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Tips For Family Vacation Photos…From a Photography Loving Mom

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“Another picture, Mom?”…I admit I am somewhat obsessed about taking pictures on our family vacations. I’ve always loved photography, as a hobby and as a way to preserve vacation memories. But after having children, this has become even more important to me because I want to preserve family memories (not just images of the places we’ve been). Can you blame me? First of all, kids grow up too fast and second, it is so easy and inexpensive to do it today with digital technology.

With just a little research, there is an abundance of photography advice and useful tips you can find on taking great photos. I won’t restate them here, but rather offer some practical, Mom-tried suggestions that have worked well for me in the past:

More is better!

The more photos you take, the more likely one of them will be good. Seriously, most of the times that I end up with a great picture it’s because I took multiple shots.  If there is a scene I particularly like (sunset on a beach) or it has a special importance for me (one of my children blowing out their birthday candles), I always take several photos. There are many times when my third or fourth shot is the best because I perfected the frame or added a small detail I might have left out the first time around. You can easily delete excess photos after you download and review them.

Catch them when they are not looking!

Most people love candid photos, but they forget to take them… Some of our best photos are those I take when our kids are unaware, like when they are building sand castles on the beach. Needless to say, for this strategy to work, it is important to work fast, so you go unnoticed.

Catch them when they are not looking... candid photos are great

Candid photos can often capture the most special of moments.

Tickle them, lightly

When trying to take more posed photos, I find that the following trick works very well: I tickle or poke my kids just slightly (or have my husband do it if I’m the one taking the picture), so they “loosen up” a bit. But I suggest a light touch…do it too hard and you will a picture of them have rolling on the floor, not the shot you had in mind. Sometimes just mentioning “I will tickle you…” is enough.

Ask a fellow Mom to lend you her hand!

Many Moms I know complain they have very few photos of the entire family together. I suggest seeking out a fellow Mom if possible. (This will be hard in the middle of a deserted trail, but should be easy in Disney World.) My experiences have shown that she will be happy to oblige. After all, she is a Mom and can empathize. She will likely be patient and willing to take a few shots and even tell your daughter to move her hat because it’s covering her face.

Make friends with the timer

For many, this camera feature can be daunting (or is easily forgotten), so it’s rarely used. It really only takes one or two practice shots and you will get the hang of it. I do recommend investing in a small (!), flexible (!) tripod, one you can easily carry around or tuck into your camera case. Be prepared to take more than one “timed” photo (at least one test shot to see if everybody fits in the frame and the picture is straight). Finally, keep in mind that some of the greatest family photos happen when Dad is still running to the camera and one of your kids is picking their nose. Enough said.

In this example, you can see how we needed two timed shots to get it just right!

In this example, you can see how we needed several timed shots to get it just right!

Carry two cameras

I always try to carry my iPhone and a “good camera.” My iPhone is great for impromptu shots, instant posts on Facebook, and takes pretty decent pictures outside. You need a “good camera” for indoor shots and action photos, as well as treasured pictures that you can put in family frames or photo books.

Check it right away!

One of the wonderful things about digital photography is instant feedback, so take advantage of it! Check the pictures after you take them. If the friendly stranger that offered to take a picture of your family turns out to be a less-than-great photographer, wait for the next passerby and try it again! Don’t forget this same “quality-control” for your own shots.

Smeared photo in Cabos

It pays to check your photo right away…in this case, we noticed the smudged photo and were able to re-take it.

Take advantage of photo editing tools on your computer

Don’t be intimidated! I’m not talking about Photoshop, but simple editing features, which are part of your computer’s photo applications (like iPhoto on my Mac or Google’s Picasa is another good option). They are so easy and intuitive to use, you don’t need to be a pro to take advantage of them, and you can always hit “undo” button if you don’t like what you did. Two of the very simple and often most effective features are: cropping and auto enhance. The first one lets you cut out that person that walked into the frame just as you took your shot; the other can remove shadows and/or make color more vivid. In both cases, you can instantly transform average photos into great ones.

Once you are home from vacation (and the laundry is done), I highly recommend making photo books to preserve all your wonderful memories and tell a story about your vacation. I felt overwhelmed when I attempted my first, but the process by Shutterfly is so easy, you really shouldn’t hesitate, and you might even become hooked like me. Our family loves re-living our vacations through our photo books, and they also make a great gift for grandparents. But to be honest, I mostly do it for myself. In no time my kids will be off to college, and I’ll be left with our photo books and a box of tissues.

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A native of Slovenia, Vera moved to the U.S. 20+ years ago after meeting her American husband. Together with their two children they live on the North…

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