DSLR camera settings for vacations

May 7, 2012 at 6:33 a.m. ET

When heading on vacation, grab your DSLR camera to get shots of your family enjoying the sights at your favorite destinations. Before you leave home, familiarize yourself with the camera settings that will help you capture the best quality pictures on your vacation.

man taking a photo of wife on vacation

Shutter speed

If you're shooting a lot of action on your family vacation, you need to adjust your DSLR's shutter speed to get the clearest photographs. As a general guideline, a shutter speed of 1/250 second or faster lets you take quality action photos. Also, look for a camera that allows you to shoot in bursts or continual high speed mode. With this setting, the camera shoots many photos in quick succession when you hold down the shutter button. This is a fantastic way to capture action shots.

Read our guide to shooting action shots >>

Quick tip

If your DSLR's shutter speed is still too slow to capture the photo quality you desire, you should press the shutter release when your child (or other moving object) is at its peak of movement. For just that instant, there is an ever-so-brief freeze of motion.

ISO rating

By changing your ISO settings on your DSLR, you can capture beautiful pictures -- no matter if you are in bright light or low light. So whether it's indoors or outdoors, night or day, you can get amazing pictures. When shopping for a DSLR, look for an easy-to-use camera that is compact in size but also provides a lot of flexibility with the settings. The Canon EOS Rebel T3i features an expanded ISO range with rating up to 6400 (expandable to ISO 12800). This wide range makes it possible to shoot amazing photos in situations that were previously unimaginable without using flash.

Aperture setting

For beautiful outdoor shots on your family vacation, you may want to take pictures with a clear focus on the subject and a blurred background. Professional photographers often do this and you can too. Select the widest aperture setting on your DSLR (that's the smallest f-number) and choose the longest focal length on your zoom lens. Also, make sure that your subject and its background are as far apart as possible.

Check out these DSLR photography tips for beginners >>

Semi-auto modes

If you have a new DSLR, get familiar with all your camera settings before heading out on your vacation. Take advantage of the semi-auto modes (most DSLRs have these settings for portraits, sports, etc.). These modes do a little of the work for you, but also allow you to have some flexibility and control to get the best pictures possible.

HD video

A good DSLR camera offers video capabilities too. For spectacular video of your family vacation, get a DSLR that allows you to take Full HD video captured at 1920 x 1080 resolution. You'll be able to share these high-quality videos with friends and family for years to come.

Read more about how to take memorable vacation photos >>

Family travel

Discover fun family destinations with our Family Travel Guide. From museums to amusement parks, we've got you covered. Summer awaits -- start planning your vacation now!

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