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Pro Tips on Taking Family Vacation Photos

How to capture family travel moments into images you'll treasure forever.

family vacation photos

Author Og Mandino said, “The greatest legacy we can leave our children is childhood memories.” Nothing makes for fonder memories than travel, which is why documenting your trips with family vacation photos is so important.

Recording these moments doesn’t have to be stressful nor does it require a fancy camera to do so. These photo tips will help you capture all those important memories.

family vacation photos

Start With the Journey

How will you be traveling? By plane, train or automobile? Whatever method you choose, make sure to snap a few pictures of your crew en route. These spaces are often limited so I recommend a wide-angle lens for these types of shots. For a camera lens, I would use a focal length anywhere between 12-18mm. If you are using your phone check out these detachable lenses and choose the wide or fisheye lens. 

family vacation photos

Roadside Attractions

If you are traveling by car look for roadside attraction photo ops. Roadside attractions can make for some pretty hilarious family vacation photos. I like to check the website Roadside America to see if there will be any attractions on our routes. I mean, who doesn’t want their picture taken with a giant sea serpent or the largest ear of corn? 

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Lodging

Remember to take a couple of pictures of where you stayed. Whether it is a hotel, tipi, camper or cruise ship, make sure to document it. Where you rest your head at night is part of the adventure. I like to line the family up in front of where we are staying and take a group picture. Capture the exterior, the interior and the view (if there is one).

Tips: To get the whole family in the shot ask a stranger to snap a picture. If there is no one around, you can set your camera or phone on a timer and take a shot that way. I recommend using a tripod or propping your camera up on something. 

family vacation photos

Tourist Attractions

It wouldn’t be a family vacation if you didn’t hit up at least one of the big tourist attractions in the area. I scout these out beforehand. Look for attractions that are kid-friendly. If you’ll be visiting somewhere that requires a lot of walking like a zoo or amusement park, I recommend packing lightly. If you plan to bring your camera, only bring the lens attached to the body. My favorite focal length for this type of place is 24mm or 35mm. 

Tips: Try to capture your children’s sense of wonder and awe at these places. Instead of asking them to smile and look at the camera, photograph them from a distance as they take in their surroundings. For some added fun in your images buy some of the nostalgic foods like cotton candy, snow cones or lollipops. Also look for balloons, swords or silly hats to dress up your images.

family vacation photos

Ready, Set, Action

Family travels are often jam-packed with action and activities. Whether you are swimming, skiing, boating, horseback riding or out for a hike make sure you capture it. 

Tips: To freeze motion you will want your shutter speed to be above 1/300th of a second, to show motion you will want to be below 1/50th of a second. Also, try to vary your angles; get high and get low for different perspectives. And if your activity involves water, get underwater housing for your camera or phone to capture some really unique images. These phone bags produce great results.

family vacation photos

It’s All in the Details

Don’t forget the little details that make up your travel experience. Here are some you shouldn’t miss. 

Food

From trying a new cuisine to cooking around the campfire, make sure to snap a couple of pictures of your eats.

Wildlife

When you visit new places you’ll often encounter birds, reptiles, insects and other mammals that you don’t see back home. Use a fast shutter speed to capture creatures, anything above 1/300th second should freeze the action.

Landscape/Flora

Capture flowers, plants and trees. Use a wide-angle lens to capture the whole picture of the landscape. 

Culture

If you traveled to a place that has a unique culture, make sure to document it. Snap some pictures of the locals and their customs. Always ask permission before taking a picture.

family vacation photos

Emotions and Bonding

The most important family vacation photos document the emotions and joy that come with exploring a new place, and the bond that your family shares. I recommend using a zoom lens so that you can quietly observe from a distance. If your kids don’t know that you are photographing them, the more likely you are to capture genuine moments. Take out your camera when you know they are about to have a new experience. To capture bonding moments send a parent in to sneak a hug or start a tickle fight. Both are sure to elicit a connection between the child and parent. 

family vacation photos

Remember to get yourself in the frame and to only leave behind footprints and memories.  Happy travels!

Beth Mancuso is a professional photographer. All photos are hers. 
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