steady during your shot — shaking hands impact the clarity of nighttime photos. Or play with long exposure to capture intriguing lines of from passing taillights. It’s also helpful to have a little light on hand for darker shots, whether you use your phone’s flash (with some tissue over the flash to diffuse the harsh light) or a spare flashlight for more control over your lighting.

Where to stay: Surround yourself with Vegas’ signature skyline at Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club and enjoy the view through wall-to-ceiling windows.

A Hilton Grand Vacations Owner at the pool of Sedona Summit, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club 
Instagram credit: icaqb

5. Surreal Shots

Play with your viewer’s expectations with some surreal photography. It takes a little extra creativity and effort, but surrealism can make your vacation photos even more memorable, blurring the line between dream and vacation.

Where to go: Escape the mundane and embrace mystery in Sedona, Arizona. Visit Sedona’s vortex sites, places of positive energy. Or head to Antelope Canyon on a day trip for unique photos of the windswept canyons. Check out Sedona’s other Instagram-worthy locations.

Photography tips: Surreal photography is more about experimentation and breaking the rules. Experiment with silhouettes, horizon lines, light, reflections and perspective. One easy place to start is with forced perspective, a photography technique that tricks the eye into thinking a subject is bigger or smaller than it actually is.

Where to stay: Sedona Summit, a Hilton Vacation Club has a sweeping view of Sedona Plateau, providing a dreamy backdrop for your photography, surreal or otherwise.

Brick Victorian manor at Craigendarroch Suites, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Scotland 
Instagram credit: maxlovesadventure

6. Moody Moments

Add a mysterious flair to your photography for moody shots, especially fitting for destinations that may be more prone to overcast weather. This style is also perfect for storied destinations.

Where to go: Head to the Scottish Highlands for a destination full of rolling hills, foggy mornings and historical buildings. See Balmoral Castle, the Scottish home to the Royal Family since 1852, and explore the Cairngorms, the heart of the Highlands.

Photography tips: Moody photography is often identifiable by its deep shadows and rich colors, so use flash sparingly. Instead, use natural lighting to illuminate your subjects, but don’t be afraid of shadows, which evoke that air of mystery. For the more tech-savvy, a little editing can go a long way. Give black-and-white photography a try, too.

Where to stay: Take a Scottish holiday at Craigendarroch Suites, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club and explore the on-site Victorian country house — no time machine required.

A Hilton Grand Vacations Owner at the pool at The Crane, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Barbados 
Instagram credit: _manateeee

7. Under The Waves

If you’d prefer to spend your vacation time in the water rather than messing with a camera, try underwater photography for the best of both worlds.

Where to go: St. Philip, Barbados, boasts crystal clear waters with high visibility, a world-class destination for underwater photography. Stay close to the shore of Crane Beach and Foul Bay for plenty of sun, surf and shade.

Explore shipwrecks on the other side of the island at Folkestone Marine Park, or dive Carlisle Bay on your own.

Photography tips: Follow dive etiquette, which ensures that divers remain safe and marine life is protected for everyone to enjoy. You may need to get close to your subject since water can mute colors and sharpness, but be sure to avoid touching wildlife like coral reefs, which are very delicate. You also don’t need to buy a specialty underwater camera as long as you invest in the proper waterproof casing to protect your camera.

Where to stay: Stay at The Crane, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club, overlooking Crane Beach and Barbados’ beautiful blue water and the property’s rooftop terraces, lush gardens and cliff-top pools.

Read “9 Expert Tips For Taking Better Vacation Photos” for more ways to level up your photography.

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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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