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Family vacations are the best time to get some amazing photos for your family albums. But I’m not just talking about those posed photos of everyone looking at the camera and smiling, I’m talking about capturing memories, telling stories and learning some new skills. When you’re on vacation there’s more time to experiment, different locations to work with and the whole family are together. So let’s use this time to get the best photos ever!

Get Packing!

If you have a lot of photography gear, think about what you need to take before you go, you don’t want to be bogged down with massive bags when you’re on vacation. Think about how you’ll be travelling. If you’re just going to one stop and you can leave your kit at the hotel then you can afford to bring extra equipment and leave some of it behind on day trips. If you’ve got multiple stops and will need to take everything with you, you’ll need to more selective. Here are my tips for vacation photography;

  • Go with a wide angle lens, it’s great for capturing the whole scene, so it’s perfect for street photography and making sure you get that landmark in view. Plus, it works well in small spaces so it’s also great for indoor locations. 24mm is a popular focal length for travel photography.
  • The nifty fifty lens is also a great choice. It’s a good, all-round focal length and it’s light and small so perfect for carrying around. Plus, as it’s such an affordable lens I take it places where I am less likely to take more expensive kit, like the beach. This is the 50mm lens I have for Canon, .Nikon have a similar model for their cameras
  • If you don’t want to carry a heavy dSLR camera  around with you, consider buying or renting a mirrorless camera. They tend to be smaller and lighter than their dSLR counterparts and new models have improved a lot.
  • Take a cleaning kit. The extra space will be worth it for keeping your camera in good condition and ensuring your images are as sharp as can be. I recommend cleaning cloths, a lens pen, lens cleaning solution and a brush and air blower for cleaning sand and dirt away from your lens. This is the one I have.
  • Consider an action camera for when you don’t want to be carrying your kit with you, such as the Olympus Tough or a Go Pro – Their small size is great for travelling light, plus their designed for tough environments so perfect if you’re the outdoorsy type. I love my GoPro Hero 5, especially if we’re going somewhere with a pool!
  • Make sure you have enough memory cards for the trip, and be sure to clear and format them before you go. I also like to take my memory card reader and laptop so I can backup my images each evening.

Get to grips with new kit

If you are hiring or renting new gear for your vacation, make sure you get used to it before you go, you don’t want to be looking for the right button and miss a perfect shot. Make sure you have the right memory cards for new cameras and everything works correctly. Some gear, such as underwater domes for the Go Pro require a little self assembly, so make sure you do it before you go or take everything you need with you.

Take a Mix of Images – People, Details and Places

Tell the story of your family vacation by taking a mix of images, from portraits, detail shots and location images. The look great combined together in a collage or a photobook.

Here are some images from my family vacation to Sicily. There’s a mix of detail, people and location images which, together, tell the story of our trip.

Family Vacation Photo Tips

Communicate Ideas with your family

If you have a specific idea for a photo or a place you want to go, make sure to communicate it to your family so that everyone’s on board and you can plan ahead.

This is one of my favourite images of my husband and child, but honestly, it was stressful getting it. It was waaay past the little one’s bedtime, she was that special sort of wild that toddlers get when they are overtired, and trying to throw herself into the waves. My hubby was anxious which her so close to the water and wanted to head home before a tantrum. I love this photo, but I could have planned the session better.

Change your Position to get better Compositions 

If you spot a great moment for a photo, don’t just take it from where you’re standing, move around and take images from different angles. Where you’re standing makes a big difference to your images, so take lots of images from different spots and you can pick your favourite. Here are a few tips:

  • Get low and shoot up to avoid distractions, such as in this image

  • Get down to your child’s level to take the photo so it feels like you’re in their world, rather than looking down at them.
  • Get close and focus on the little details
  • Move away and get a wide shot of them in their environment

It’s not just about those Insta-famous locations

Great vacation images don’t need to be just about picture perfect locations and famous backdrops. Beautiful images can be taken in everyday locations. When you’re out and about, look for interesting buildings, they may not be beautiful but get creative with your composition and you can create interesting images.

This image was taking at reception area of the water park we were visiting. I loved the repetition of the blue sails on the building.

Take Advantage of the Late Nights

It’s no surprise so many photographers love the golden hour. In the hours before sunset the let is warm and beautiful and makes for stunning images. The trouble is during the summer the golden hour happens after little one’s bedtime. On vacation time is a more fluid though and I often let me little one stay up later (particularly if she has slept during the day when it’s hot). This means I can make the most of this dreamy light.

I like to backlight my subjects during the golden hour, which means the sun is behind them, creating a golden halo of light around them. Move around to experiment with backlighting and front lighting to see which you prefer.

Read my post on the difference between back light and front light here.

Look for the Light in New Locations

You’re probably familiar with the light in your home, right. If not, here’s why you should be.

When  you’re on vacation, look for the light in your new locations. This image was taking in our hotel room in Morocco. So a boring hotel room might not be what you think of when you think of travel photography, but I liked the light and shadows as she played with her toys.

Experiment with Underwater Photography

I don’t know about you, but a big part of our vacations is the pool. When I was a kid I would spend every day in the pool, from the moment I woke up, and it looks like my little one is the same. In the past I’ve taken some risks with my camera in the water, but this year as our daughter is becoming more confident in the water I wanted to capture more. I invested in the GoPro Hero , and it’s been so much fun. Some days it was the only camera I used.

If you’re interested in underwater photography, I recommend the Go Pro. You can also get protective housing to make dSLR cameras and phones waterproof.

Underwater images can look cloudy straight out of camera, so they need to be edited. When editing, increase the contrast and adjust the colour so that they look less blue.

Underwater Photography Editing

Read more about how to take photos underwater here.

Vacation Photography Tips