5 Tips for Capturing Beautiful Vacation Photos

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5 Tips for Capturing Beautiful Vacation Photos

It has been 80 degrees here in Maryland over the last few days even though it is February (and usually snowing and freezing!).  This untimely, but very welcome, warm weather has me wishing for summer – and specifically summer vacation! Every year we go camping at the beach. The warm breezes, cool water lapping at our feet, and wonderful oceanfront sunsets are really relaxing and much needed after the school year (my hubs and I are both teachers). I could sometimes do without all the sand everywhere (seriously, it gets EVERYWHERE!), but it is a small price to pay to see my family making wonderful memories and enjoying our time together unplugged from the rest of the world. We are also very spoiled because the beach where we camp is private to just campers, has amazing wildlife (sting rays, sea birds, horseshoe crabs, ghost crabs), and wild ponies! How cool is that!?

Wild ponies at Assateague Island State Park in Maryland

As a family historian and photographer, I often get asked about photographing family vacations. In anticipation of the upcoming vacation season, I thought I’d put together some of my best tips for beautiful vacation photos. No matter what camera you have – from a smart phone to an expensive DSLR – you can still capture wonderful memories for your family.

1. Get Down on Their Level
Now, I know I just complained about sand getting everywhere, but when you are at the beach, you just need to embrace it! If the kids are playing in the sand, or digging in dirt, or spending a quiet moment reading a book, crouch or lay down and grab a shot from their level. This will also help eliminate some of the extra clutter around (other people’s umbrellas, other hikers, etc), even out mid-day shadows, and show their unique point of view. And a bonus tip – baby powder helps remove sticky sand from body parts and toys! We always keep a bottle in our beach bag.

In these photos below, you can’t see the other families on the beach or our messy blanket area!

2. Capture the Details
Little feet running through the water. A hand reaching out to share a snack. The toys your littles just had to bring with them. The messy aftermath of a wonderful afternoon. Tell the whole story of your vacation by capturing these little details and small moments as well. Not every shot needs to have everyone smiling at the camera. Because, truly, that is not real life, am I right?

Fiddler/Ghost crab that bury themselves in the sand on the beach

I loved watching the kids running into and out of the waves, and of course chubby baby legs!

3. Capture the Surroundings
Especially if you are going to an exotic location or somewhere new. Be sure to step back and capture the landscape and the unique features that make this space special. On our vacations, I always look for the ghost crabs that skitter around the beach and chances to photograph the wild ponies. If you have the time, think of a new or unusual way to capture a famous landmark.  Instead of standing directly in front of the monument, can you get below and shoot straight up? Can you shoot through a crowd of people to frame a waterfall? Can you shoot from behind your child as he/she gazes amazed at fireworks or a parade?

I wanted to capture the fog rolling in over the San Francisco bridge on our recent trip across the country; however, landscapes don’t necessarily speak to me. So, I set up my camera and remote and grabbed this sweet shot of me and the hubs in front of the famous landmark.

The sunsets on the beach are amazing since there aren’t any bright city lights or big buildings hindering the view. I took my girls out for a walk on the beach and captured them in silhouette with that amazing sunset behind them.

Here, the kids had abandoned their shovels and buckets to play in the water. They were afraid of the waves last year, so this was a big deal! I wanted to remember how their little personalities were changing. I could have just taken the picture of them playing in the water, but by including the buckets, I’m telling more of the story.

4. Get in the Frame
The role of family historian usually falls on one person in the family. In my family, it’s me. The first year we went on vacation with our oldest daughter, I have literally zero pictures of me. I love looking at my husband playing with her in the water and the sand. I know I did that with her, too, but I am absent from the pictures and because she was so small, her memories as well. The following year I made sure to hand my camera to my husband, the waitress, a friend…whoever was nearby. I even used a selfie-stick! And I LOVE having those pictures to look back on. My kids do not notice the couple extra pounds or my dry, seawater saturated hair. They remember the moments and know that I was there with them. So no excuses!

5. Put the Camera Away
This seems contradictory, right? But, I find my kiddos are more likely to allow me to take their photo without argument if the camera isn’t in their face all the time. Believe it or not, sometimes they even ask me to take their picture! (My youngest daughter is in the “Mom, watch this!” phase.) It is okay if you don’t capture every moment of the vacation. Be present in the moment and make the memories you want to capture.  🙂

So whether you are building sand castles, hiking through the wilderness, meeting Mickey and Minnie, or simply lounging by the pool in your backyard, you can create beautiful pictures to help you and your littles remember the moments.

Do you have any special tips or tricks to photographing your vacations?  If so, leave them in the comments!  I’d love to try some new things!

About The Author
Kari Ganske
Kari Ganske
Kari is a mother, wife, teacher, photographer, and fountain soda drinker. During the day she is a high school English teacher and Academic Facilitator. Her favorite job, though, is being a Mommy to her 2 spunky girls – Camden age 9 and Avery age 4. Kari has a part-time birth photography business and she LOVES everything to do with pregnancy, babies, nursing, cloth diapering, mothering, crafting, creating, etc.
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