Fun and Entertaining Vacation Videos

Do you cringe when friends ask if you want to see their vacation videos? You’re a video producer and you know how to make videos entertaining. But some people have trouble making the vacation videos interesting.

Seriously, how many rock structures can one shoot, and how many castles can one show before they blend together and the viewers’ eyes glaze over? As a Videomaker reader, you know better, so here are a few quick tips to share with your friends before they head out of town. Tell them to test your tricks and that you can’t wait to see what they learned when they return. Or not.

1. Plan Before You Shoot

Before hitting that red record button for your home movies, focus and compose the shot. Are you cutting off someone’s head? Does a group shot cut someone in half? Check the background – is garbage spilling out of a trash can? Can you move it? If not, can you move the subject? If not can you move the camera?


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What about lighting – is the subject backlit? Can you move the light source? If not, can you move the subject or the camera?

Backlit subjects are common in vacation videos and home movies – everyone wants to get a shot of the sunset in the background of some exotic locale. Place people so they are near the side of screen with light in their faces and the sunset filling the other two-thirds of the shot. The lighting will be better balanced and you’re also practicing good rule-of-thirds composition by placing your subject on the imaginary points of a tic-tac-toe grid, rather than in the crosshairs of a rifle scope!

2. No Zoom Zoom, Please!

Just because your camera has a zoom control, doesn’t mean you need to use it for every shot. Zoom in to focus, then zoom out to compose your shot, then leave that zoom button alone! It will just give people a headache when they watch your home movies.

The best shots are those where the subject decides the action, not you or the camera. If you do need to zoom, pan, tilt or use some other moving shot; start and end each shot with two seconds of non-movement. This prepares the viewer for the next shot of your home movie. Try to follow the Ten Second Rule. Unless you are following something that is moving, you usually don’t need to hold a stationary shot longer than 10 seconds, your audience gets it.

3. Establish the Shot, then Get Close – Even Closer

Always start a new scene or location with a wide establishing shot of the scene. Then get some close-up shots. If it’s a wide panoramic scene of the Grand Canyon, for example, a close-up shot might still be wide, but less so, called a medium wide shot. Take it at a different angle, so it’s not just the same shot – but tighter. An even closer shot might be of some of the flora in the surrounding area. Give the viewer some variety. You’re taking a possible one-minute video, and breaking it into several ten-second shots that add more variety, angles, and examples of the same scene, just making them more interesting to your viewer.

4. Shut Up, Please!

You want to give the viewer some information, but you want to give them the full experience of the sights and sounds of the scene. If you know that you will be editing, then narrating a bit after each scene is a great way to take notes if you plan to cut it out. If you won’t be editing, and you still wish to narrate, then plan what to say so you don’t pause, hesitate, repeat, or ramble. Keep it tight, concise and narrate for the first five seconds of the shot, then let the nat-sot (natural sound) carry the rest. Just because they’re home movies doesn’t mean they can’t feel professional.

While we’re on the subject of sound – the racket of hundreds of voices in a crowded market in Thailand or traffic sounds under the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elys&#233es in Paris are expected, kids screaming or horns honking at the magnificent prehistoric geological rock formations at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado aren’t. Tour an area at a time where the noise will be at a minimum. Listen to the sounds of the environment, and try to get close enough to capture them.

5. See the Beauty in Natural Light

Lighting at outdoor locations is beautiful in the early morning, or late afternoon. The shadows fall across the landscape best at these times. At full noon, everything will look flat and one-dimensional. Additionally, “Golden Time” at sunset and sunrise, is short, so plan well and set up before the sun does its magic.

Read more stories on making better vacation videos.

Jennifer O’Rourke is an Emmy award winning video editor and shooter and is Videomaker‘s managing editor.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.


  1. Generally good advice, Jennifer, but like all ‘advice’ it should not be treated as having been graven on ‘Tablets-of-Stone’. One important thing I would be aiming for, is inform-ative cut-aways to keep the narrative ‘live’ by introducing a bit of variety. ‘Action/reaction’ pairings are a case-in-point, especially if the ‘reaction’ is not that anticipated. Just a few weeks ago, I took a series of shots, from some distance, of an anonymous girl throwing a stick into the surf for her dog to retrieve. Could you think of anything more ordinary? The action continued to the point, where the dog trotted up the beach, straight past her owner, and deposited the stick on the edge of the dry-sand area ‘instead’. I cannot look at it without smiling, and it is,in future going to
    ‘wrong-foot’ anyone who sees the shot. Even better, repeated attempts to send the dog back to return the stick met without success. That dog, (a Staffordshire Bull-Terrier bitch), had a mind-of-its-own.

    Immediately prior to that, I had spent half-an-hour patiently observing and fliming a ‘Little Blue’ Penguin, total height less than a foot, tumbling into and having to climb out of, perfectly ‘normal’ footprints left on the beach by visitors on a Sunday afternoon. Both of those incidents, within an hour, during a beach-stroll with camcorder.

    On another occasion, I had the camcorder set up pointing out to sea wondering how to use up a short piece of DV tape still unexposed before heading home. It was a popular surf beach, but almost deserted as it was almost evening.

    I became aware of a movement behind me, and a sublimely shaped young lady in a black bikini, dashed past, plunged into knee-high surf, and began, uninhibitedly splashing the surf around with her hands. ‘Sports Illustrated’ likely, takes all day to set up a cover-shot like that; mine was delivered on-a-plate, because I had the presence of mind to press the ‘record’ button just as she entered the surf almost reflexively. A day of rehearsal couldn’t have done-it-better. I watched her as she waded into deeper and ever ever water….and what happened then? She stepped into a small ‘hole’ and fell-over. On its own it would have qualified as a ‘what happened next’ if cut at the right point.

    I guess that illustrates that we should keep the ‘rules’ in-mind, but also be prepared for the ‘unexpected’ as well.

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