Photographing Your Family Vacation

Do you ever head out on vacation and think, "I am going to capture this vacation like no other vacation?" Then you start snapping away. Later that night when you look through your photos you feel like maybe they aren't as great as you had hoped, then think, forget it? Well, it happens.

I want to share with you about prime times to photograph and where, plus, how I decide when enough it enough, and set down my camera. Don't forget you are on vacation. If you are constantly taking photos, you will forget why you are there. Yes, photography is super fun and maybe you are wanting to try out a few things, so you plan times on your vacation for those photography learning moments. That is great, but don't let it consume you. Enjoy your trip!

kids digging in sand

Catching Them in Action

Many times when you see photos of families on vacation, you see them all lined up in front of a significant landmark, smiling at the camera. This is great! Take that picture then ask everyone, while they are gather around to look at each other and say what they like about where they are at. This is going to spark a real conversation, real thinking and REAL interaction between the people in your photos. Who knows, maybe you will get some genuine giggles or surprised faces.

While they are thinking and talking, take a photo standing back, but then zoom in or walk closer and capture a few perspectives. This doesn't have to take long, but it will give you (in my opinion), better photos and help those in the photo feel more relaxed. I am a lifestyle photographer and I am a firm believer of catching them in action to give you great photos.

Okay, one other tip. You don't have to gather everyone to capture a group photo. Step back, capture the scenery with your people in it. Maybe there is a you want to take a photo of with everyone around it. Well, instead of gathering everyone, just snap a photo of the sign in focus, but your people out of focus and in the background. Lifestyle photos is all about offering something a little different and providing something interesting to look at. So, try it. Try catching them in action.

boy sitting on log by lake

Don't be Afraid of "Behind"

Sometimes we get it stuck in our heads that we have to see a face to make a photo "good." NOT TRUE. I do think it is good to have photos when you can see faces of those you are photographing, but it is not always what makes a great photo. Sometimes this is the only way you can capture some people. For example, when some notice you have pulled out your camera, they try to hide or start acting fake and awkward. That's not what I am looking for when photographing, especially on family vacation. I want to capture where we are, what the kids are enjoying and document life.

You can capture true feeling while you are capturing the "behind" of a person. You remember those little Willowtree figurines that were super popular 10-20 years ago? So beautiful and so interesting. They don't have faces and that, of course, is on purpose. Can you still feel the emotion each figurine displays? Yes. This is the same idea as capturing a from "behind" photo. So, don't be afraid of "behind" photos. The whole idea here is capturing authentic photos.

boy crossing log near Cle Elum lake

When to Set Down your Camera

Oh man, this can be hard for me. As a photographer, I see almost everything/every moment an opportunity for a photo. It can be tough to stop creating an image with my camera and start creating memories with my family. Just being in the moment with them. Also, not only do you not want to miss being present on your vacation, but just think about how many photos you are going to have to go through and decide to post and keep. That takes time and because it takes time, you may not do it.

Learning when to set down your camera is going to be different for just about every situation. Here are a few things that run through my head while I am taking photos:

  1. Have I already taken a photo like the one I am about to take?
  2. Have I been taking photos for more than 5 minutes right now?
  3. I am going to take this specific photo, then pack my camera/phone away.
  4. Why am I taking this photo? Is it for my family or for social media?

Maybe this seems like a silly thing to consider during vacation, but I think it is good to analyze our photo taking. Even though I am a huge supporter of documenting life, I am also a huge supporter of not letting that take over your life. Social media is fun, but it really is not what's important. Memories are important. Capturing some photos to help you remember memories is important. Posting those memories on social media is not important.

girl sitting on log next to Cle Elum Lake

Notice the Details

I absolutely adore this photo, almost as much as I adore the human being in the photo. I love how she is just chilling on this log. I love seeing her long hair and the style of clothing she is wearing now. Her hair reminds me how determined she has been the last couple years to grow it out. The clothes remind me of the unique style she has had and how now as a tween it is slowly maturing. If you look real closely, you can tell she has chipped off nail polish. True sign of an authentic childhood photo right there! So, zoom in and capture those details and let the memories flood in.

three siblings sitting on log by Cle Elum Lake

Best Lighting

For starters, when it is cloudy, you are not going to have to worry about the best lighting as much, because the harsh sun light won't be there to make a hug difference. However, there are still going to be times when facing a certain way will give you better light. I like to use what I call the "back of the hand trick." I know, great name! Ha! Basically, you just put your hand out like you are telling someone to stop. You go to the spot you want to take a photo. Then staying in one spot, circle around and notice the shadow on the back of your hand changing. You will notice it light up or darken or show defined shadows. Chose the direction of where your hand lights up and shoot in that direction.

If you are taking photos in the middle of the day, if you can control the location, choose shade. If there are big trees or buildings around, wait until your people are in the shade of those to take a few photos. (NOTE: If you are using shade from a tree, it is best if you pull your people barely into the share. The deeper you are under the tree, the more of a green cast it will give. The is usually undesirable.) If you are in the wide open and sunlight all around, then play around with which way they are facing. Maybe you will take some "behind" photos with the sun shining right on them. Maybe they are facing you and you will try to have the light behind them or directly on them. I usually try not to have their face half shadows and half harsh sun.

Alright, hope you are enjoying your summer. Hope these few tips help and you are able to go document some fun vacations! (By the way, the photos in this blog post were taken at Cle Elum lake, near Ellensburg, WA.)