Pictures play a big part in any family gathering

Family vacations and reunions are filled with memorable moments. It’s natural to want to capture these special times together in pictures. Beautiful family photos allow you to preserve your vacation memories, share them with others and treasure them for a lifetime. 

Here are eight photography tips to help you take the best vacation pictures at your next reunion or on your upcoming family trip. 

Get familiar with the features of your camera before your trip.

Get familiar with the features of your camera before your trip.

Know Your Camera and Smartphone

There is often a tendency to purchase a new camera or cell phone before taking an epic family vacation. To take the best pictures, make sure to become familiar with all your camera and smartphone features before leaving on vacation. Practice taking photos with your photography equipment before your trip. 

Memorable moments can happen quickly, so you won’t want to miss a great shot while fumbling with your camera. Make sure to charge your phone and camera batteries, and bring along plenty of memory cards. In addition, you might want to pack a portable charger for your phone if you’ll be out for long periods of time. 

If you have multiple cameras, consider the size and weight limitations and how you’re likely to use the equipment before choosing which ones to take on your trip. If you plan to take action shots or pictures of fast-moving wildlife, try to bring along a good digital SLR camera with a versatile lens. Many smartphones are equipped with high-tech cameras that include various camera modes, which can help you capture the best family vacation shots. 

You may want to bring a waterproof camera if you’re heading to the beach, as salt water and sand can cause permanent damage. You may also want to bring a lightweight travel tripod for the best posed group shots. You can use a tripod to set up your group photo precisely the way you want. Once that’s done, use the timer on your camera, a Bluetooth remote or a smartphone app to control the camera shutter. 

Research Photography Apps

Family vacationers generally pack a camera or two but often find themselves defaulting to their cell phone for taking many of their photos. While outstanding in-phone cameras and ease of access are two great reasons, the excellent photography apps available for today’s IOS and Android cell phones are another prime justification. Download the apps that best fit your needs, and play around with them before your trip for the best photography results.

Some of the best image editing and photo sharing apps include Snapseed, VSCO and Canva. TouchRetouch is a helpful app to use when you discover there’s something in your photo that you’d like to remove. InShot Video Editor & Video Maker is useful for developing top-notch videos of your family vacation.

Family photographers often search for the best backdrops for their pictures. The Explorest app can provide insights on the most beautiful spots to take photos in a number of popular vacation destinations. Explorest’s Location Insights feature provides the exact GPS coordinates where the photographer stood, directions on how to get there and the best times to go, weather forecasts, optimal light hours and insider photography tips. 

Coordinate clothing for group portraits before your trip.

Coordinate clothing for group portraits before your trip.

Plan Outfits for Group Family Photos

If you’re planning to take some classically posed family photos, think about what everyone should wear well before your trips. Many families opt for matching clothes or outfits in the same color. While everyone doesn’t need to dress alike, it’s wise to plan on complementary colors and clothes. For group photos, choosing solid coordinating colors often works best.

Take Plenty of Pictures

Professional photographers know that taking lots of shots results in the best possible pictures. It can require hundreds of pictures to get the kinds of final images professional photographers are seeking. Experiment with composition and different angles. Shooting some photos in a rapid-fire sequence can help, too. Thanks to digital technology, you can easily delete the pictures you don’t want. 

It’s important not to go overboard, though. Spending most of each day continually taking pictures can annoy your travel companions. It’s not particularly relaxing as well, so try to stay balanced. If you’re trying to capture a group shot, have a pose in mind so you can quickly take the photos and move back to simply enjoying your time together. 

Sunset can be a good time for taking family silhouette shots.

Sunset can be a good time for taking family silhouette shots.

Keep Lighting in Mind

Light is a critical element in photography, so be aware of timing and light conditions. The best times to take outdoor shots are generally in the early morning, right after sunrise, and just before sunset. These are typically the golden hours, adding a warm glow to your images. Sunrise or sunset silhouette photos can be beautiful as well. 

It’s best to avoid taking pictures mid-day when the sun is very bright since photos can be washed out and full of shadows. Slightly overcast days can yield good shots, too. If you have your heart set on a family photo with a popular landmark in the background, get there very early before the crowds arrive. 

If you’re taking pictures indoors, it’s often best to turn off the built-in flash on your camera. Unless you’re using professional-grade flash equipment, photos taken with a built-in flash can appear washed out. If you’re using your cell phone as your camera, top photo editing apps like Snapseed and Lightroom Mobile can help adjust your lighting and make your pictures even better.

Shoot Wide-Angle and Close-Up Photos

Strive to create a mix of vacation photographs from your trip. You’ll want to include wide-angle pictures and close-up shots that zoom in on faces and small details found at your destination or on your road trip. 

Take a wide-angle shot when the background is an integral part of your family photo. You can also use windows and doorways to frame your group. For close-up portraits, zoom in with your camera lens or step closer to your subjects for the best results. 

For another perspective, let your kids or another family member take pictures. Everyone has a different style of photography, and you’ll be able to see your vacation through their eyes. It’s also a smart way to make sure everyone has a chance to be in some of your family vacation pictures, including you. 

Capture images of family members playing around and having fun together.

Capture images of family members playing around and having fun together.

Take Posed and Candid Shots

In addition to posed family pictures, plan on taking plenty of candid shots as well. While it’s tempting to take all posed individual and group shots, remember to capture the fun, spontaneous moments, too. Those memorable times can deliver some of the best images from your family vacation. 

Make sure to have your camera or smartphone handy for taking candid family photos. Shoot in bursts rather than in single photo mode for the best shots. After your vacation is over, you can review your images and choose the best ones. 

For a different look when taking posed family photos, have everyone ignore the camera and play around with each other. Singing songs together, laughing or telling stories can generate genuine smiles. Family mealtimes are another good opportunity for relaxed shots when everyone is talking and sharing their day. Action photos of kids running and playing around often result in great photos, too. 

Bring in the Pros

Local photographers specializing in vacation photos are available across the United States and around the globe. Companies like Flytographer and Localgrapher have independent local photographers in locations worldwide. Airbnb Experiences and Instagram can also be good sources for family vacation photographers.

Since they’re from the area, these local photographers know the best places to take vacation photos and are skilled in photographing candid special moments and posed group pictures. In addition to looking at each photographer’s website, check their online reviews as well. 

Once you’ve contracted with your local photographer, send an email with information on the kinds of photos you’re seeking. Let your photographer know if you have specific backgrounds or poses in mind. Since taking professional photos may not get everyone in your group excited, talk with your family and review expectations in advance. 

After giving it your best shot, sit back and enjoy your time together. Don’t be so focused on taking pictures that you miss out on your family vacation experience. These are the memories you’ll treasure for years to come. 

By Nancy Schretter, Contributing Editor

All photos courtesy of Pexels