Member, Professional Photographers of America

Top 5 Tips for Taking Vacation Photographs

Our summer family vacation is always over the 4th of July.  We enjoy finding new places to watch the awesome firework displays.  Often times we spend this time in the Arlington area and watch the fireworks from the Rangers Ballpark.  In my opinion, baseball on the 4th of July is just about as American as it can get.  Add fireworks to that and you have a PERFECT 4th of July! 

This year we decided to change it up a bit since some of our children are still very small and don't quite enjoy the game yet.  We went to Port Aransas, Texas.  We've never watched a firework display from the beach so that is what we set out to do.  We were definitely not disappointed! 

Our vacation lasted five days and many memories were made during this short time.  Of course I brought my camera and all of the older kids have cell phones with cameras.  Let's just say that several hundred photographs were taken by our family! 

Before we set off for the beach vacation, I did some research about tips for taking vacation photographs.  I found a large array of tips, however one concept in particular stuck with me.  LIVE!  Don't watch your vacation through a lens, but LIVE your vacation!  That was a completely foreign concept for me as a photographer and as a mother.  I have always been the one with my camera ready to capture the kids' cuteness and as I reflected upon this idea I realized that I have thousands upon thousands of photographs of my kids, I only feel that I "lived" a handful of those.  There are so many cute things that I captured in film and/or digital format and many of them do not have a story to go with them.  I was simply pushing a button.  I made a decision at this point and that was to keep the camera handy, but not keep it ready at all times.  However, before I could do this I needed to narrow down instances when I would like to take photographs during our vacation.  I came up with a list of five tips for taking vacation photographs that I'd like to share with you. 

1.  Be prepared.  Before you pack your camera, consider where you are taking it.  We were going to the beach and I know that sand is an enemy to my camera.  For that reason I chose to leave my camera in the house rather than take it to the beach with all the sand. 

 The view of the beach dunes from our back door during sunset.

The view of the beach dunes from our back door during sunset.

2.  Be creative.  Be creative in how you pose your family members and/or the angles of your shots.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  Lay down on your tummy to get a direct view of someone or something or get up above them to get a bird's eye view.  The sky is the limit! 

 Our oldest, William, took this photograph of the two youngest, Lily and Sadie.  The color was very blue due to the lights in the Texas State Aquarium, but he changed it to black and white.  Don't be afraid to experiment and get creative!

Our oldest, William, took this photograph of the two youngest, Lily and Sadie.  The color was very blue due to the lights in the Texas State Aquarium, but he changed it to black and white.  Don't be afraid to experiment and get creative!

3.  Candids.  Candid photographs are real and allow you to feel and see with atmosphere and mood of a particular moment in time.  These are not staged, but instead real photographs without any prompting.  My kids LOVE taking these types of photographs and they are often SUPER close to the subject...usually a person.

 Candid photographs of me and my husband, John, eating Oreos while visiting the USS Lexington.

Candid photographs of me and my husband, John, eating Oreos while visiting the USS Lexington.

4.  Keep the camera handy.  You never know when the unexpected is going to happen.  Often times these unexpected events are awesome once in a lifetime experiences.  If you can capture them, they will be treasured forever.  Keep the camera handy, but don't keep it in your hands at all times.  It's not the end of the world if you don't capture your daughter petting a sting ray.  Sure, it's cool, but living in the moment is so much more important.

 Our youngest making an unexpected kissy face while visiting the Texas State Aquarium.

Our youngest making an unexpected kissy face while visiting the Texas State Aquarium.

5.  LIVE!  Do NOT live life through the lens of your camera.  Do not be scared to put the camera down and live life and enjoy your vacation.  You will still have the memories, even if they aren't recorded on your SD card. 

I’m living inside the moment, not taking pictures to save it.

—Drake, “The Resistance”
— http://www.theminimalists.com/photos/

While we were on vacation, I put down the camera.  I took less than ten photographs the entire trip.  I decided to pass the camera to the kids, who enjoyed playing the part of the photographer.  The camera was passed between four children and each has their own style.  The camera was not allowed at the beach.  It only came with us when we visited the USS Lexington and the Texas State Aquarium.  We LIVED our vacation and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Didn’t have a camera by my side this time,
hoping I would see the world through both my eyes.

Today I finally overcame,
trying to fit the world inside a picture frame.

Maybe you should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes;
it brought me back to life.

—John Mayer, “3×5”
— http://www.theminimalists.com/photos/