7 Tips To Improve Your Family Vacation Photos

I think school is now out for everyone (at least in my area), which means that summer travel and adventures are now in full swing! I take a TON of photos when I’m on vacation… so much so that I often get the side-eye from my husband when I mention how many pictures are saved on my memory card. ;) I’m exciting to leave Vancouver, WA this summer to spend more time at the beautiful Oregon coast, and also to have some adventures on a road trip to Yellowstone! And, you can bet, there will be LOTS of photos to sift through when I get home!

I saw this article a few weeks back and it gave me the idea for this post. The article is mostly geared toward people with some background in photography, but I’m going to try to touch on some tips and tricks on getting some great vacation photos of your family without using words like “DSLR” and “aperture”. ;) And, to help illustrate, enjoy some photos of my adorable kids on our vacation to Southern California this last spring. =)

1) Get down to their level


Angles are everything when it comes to photography composition. A photograph of a kid taken from an “adult” height is going to be so much different than the same picture taken from the kid’s height. Don’t be afraid to get dirty! Get down on the ground, look your kid in the eye! See things from their point of view!

2) Look for “leading lines”


“Leading Lines” are lines that direct your eye to move in a certain direction across a photo. “Lines” could be anything from literal lines on pavement, to horizon lines, foot prints, roads, people standing in line, lines drawn in the sand… really, anything that creates any sort of “line”.

Leading lines help to tell the “story” of an image. You just have to make sure that your line, whatever it is, is actually leading your viewer to where you want them to look. This photo would not have had the same impact if my son was digging in the sand at the “front” of the image, rather than at the water.

3) Learn how to use your continuous shutter… on whatever device you’re using


Whether you’re using an “actual” camera, or your smart phone, figure out how to make it take several photos in rapid succession (aka “continuous shutter release”, or “burst mode”). Knowing how to do this, and then doing it, will give you the chance to capture some awesome action shots! Jumping into a pool, hitting a baseball, or flinging sand across the beach… you’re more likely to get a great picture with 20 shots to choose from than just one that you hope you took at the “right” time.

4) Don’t be afraid of having the sun in front of you… use it to your advantage!


So many times I see families lining up for group shots with the sun in front of them… and everyone is either wearing sunglasses, or squinting from the sunlight. Don’t be afraid to have the sun behind your subject… just take it into account when deciding what kind of photo you’re wanting to take. It can be difficult to get a properly exposed image of a posed group with the sun behind them (if you don’t have the proper equipment and know-how), but silhouette-type of images can easily be done! Instead of having your family line up and smile at you while at the lake, maybe have everyone turn around to face the lake, hold hands and cuddle up with each other, and take the photo. Not only will you get a more interesting photo (I think), but you don’t have to worry about proper exposure on the subjects, because it’s the shadow of their outline that you’re actually going for!

5) Be Patient


Wait for the shot. You know your kids, you know your family… you have a pretty good sense of what they will do when given the opportunity. Position yourself, focus your camera on where they WILL be, and then just wait for it. I promise, it’ll be worth it!

6) Don’t forget about the small moments


Family vacations aren’t all about the big adventures and beautiful scenery…. they are also your opportunity to slow down and spend quality time with your family; appreciating them for who they are now. Your photography should document those small moments as well. Your kid is not always going to eat Cheetos like a messy chipmunk… but someday you may like to reminisce about what that life phase looked like.

7) Put the camera down

As a follow up to number 6 above, one of the best pieces of advice that I can give about photographing your family’s vacations this summer, is to not be afraid to put your camera down sometimes and be in the moment. It’s ok to not get everything “on film”. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your adventure! Have an amazing summer vacation!