Vacation Photography: Capturing Big Moments

I have been trying to figure out how to present our vacation photos in a way that is fun for you while keeping true to the family scrapbook that is the basis of this blog.

If you've wondered what it looks like to be on vacation with us and how we get the photos in, I thought it might help to have a few tips along with some of my favorites.

First, have devoted time for photos that are really important to you.  These are the ones you might print, frame, or use in Christmas cards. I bring outfits that coordinate a bit, and I set aside a specific time when I can get the shots I want. Outside of these one or two times, I just bring the camera out when spontaneous photo opps arise or other times when it isn't too obtrusive.

Classic colors and designs, courtesy of Target and CraftshowCollective

Let go of the "look right here! Smile! Hold her hand. Hold his hand. Stop squinting!" shenanigans. It is not going to work and you are going to get frustrated. I ask for one or two "staged shots" just for posterity (and older/traditional family members') sake and I don't ever like them as much as the others. It just makes everyone frustrated.

Exhibit A

Even if they're not looking, much better. They're doing what they want.

I like this one best, even though one child is now out and his back is turned.

Wait for BIG moments and be ready. You know, seeing the ocean for the first time in a year, finding  or tasting something they love, or seeing their favorite Disney character.

Look at that face and those fists!  He was pumped to get to the waves for the first time in his memory.


Because I didn't take any other photos of him at this event, I got a great one when it mattered. Like meeting a pirate who enjoys the same pose (great tactic, Mr. Pirate).

Let them play. That is my whole philosophy as I photograph. I follow them doing the things they love and end up with pictures I love. We had swimsuits underneath, ready to go.

Look, I'm a crab!

I hope she never outgrows jumping in Peppa Pig muddy puddles.

Choose a good time of day. Some of you may have heard the term "Golden Hour". It is the hour after the sun rises and the hour before the sun sets. When the kids were little, we went in the morning. Not anymore!  This is when you can avoid tricky shadows on faces, caused by the overhead sun.


Bright eyes instead of squinting, interesting and soft sky

Be strategic with your placement or theirs. I wouldn't say much of my photography is staged or me asking them to do anything, but I invite them to step certain places or look at this cool thing or the other from time to time.


Wow, look at that tree (in front of an amazing sunset)!


Whoa! Look at the big puddle (that makes fabulous reflections!)

Most of you won't be shooting in manual, but I think you should learn how :) If not, make sure your shutter speed is high enough to withstand all the motion that goes with playtime. This is why I never need to ask my kids to stand still. Also adjust as the light keeps changing, as you can see.



Play with perspective. Get down low, shoot from above, shoot details, move waaaaay back. I think you'll like the variety.


For these, you can either crop close or get in close for the shot. I did the latter, which I try not to do too much to stay out of the way.

Pulling back gives context, which is my favorite part. 

By getting low, look how many layers I get. Sand ridges, my boy, waves, and those clouds.

Offer to take stranger's photos. I do this all the time when I see people trying to take selfies with the selfie side of the camera. Often, they will offer to take yours in return, and then YOU get to be in the pic. But hand them your phone instead of the camera just to make it easy on them.

When your "session" is over, the camera goes away. After about 10-15 minutes of getting some fun shots, I try to put it away and enjoy playing with them. That is the part they will remember.


I promise, this photo did not come from saying "smile" (you get a totally different smile then), it came from letting her play and just documenting her joy in the environment.

Many of you have asked about my camera equipment. I did a ton of research before buying my Nikon D3300. I absolutely love it and it is so very affordable! It performs better than many of the newer models, and mine is even refurbished (which subtracts about $200 off the price as well). My lens is a Sigma Art 35 mm. That is where the magic happens (in the lens rather than the camera). If you have any other questions, let me know!

1 comment:

Nana said...

Beautiful photos as always! Wonderful hints from your photography knowledge. Dad would be so proud of you!

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