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3 Tips To Fit Photography Into A Family Vacation

As a landscape photographer, I travel a fair amount. As a human being, I travel quite a bit. Travel is a passion in my family. Whenever we get the opportunity, we love to visit new places or revisit old ones. Family vacations aren’t photo trips though. Sure, photos are taken - lots of them. However, these photos are mainly to capture the memories of our travels. And rightfully so. Family trips are first and foremost to spend time together, relax, and experience new places together.

I have to keep my inner photographer in check. Many times we are visiting beautiful places with iconic shots.

Over many trips and travels, I’ve found a pretty good balance that allows me to capture photos without annoying the heck out of the non-photographers in my family (which is pretty much everyone else!).

1 Head out solo in the early morning or late evening

While my family is sleeping in, embracing the “relax” part of a vacation, I’ll sometimes head out before dawn with my photo gear in tow. I can take my time with my setup, not worrying that my family is growing bored while I tinker with my camera. I’m usually back to our hotel or cottage before breakfast, and I’m ready to join them for the day’s events. I’ll do the same in the late evening as well. After dinner and any night time activities, I sometimes head out for a late night photo session.

Am I groggy during the day? Or tired the next day? Sure, of course. Although it’s nothing a well-place cup of espresso can’t fix. I am also careful not to do this every day. It is a vacation after all.

2 Plan and negotiate the “bucket list” shots up front

On some trips, there are simply photos I really, really want to capture. Sometimes I can fit them into my early morning/late evening solo outings. Other times, I can’t.

A lot of planning goes into a vacation - where to stay, what sights to see, what restaurants to eat in, and so on. Why not also plan a photo opportunity? Before the trip, I talk about the place I want to visit with my family, and we build a mini-itinerary around it. I will do this sparingly. Again - the vacation isn’t a photo trip.

3 Be nimble & quick


When I’m out for a day with the family, I travel light. Nobody wants me to be fiddling with a tripod, switching lenses or otherwise taking “too much time” to take a photo. Most of my gear stays locked up in the hotel - including the tripod!

I head out with a single body and my most versatile lens. Right now, that’s my Sony 24-70mm F4. My go-to lens when I shot Nikon was an 18-200mm. I’ll use that one body/lens to take photos of the family - along with using our mobile phones. I’ll also be on the lookout for other photo opportunities. They can appear around any corner on a walk through a city or a day-trip through the countryside. I won’t spend long to capture a photo, a minute perhaps less. When I’m with my family, the purpose is the group experience.

I will toss a Platypod into our daypack though. The Platypod is so low profile, it takes up next to no room. If I encounter one of those I-gotta-shoot-this places and I need more stability than I can get handheld, the Platypod comes out. My family knows me well enough by now that it’s not too big of a deal for me to hit the pause button on vacationing - as long as I don’t abuse their gracious nature.

A final thought…

A final thought…. stay focused on the vacation. When I travel with my family, first and foremost it’s about the experience - the experience with them. I know up front that I will “miss” photo opportunities on a vacation. I won’t visit every architectural marvel, picturesque alleyway, or epic landscape at the right time of day for “the best” photo - and that’s OK. Often those “missed” shots are replaced with others I wouldn’t otherwise capture.

When I keep focused on the family experience, I always win. And the photos tend to fall into place, too. Plenty to keep the photographer in me satisfied.