11 Tips for Family Vacation Photography


I’m away in Tenerife at the minute and if I’m honest I can’t settle just lazing by the pool so I bought myself some wifi and thought I’d share some tips on family vacation photography while I’m here and thinking about it.

This post was originally getting way too long so I split it and made another called ‘8 pieces of camera kit you should take on your vacation’ which I recommend you check out after reading this.

Ok, so you’re planning your vacation, and may even have bought your SLR camera just for this so what do you need to be considering before you go? Here are, 11 tips for before the trip as well as during that will ensure you capture some great memories that you’ll be enjoying looking at years from now.


Before you go…

1. Take the right kit

which kit

This one is covered in my other post but don’t leave it to the last minute as there may be a few things I suggest taking that you don’t have yet and ought to invest in. I have a few regrets here if I’m honest. You can see this original post I made before leaving explaining all I was going to take but as we weighed out the bags I had to really strip down what I took and sadly am regretting it. Be sure to check out these posts after this.


2. Get some inspiration

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.51.44

If you read my other articles I’m open about my limited creativity and suggest several ways I get inspiration. A simple search with a phrase like ‘vacation photography’ will give either images or links to sites showing examples. I found some great images on Pinterest and made a board with some ideas that I will try to recreate, especially this heart in the sand one.

You don’t need to go silly but if you want a great image or two that you can put on the living room wall when you get home it’s worth thinking it through in advance.


When you’re there…


3. Keep your camera with you


I know this seems obvious but I’ve had my camera sitting in my case for a large proportion of my holiday as I don’t want get it stolen but there have been loads of occasions when I’ve wished I had it there. Take a small camera bag so you can protect it without drawing attention to it.


4. Have your camera set up correctly

I’m not going to bang on about shooting in manual mode for a change but I would use either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes depending on the shoot. For example the landscape photos I took were done in aperture priority (and manual) but the shots in the pool, the sea gulls, waves, anything moving was set to shutter priority (or manual). My point is think about it before you even switch your camera on.

Tip: I also push my ISO up to 250 for action shots so I can comfortably set my shutter speed to 1/800 or higher with an aperture between f5.6 and f8.


5. Shoot in RAW not JPG

I almost always shoot in raw and then pull my images in to Aperture on my Mac to tweak them. Recently at an outdoor laser shooting site for my son’s birthday I set it to jpg, thinking they’d go over to my phone easier via my Eye-Fi card, big mistake! It was a scorching day and I rushed a team photo where I set the camera on a timer and ran to get in the shot. The image came out over exposed and I assumed I’d be able to pull it back in aperture like I would with a raw image but the results were horrible. It’s convinced me to always shoot in raw, regardless of how trivial the event is, medium raw gives me large enough files with the flexibility to edit in post production.


6. Keep your batteries charged

I hesitate to confess this but we went on a boat trip last week and I noticed that my battery was on the bottom bar. I missed some great video opportunities because I daren’t run out of charge. I switched off the review and shot mostly on manual. Learn from me, take a charger and charge up the batteries the night before!


7. Take a ton of photos!

Even shots that wouldn’t normally be considered ‘keepers’ might be acceptable as holiday memories. Rapid burst works well for family shots of kids in the pool and other fast action moments while you want single shots for landscapes. You can easily delete duplicate shots after. Also, you’d take plenty of memory cards with you!

… It’s almost the end of my holiday and I’ve taken 1200 photos already! Of those I’ll probably keep 300 but the point is that it costs me nothing to keep shooting so go for it.


8. Think about the composition and review your photos

So many photos I see my friends post on Facebook are spoilt by poor composition. Whats in the background, what angle is the sun at, are there people walking through, is there a road sign sticking out of the person’s head (no joke, this is what my wife’s photo of me looks like), is it too tight a crop (rarely), is it too wide a shot so it becomes like a Where’s Wally puzzle trying to spot your kids in the swimming pool (more likely!) Just have a think before you click the shutter and then review it after, asking yourself ‘could I do anything different to improve the shot?’

 One great little tip is try to get on eye level with your subject. When I take these photos in the pool I can’t quite get as low as my kids but I will squat down and get as low as possible as it makes a huge difference to how you connect with your subject and you’ll transform an ok shot to a great shot.


9. Mix it up

I can remember as a kid getting back from holidays and eagerly anticipating the sets of photos coming through, only to find that all my dad had photographed was exotic flowers!!!
By all means sneak off for an hour or two and capture some of the sights, I did this earlier today, but then I came back and photographed the family in the pool, I even made it on a few myself.
Whether you intend to or not, imagine you need to create a photo album of your holiday and your brief is to capture as much of the variety and also the details as possible, ideally your photos will tell the story of your holiday without any dialogue from you.

Tip: What will you want to look back on a year from now? Probably not the flowers and architecture, but definitely the kids at play. Personally I love action shots of the kids laughing or diving in the pool without them knowing I’m there. There’s only so many cheesy smiling shots you want, the unposed ones win ever time for me.


10. Keep it fun

If you have kids, let them see what you’re capturing. I know mine love it when I make them look good and are usually happy to play along. Even the mundane things like applying sun cream can be fun moments that you want to capture as you can see here!

Tip: if you’ve just had a row (believe me, I know it happens) don’t suddenly produce your camera and say ‘smile!’ It isn’t going to happen, accept it and try another day. The fun needs to come out of your images and then you’ll smile every time you look at them and the memories will come flooding back.


11. Don’t get obsessed!

If you’re anything like me you can get so engrossed in your photography that you miss the fun of the moment. Your priority is to ensure you and your family have a super vacation so don’t spoil it by spending too long behind the lens. There’s always next year 😉


Well that’s it from me, back to the pool for a last splash!

Please though, if you can think of any other tips I’d love to read your comments below and you can help others too by sharing.