Road trip! Family Vacation


posted on 25th of july, 2007

Recently I listed some resources to use in preparing for vacation photos when your holiday requires air travel and hotels. For many though, vacation is a time to visit friends and relatives close to home or to drive to a favorite spot at the beach or in the mountains. These trips offer just as many, in some cases more, photo ops for the savvy shooter.



You are more likely to know the secret locations in an old neighborhood than in an unfamiliar place. And it’s difficult for Uncle or Mom to refuse to sign a release. Plus summer family gatherings often involve lots of people of all ages. A sure fire stock shot is the multigenerational family group shot. Or the older generation teaching the youngest ones how to make a pie or how to fish. Or as grandpa refuses to get old: how to surf!

Get in close and capture the emotions of being part of family fun. A rule of thumb is to prepare to shoot as you normally would and then cut in half the distance you are from the subject. Or if you have a long lens and are going for headshots, step back and zoom in on faces for great impact. This also gives you some distance from the subjects and you can catch them off guard.



When family and friends get together, there is always food. Shoot the picnic table and the guys at the barbecue. Or digging clams and the resulting feast. Capture all the summer activities that build up the appetite for all that potato salad and hot dogs.

Don’t be limited by your equipment. Bring along a disposal underwater camera if you are around a pool or a lake. If you like what you see underwater, perhaps the experience will lead you to buy some new gear.


Authentic relationship images are much easier to get when the people involved are actually close. And those feelings don’t just have to be the cloying, sweet ones. I saw an image today in the newspaper that summed up one aspect of being a kid at the beach. The 8 or 9 year old boy was frowning with an embarrassed look on his face while his mother slathered sun block on his arms. Great shot. The body language of the child was priceless. The photographer caught just the right amount of squirming.

Document the trip from beginning to end: sleeping kids in a car seat; an over-packed car trunk with suitcases, snorkels, baskets, hats and sleeping bags. Catch the inevitable flat tire or other mishap. But the ultimate family summer vacation photo is about relaxing and enjoying others and the out of doors.

My father considered himself an advanced amateur photographer. This was not withstanding the special effects caused when he failed to advance the film on at least half the frames he shot. (My Dad’s photographic days predated auto advance cameras).



Somewhere I have hundreds if not thousands of images of my mother standing in front of a famous building, an imposing cactus or other tourist spot. Mom is directly in the middle of the frame with her purse over one crossed arm. The only thing that changed over the decades was the background, my mother’s age and the style of her handbag.

The point: don’t just take pictures of your family in front of a famous spot. Get them to the side or engaged in looking at the place or laughing or taking a photo themselves. I loved a shot in an ad campaign a year or so ago, of a small child taking a group shot of his family from the side of the group.

Canon wants shutterbugs to take pictures in America’s National Parks. They are sponsoring a contest for the best landscape and wildlife images taken in participating parks this summer until September 29th. They are also giving free workshops for photographers taught by well-known pros throughout the month of July in the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone in August. Details below.

Tips for shooting family vacations:
1.Take lots of blank model releases.
2.Locals are usually not the best people to ask about tourist events or destinations so if you are returning to your family home from afar, pretend you are a tourist for a day or so of taking images that are useful for capturing a sense of that place.
3.Guide to disposable underwater cameras http://www.cameras101.com/Disposable_underwater_cameras.html
4.Information on Canon contests and workshops. http://www.usa.canon.com/templatedata/pressrelease/20070620_freeworkshops.html
5.Load up on memory and don’t forget the charger or lots of film.
6.I’ll mention it again and again. Get a small portable tripod like the Gorillapod. http://www.joby.com/products/gorillapod/findmygpod/
7.Pointing with arm outstretched. It may be useful. The images may sell but I personally HATE images of people on vacation pointing to something outside of the camera range. OH! LOOK they seem to be saying. But I ask, "At what?"
8.Remember to put the camera away now and then to relax with your family.

Comments (1)

Posted by Gingergirl on March 17, 2008
Thank you! Good articles at all :) And useful



This article has been read 2035 times. 1 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Anne Kitzman, Galina Barskaya, Elena Elisseeva, Geotrac, Godfer, Edyta Linek, Og-vision, Franz Pfluegl, Trutta.

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