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7 Tips to take Better Vacation Photos in Hawaii


Priyanka Sharma

06 Jan, 2022


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When you're on vacation, it's easy to want to take as many photos as possible; there are so many beautiful sights and activities that you don't want to miss a moment. However, this can lead to taking too many photos and not having enough time to enjoy the trip itself. But, taking great vacation photos can be tricky if you're not prepared.

That's why we've come up with 7 tips to help any photographer's Hawaii vacation photos look amazing!

1. Research The Local Laws and Ordinances

Heritage trail in South Shore Kauai

There is no getting around it, you can do all the planning in the world, but, if you're not prepared to know and abide by the local laws, your trip could be in jeopardy.

A great Hawaiian photography session requires understanding you are in an area where photography restrictions for commercial photography permits are required unless you are on a private land. Make sure you check the local state laws, apply for liability insurance, fill out forms to avoid disappointment before your plan your visit to a specific area. If you are an influencer on social media then also you must acquire the correct permit. This is the response I got from Hawaii film office when I asked about commercial vs hobbyist photography - Any photography that you will earn money or exposure by putting it online is considered commercial photography.If you are taking photos for pleasure, that would be considered a hobbyist activity.

So, it's a good practice to make sure you check the website and visitors center of each destination before bringing out your camera.

Important links below:

-Understand the kind of permits you will need to film or photograph in Hawaii  here

- All state park locations have been removed from Oahu, Maui, Kauai open and accessible sites list are stated here

-To create an online account for standard film/photography permits via Hawaii Film office, click here

-To create an online account via wiki permits,  click here

-Hawaii Film Office can be reached on [email protected]  

-Wiki permits can be reached on [email protected]

2. Prepare For The Hotspots

Moody Portrait at Hanalei Pier 

Every good tourist destination has certain “hotspots” that people navigate to for their epic Instagram-friendly shots. While it's great to see those popular areas, one thing is for certain, they are popular for a reason.

When an area is popular, it means lots of people will have the exact same idea as you, making this great spot, a busy spot with limited access to the “best angle”. Because of this, it is recommended that you research those areas before arriving and plan your visit to maximize your photography opportunities. Make sure to learn the local times for when that destination opens and closes. Right when a spot opens, and right when it closes, are often the time of day with the least amount of people with reduced lines, more parking, and ultimately, better access to the best shot. Here is a list of my personal favourite top 10 locations in Kaua'i along with best time to shoot.

3. Get Familiar With Local Time and Lighting For Your Destinations

Sunset silhouette couples photo shoot 

In-line with the previous point, by arriving at the earliest and latest time of day, you are also putting yourself in a position to take advantage of peak photography lighting hours like the infamous “golden hour”.

Certain areas will look their best at sunrise and sunset, while others may look amazing in mid-day lighting or heavy shade, it really just depends on your area you want to shoot.

For example, if you are visiting the famous Waimea Canyon, you may want to arrive early in the day, but, if you're looking for great beach images, you may want an afternoon or evening setting more.

4. Embrace The Basics

Ring of fire shot at Kapaa beach, Kauai.

Every great skill requires at minimum, a crash-course in the basics and photography is no different.

Trying to learn the basics of photography before you arrive at your Hawaiian vacation is a much better option than waiting until you arrive and could mean the difference between an “average” shot and a “epic” one.

So, lighting, posing, and camera settings should be practiced before you get on the plane!

5. Look For Emotions

Family photography at Hanalei Beach Resort

Emotions bring life to an image. Look for the emotion at every opportunity. An image of a posed family at the beach is nice, but, what about that same family not posing, but rather sitting on the beach together talking and laughing during sunsets golden hour.

Snap a pic of the group from the side with genuine laughter and you will take an average picture look great.

6. Post Processing is Key

This one is a little controversial, but there's no getting around it.

Good image editing and post-processing can truly take an otherwise great image and make it amazing. See before and after image below.



However, it's a fine line with editing, you can very quickly make it very over-processed and not look good. You don't need to be an editing pro, but certain editing basics like cropping an image for level horizons, or removing an unwanted person is a good start.

If you aren't comfortable with lighting colors, there is a small army or free photography filters out there that can do a great job of adding some creativity to your shot.

A little goes a long way!

7. Hire a Pro!

By far the best images you can get while on your Hawaiian vacation are going to be from a professional!

Hiring a professional photographer can carry a small fee but will pay back dividends, not just in image quality, but overall vacation memories as well.

Local photographers will have inside information as to all of the tips mentioned above, from local hotspots, best times, and lighting, to basic posing and editing.

If all of this seems a little overwhelming and you would rather enjoy your Hawaiian vacation rather than adding “photographer anxiety” to your dream vacation, now is the time to Hire a local Hawaiian professional photographer from A Few Good Clicks.

We are happy to quietly capture your vacation and give the inside information needed to make your Hawaiian holiday photos the best ones to cherish for years to come! Click here to connect with us and get started!

Surprise proposal picture at Kauai's most beautiful beach - Hanalei