Vacation Photo Super-tips from a Pro

Hello there! Erika here, visiting from Yellow Pear. I am a photographer and love to photograph my family’s adventures. I have a few super tips for photographing your summer vacations.

How to get GORGEOUS Vacation Photos at #super-tip
(Chicago-Navy Pier, Sept. 2012)

Photographing vacations involves telling a story with your camera. The goal is to capture the feelings, sights, and emotions of the trip so you can look back and remember. In creating a complete story, it’s helpful to have a variety of shots. Focus on gathering an assortment of candid, detail, posed and wide shots. Don’t forget to get in the photos yourself, and remember to balance your time between enjoying your vacation and photographing it.


Capture the emotion and the moment. Sit back with your camera and watch and wait. Take a lot of photos, and try to be smart about framing and composition. Position yourself and the camera to eliminate distractions and bring the focus to the subject and the action.

How to get GORGEOUS Beach Vacation Photos at #super-tip
(San Diego, Feb. 2013)


The detail shots are definitely my most favorite photographs to take. They are the feeling shots of the vacation, the ones that make you catch your breath and remember the sounds, smells and emotions. Any photo that captures the feel of your vacation is a detail shot… it can be a shot of a fabulous lunch, the sun peeking through fall leaves, a starfish, or sheep in the green fields of Ireland. Get close detail shots by filling the frame with the subject and blurring the background by turning your aperture to the lowest number (if your camera has the capability).

How to get GORGEOUS Vacation Photos at #super-tip
(VanDusen Botanical Gardens, Vancouver BC, May 2012)

How to get GORGEOUS Vacation Photos at #super-tip
(Ireland, Spring 2008)

Show Yourself

If you are the primary family photographer, make sure you take the time to be in some of the photos. It is very easy to stay behind the camera, but you don’t want to look back later and wonder where you were. Don’t wait for someone to ask if you want to be in a picture. Be proactive and let someone know you want your picture taken. I like to grab one of my kids for two reasons: (1) it’s less awkward with one of them, and (2) I have a collection of mother/child photos with them from different vacations.

Also, think about lighting. Look for open shade (ie. stand at the edge of shade where light is still available, but not harshly glaring on your face). Watch for pretty backgrounds that capture the feel of your location. Great lighting lessens imperfections in the skin and leads to the most flattering photos. If you’re not sure how to find the best light, take a moment to snap the same photo from all angles of the subject and see what looks the best. Watch the direction of the light, which way the subject is in relation to it, if there is any reflecting light (as in a light colored sidewalk or sand, which will bounce flattering light back into the subject’s face). You will soon be seeing light in a whole new way. Composition is also important and includes eliminating distractions, making use of leading lines and framing by using natural elements such as branches.

How to get GORGEOUS Vacation Photos at #super-tip
(Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona, Jan. 2013)

Wide Shots

Don’t forget to step back and capture the whole scene. I have a hard time with this one, and I’m constantly telling myself to remember to take a wide shot. It’s an important part of the storytelling aspect. As for composition, the Rule of Thirds is especially important in landscapes and other wide shots.

How to get GORGEOUS Vacation Photos at #super-tip
(Glendalough Ireland, Spring 2008)

Try to balance your time spent enjoying your vacation and the time spent documenting it. Enjoying your family is obviously important, but documenting is too. You can easily get caught up in taking the perfect shot but not actually enjoying the moment, or you can forget to photograph anything all together (heaven forbid). Lately I have tried to capture a few planned and posed photos at specific times and major landmarks, then relax and enjoy the trip (with my camera close at hand of course…to capture candids, details and special moments). Whatever you do, try and find a balance…which truly is ever-elusive for me.

And for my last and most important tip, don’t worry too much! Sometimes the most memorable photographs are the spontaneous ones that break all the rules. If it captures the moment and tells a story, you have done your job.

I love to blog about my life, the photographs I take, family adventures and anything and everything I am currently up to, like compiling a Tea Party Kit, my Beautiful Mom Project, and yearly themed Halloween costumes. I live in the suburbs of Phoenix, AZ, with my husband and four children.

Bettijo Bridges

Administrator at Paging Supermom
Bettijo is the founder and designer of Paging Supermom where she shares creative ideas for family fun. Known for practical and kid-friendly activities, free printables and holiday entertainment. Bettijo was a guest on the Martha Stewart Show and has frequently appeared on local TV. Her work has also been featured in national magazines including Real Simple, O, Redbook, Parents, Family Circle, and Health. She enjoys art, retro-modern design, photography and making new things. Mom of 4 kids.

2 thoughts on “Vacation Photo Super-tips from a Pro”

  1. I love Erika’s photography and her tips! I’m always trying to find that balance of enjoying the trip and taking enough pictures too! I love the pictures from Ireland. Beautiful!!

  2. Thank you for the reminder to turn the aperture to the lowest setting to blur the background on a close up subject. That will solve the problem I have been having when taking close ups. Thank you so much for your excellent and timely advice! It is appreciated.


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