How individuals experience the Utah Mighty 5 varies from one person to the next. Many visitors to Zion choose to hike, though their chosen difficulty level varies. Others might head to Bryce for some winter fun, with cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Still more might prefer Capitol Reef for rock climbing.

But there’s one activity that just about every visitor to every national park in the country enjoys during their visits; photography. From carting around professional equipment to snapping selfies on a smartphone, we all love to capture our experiences to share or look back on once we get back home.

While anyone can point a camera and shoot, capturing stunning pictures of the beauty of Utah’s national parks takes a bit more practice. Keep reading to learn a few simple tips to help you capture the perfect vacation photos.

Pick Your Point of Interest

When you’re out of breath on your hike to the summit of Angels Landing or hanging off the side of a cliff face while canyoneering, you might whip out your phone or camera and take a few quick shots. While action shots have their place, they often lack a clear focal point, which is a necessity if you want professional-quality photos.

The next time you want to take a landscape shot, pick a point of interest, like a natural arch or a mountain peak in the distance. Then, use the Rule of Thirds to align that focal point in your viewfinder or on your screen.

The Rule of Thirds says that you should divide your shot into three parts vertically and three parts horizontally. Then, aim to place your focal point on one of the two vertical or horizontal lines. For instance, if you’re shooting Angels Landing, you might center the peak on one or the other vertical lines. Then, use the horizontal lines to adjust your aim. The peak of Angels Landing might fall at the top of the highest line running horizontally across your image.

Don’t Forget the Candid Moments

Perfectly composed landscape photos make for excellent ways to capture the views you enjoyed on your adventure in one of the Mighty 5. But don’t discount the beauty of candid shots.

Images of your hiking buddy pausing for a drink of water. A snap of your dirty climbing gear packed into the back of your car after a long day of exploring. Your children falling asleep before you can even pull your car out of the parking lot after a long hike.

These candid moments are messy and disorganized, but they also capture the little moments that you’ll be able to look back on and smile about for years to come.

Skip the Selfie Stick

This tip is less to improve your photos and more to protect yourself. While selfie sticks might seem like a great way to capture photos of yourself enjoying an awesome hike or other outdoor adventure, they are also a huge distraction.

Far too many tourists around the world have been injured or even killed when they lost their balance, stepped out in traffic, got too close to wildlife, or otherwise put their lives at risk while trying to take a selfie. If you’re on flat with no cliff edges in sight, on a bright day, out in the open where there’s no wildlife, take a quick selfie with your friends or family. But besides that, it’s best to stick to landscape photos or take turns taking photos of your hiking buddies. That way you can focus on your surroundings rather than trying to pose and take photos all at once.

Learn to Use Your Shutter

If you’re using a true camera is an adjustable shutter, even if you don’t know how to use any other features, learn to use this one. Knowing how to adjust your shutter speed can help you do everything from capture low-light shots to freezing the movement of water.

This simple skill will go a long way towards helping you create your own stunning, unique images. Once you learn how to use it, look out for the small details that you can capture forever in a photograph. Water flowing over an unusually-shaped rock in the Virgin River. The stars above a rock formation in Arches. The sky is the limit when it comes to capturing motion in nature.

Capture the Golden Hour

If you want your very own professional-quality, beautiful photographs of Zion to help you remember your trip forever, head to the park during the Golden Hours

The Golden Hours refers to the time around dawn and dusk when the sun is low and the light takes on a yellow-gold glow. If you know how to work your camera’s shutter to make sure that your images get enough light without being overexposed, it’s easy to capture beautiful photographs this time of day. The color of the light has a way of adding drama to every photograph, turning everyday scenes into something extraordinary.

Improving Your Vacation Photography

You don’t need to be a professional to capture incredible images of your family’s next vacation in the Mighty 5. With these simple tips, you can learn to capture the moment and take print-worthy pictures wherever you go.

Now that you know how to better capture your memories, it’s time to start planning your next adventure. Check out this guide next to learn the best time of year to visit Zion National Park.