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Five Tips for Taking Better Vacation Photos

Summer, ah, the time of vacations. Relaxation and peace by the pool. Ha, who am I kidding. Summer is for late nights, rowdy fun and even if you vacation, it is likely not met with much relaxation if you travel like our family!  We are usually on the go, with many “bucket list” items to see and do. Usually, I am documenting every step of our vacation, too. After ten years of traveling with our family and boys, I can honestly give you my best tips for taking better vacation photos this summer based on lots of experiences. The good and the bad. I have learned what is important when documenting your travels and hopefully some of my tips will resonate with you as well.  Sorry this quick five tip list is so long, I tend to have a lot to say about vacations! Want to see a sample of a few vacation photos, look no further than this recent vacation blog post HERE.


Tip One:

There are usually two types of people when it comes to photos. Those who take ALL THE PHOTOS. And those who forget to even take their phone out to take pictures. This first tip is for the first type of person. I know most of my photographer friends probably lie in that ALL THE PHOTOS camp. But, trust me, don’t stress about getting every single moment documented. First, I like to think about what we are doing that particular day of vacation, and really think about whether I should even bring my camera out with us as we adventure that day. I don’t want my vacations to be for the “best photo” moments. I want the best moments with my family.  When we went to NYC this past Christmas week, I really only brought my camera out two of the days we were there. And not the entire day either. Times Square was a moment I knew wanted to document. With the Christmas lights around Rockefeller, I also knew before we even left that would be a trip highlight. I wanted to capture a few stops in Central Park as well. Then, we spent some time at the American Museum of Natural History and I didn’t bring the camera that day at all. 

Don’t know when you should take your camera with you on a particular day? Maybe start with a “shot list” of sorts. Think of where you are heading during your vacation and then pick which ones are “must photograph” sites. If you don’t know the area you are visiting, try searching your vacation location on Instagram, either by “places” or hashtags and see if anything sticks out that you want to visit and photograph. If you are going to the beach every day, don’t be bogged down by your camera every day. Pick maybe three days to bring it, and three different situations. Maybe one day you do a morning sunrise walk. Then one day you capture sandcastles in dramatic light and a trip to the ice cream parlor that has become a daily ritual. Lastly, capture your last sunset or last swim. That way you have varied light, varied fun and not 1,000 pictures to look through when you are home.Just the highlights!  When you do take a photo, think of the story you are telling. What is important to capture? What are you trying to say with your photo? 


Tip Two:

Five tips for taking better vacation photos has to touch on the “non” picture takers, too. Are there really any of those??? I do know a few friends who just never pull out their cameras or phones, and that is awesome, too. I could learn a thing or two from them to enjoy the moment more. But I digress. This tip is for you. If you really are not a photo fan, trust me, you will want a few shots to look back on. You don’t need to post on social media, or share with the world. However, I bet your family would enjoy looking back at their vacations years from now. We have traveled extensively with our boys. Their first international trip was to Australia at 7 months old. I wasn’t even a photographer then, we didn’t have iPhones, I am pretty sure I had a Razor back then and I didn’t even bring it with me! Thing sure have changed. But, I did take a small point and shoot camera and I still love looking back at the memories. Even more so, the boys love looking back at that trip because they have no memory of it at all.  Not sure what to document. Here are a few snaps that most vacations include.


  • Your hotel/room/house – it doesn’t have to be every room, but maybe a snap of you all eating dinner one night, or playing board games, or even capturing a g
    iant bubble bath in the ginormous tub if you are lucky enough to have one. Use your cell phone’s timer mode and set it up away from you all, set to 10 seconds so you can get in place, too. There you go, you have a picture of the place you stayed.
  • A favorite meal or fun treat shop. Look for one that has unusual lines, décor, or just a favorite spot you visited. Great time to ask the wait staff for help so everyone is again in the shot. 
  • Morning routine. This is a great time to snap a sleeping baby picture if you are all in one room. Or just capture something your family does as part of your routine.
  • Sunset. I know a lot of our vacations, we are sacked out by sunset, especially early on in the trip if we hit many time zone changes, but for at least one night, I make a point of capturing either some location specific portraits, or our sunset view at least one of the nights. It could be as simple as planning a walk around where you are staying, in the best light. It doesn’t have to be posed pictures with a fancy camera, but some really nice pictures that take in the background of your vacation spot are great highlights to put on your walls at home.
  • Fun, candid, silly family selfies. Get the family member with the longest arms to take the selfie shot and squeeze in. These are often times our kids favorite shots because usually we are silly when doing it, and it sparks that memory of being silly together. They also love when everyone is in a photo together, too.


Tip Three:

Vary your shots. Don’t always make your kids stop and fakely smile at the camera. Don’t just line them in front of pretty buildings. Snap them when they aren’t looking. Get them doing something that symbolizes where you are. Often, I take pictures from behind my family because I am usually soaking up the sites a little slower and snapping a few shots as I go, too. I have come to love the “behind-my-kids” shot because it reminds me of how I fit into our family most of our adventures. Another thing to keep your images varied is to get different angles. Get a wide shot, the “big picture” but then also a close up detail, too. So for example, if you are in San Francisco, get the wide shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, but then if you end up driving over it, take a shot out your window of the bridge close up. Same for churches you may visit. Take a wide angle shot from outside, but the a close up shot of the stained glass, or the votives at the alter. You can get low if needed, and then shoot from up high if you can later.


All these angles give the bigger picture of your trip as well! If your kids are not wanting to stop to take a picture, I usually make a game out of it to get cooperation if needed. Like “who can jump higher off that bench?” Or, who can run to that door first. I love movement and expressions in my shots, too, so this works well for the boys. Getting them to stand and smile generally doesn’t. Sometimes, I break out, “can I just get one quick picture for Nanny & Poppy where you are both looking?” Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. I really go for authentic over forced anyway, so whatever it is, it is. Some of my favorite shots of the kids are when we are eating at local restaurants or sampling country/city specific foods. I make sure to get pictures of the food, them eating, and usually the mess that they make afterwards, too. Maybe this will change…someday…but for now, it is so them, and I have pictures of their messes from almost every trip!



Tip Four:

Be prepared. It sounds silly, but make sure you charge those batteries while traveling, every night when you return to your home away from home. Also, make sure the battery is ready before you ever leave! Plan on taking more pictures than anticipated, so have a back up memory card or two.  Not as much needs to be said about this, but learn from my mistakes about not planning ahead! I actually left a battery charger on my last vacation two months before our last vacation. This wasn’t my DSLR camera, so not something I use often and missed. But when I couldn’t find it the day before leaving on a cruise I was in a panic! So, learn from my mistakes and make sure you have these things ready at least a week in advance. I shelled out a lot more money for a last minute charger than if I would have planned for a week earlier. I also spent the day before our departure running around town finding a camera battery charger that worked. Which, by the way was a universal camera battery charger from Target, that worked for my Nikon point and shoot! Whew!



Tip Five:

One of my favorite ways to remember where we were is to take pictures of the signage around us while traveling. This is particularly helpful in areas that start looking the same after a while. I mean, how many ruins are you going to remember when you get home??? Almost all of the islands in Greece started to look the same. Beautiful, crystal clear water, and amazing white buildings everywhere. So, I take a picture at the entrance of all parks, museums, etc., to help me remember where we were that particular day. Road signs and welcome signs also help.  I imagine when we head to Iceland, pictures of the waterfall signs will help, too. I mean, how many waterfalls will we see and remember by sight alone??



These are my five tips for taking better vacation photos to get anyone started documenting the magic of summer travel. Hopefully your summer is amazing and full of travel. If not, hang local and find something fun to do and photograph as well. I mean, even a trip to the beach, with a stop to the local ice cream shop can make summer memories come alive for forever if you snap a few thought out shots. Whether you are staying home and stay-cationing, or traveling far, document your trips! 


My favorite way to document our travels and my BONUS TIP for better travel photos is to make a travel hashtag for your  adventures. I have a private Instagram account that I post our travels to, and every trip has it’s own hashtag. That way when I go to PRINT our travel photos, I have one spot to pull from and there are a couple companies who use the hashtags to help you print. My favorite way to print vacation photos, especially the cell phone snaps that I use to document our trips is Chatbooks. I can make a travel photo book in a matter of minutes from my phone! Say what?? Yup, I created a Chatbooks account. Then once I have that on my phone, I can enter the hashtag I want to pull from linked to my Instagram account and it basically creates the book for me. I always print it with the captions I use when posting to Instagram, too. That way, the boys have a little diary of our trip to read along with the images in the book. The best part, if you geo-tag the location when you post the image to Instagram, that is also included, so the location is remembered for you…because I usually forget a few years later!!


If you want to make your own, use my referral code to get your FIRST Chatbook for FREE! Also, keeping it real, I would also get $5 in Chatbook credit, so win-win all around!  I can’t even tell you how much the kids love to look back at these and with the inexpensive cost, they are holding up great, with lots and lots of use! Just check out a few of the covers of our travels in the pictu below!


Five tips for taking better vacation photos


Want to see more travel photos? Well, here is a look back at a trip we took a long time ago! The tips still apply to this day! This is a mix of cell phone pictures and DSLR shots. Well before I was an established photographer really. I have been traveling long before I started a photography business, so it only makes sense to combine my two loves to help pass on five tips for taking better vacation photos, right? Enjoy a look back at our trip to Thailand in 2013!

Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsCheck out tip three in action in the pictures below. The boys in the top right and the lower left are mimicking the statues at The Grand Palace in Bangkok. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but it captures them in the moment, acting their age! These particular shots are cell phones since my 24-70mm lens FELL OFF my camera right outside the palace. Like right onto the sidewalk. Bang! Thank goodness I was prepared. Tip five, right? I had another lens (although, in the heat, I was packing light that day, so I didn’t have it with me and left it at our home).

Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsThis shot isn’t particularly great a life changer at first look I adore it though. Why? Because the Thai temples require you to take off your shoes. In this image, not only did I get the signage saying “no shoes” in English, but also Thai. I also love seeing the boys in action. Here Gus still needs Dad’s support, and Raleigh is confidently walking ahead!Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsSample detail shot. So many small elephants that just would not do justice if I wasn’t close up!Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsAgain, varied shots to tell a story here. First a close up of Gus about to get on the elephant. Then the elephant’s hair close up. Finally, an image I captured of Gus and my husband from our elephant walking behind!Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsFive tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsThe floating markets outside of Bangkok were all about the food! Here are a bunch of shots sampling everything from pad Thai, to lychees and sticky rice, etc. From street food to gourmet desserts, we capture them all!Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsThe subway ride in Bangkok, with the different language captured and their reflections of wonderment and hands up to the window just signal how children marvel at travel!Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsClassic beach and pool and vacation memories captured by cell phone and big camera, hopefully tell you more about our trip to Phuket after exploring Bangkok!Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kidsGiving up control of the camera may be hard for photographers, but can you spot me in two of the phots below? I particularly loved the Songkran Festival. The Thai people were so lovely. A few of these pictures, I captured their adoration of the boys a few times, too! I thought they might keep the boys, actually!Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kids

Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kids

Five tips for taking better vacation photos, travel thailand with kids

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