Thursday, 10 April 2014

6 Ideas for better Family Holiday Photos

Holidays soon! Yay! And yes, we are going away, exploring, again!

I love recording our family memories when we're on holiday, but place a camera in my hands and I start weighing up light, composition, angle... 

"Mom, can we go now?"
"Just one more..."

Know that feeling? Finding the balance between photographer and holiday maker can be challenging. Here are some ways that help me to keep the peace and some ideas on how to take better family holiday photos.


I have learned to make peace with the fact that not ALL my photographs need to be artworks. When you're out and about choose which photos are snaps and which are shots.

Snaps are quick and often quirky records of the moment. When I take a photo of my daughter with chocolate ice-cream dripping down her face, it's not meant to be a perfect picture, we just want to remember how we laughed at her funny face. It's not worth agonising over for hours. Just take a quick snap and grab the serviettes!

Or - everyone quickly pose, let's get the snap of the kids in front of the leaning tower of Pisa and then find ice-cream! YAY! Smiles all round! It doesn't have to be perfect.

It depends on time. 
When we're on the beach, I can sit and take loads of shots, experimenting while my kids play. 
When you have time, try a different angle, another viewpoint. Lie on the ground or stand on a chair. Zoom in and out to fill your frame, or give your picture breathing space. Don't let all your pictures look the same. Shoot into the light or underexpose or overexpose. Experiment and play.

When we're walking through a quaint little town, on the other hand and I see a shot worth taking, I sometimes tell the others to go ahead, while I take a little time to get the shot right. But I've also learnt to limit myself. 3 or 4 shots max, then we have to move on and if I didn't get it, I wasn't meant to. I tell myself: It's a family holiday, not a photo-shoot!


A friend of mine is an expert at this. She always includes small details of where they are, in her holiday photos. It's not just about portraits, landscapes and architectural features. Sometimes the details capture the atmosphere of where you are. Cracks in the dry earth, or a pretty tile, a milkshake or a handful of lucky beans - can tell you more about where you were than a picture of the entire scene. 

It requires some careful observation. Look out for pretty patterns and find the colour themes that keep repeating themselves - every place has them.

Next time your family is sick of posing, give them a break and focus on a cactus, or some shells or a sign.


My girls and I recently went for a walk and came across a field with dandelions. I thought I'd get one or two shots of them blowing the seeds and making their wishes. I stood back a little and zoomed in. (Tip: Then they don't mind the camera as much.) They found one stubborn dandelion that just wouldn't be blown. They kept blowing and I kept photographing their puffed up faces, as they blew and blew together and eventually packed out in laughter! 
I ended up with a lovely series of images that tell a story of what happened on our walk. 

Sometimes one image can capture the entire story. 
I read some great advice which photographer, John Dolan follows: "Don't shoot pictures of what it looks like to be there. Shoot pictures of what it feels like to be there". That would tell the story.
My daughter drinking from the water fountain, was not just a nice shot because it was a novelty for her, but the overexposed quality reminds us of how bright the glare was that day and the intense heat that reflected up from the stone city, and the relief of the icy cool water of the fountain. 


One morning in Italy, I woke up just around sunrise, for some strange reason. I'd slept in most mornings, but this time I snuck out on my own. Everyone was still asleep. I was alone, I had time, I had light and I was rewarded with beautiful images of that morning glow, which honestly made my day. 
Sometimes it's worth getting up earlier or disappearing on a walk just before you have sundowners, to capture that golden hour.  But don't let the midday sun scare you either. Photograph people in the shade, for better portraits, but don't ignore the beauty of the glare, harsh shadows and blue skies, if you're lucky. 

This one can be hard. And I'm lecturing myself here too!
Thing is, if you're not in the photos were you actually there? 

Your family doesn't care, whether you're having a bad hair day. They don't see whether you're overweight or not. All they see is the happiness on your face. They want you to be part of the memory. Get into that photo! Your don't have to make a poster of the shot, just give them a memory of you. One day you won't be there and they'll only have these images to hold onto.

(And hey, in 20 years time you'll look worse than you do now! Might as well get a good shot of the younger you!)


You can do it! Hand it over.
I don't only want to be remembered as the voice behind the little black box. Do you? Be part of the memories, not just the one recording them. Put away the camera, and live a little! Or hand it to one of your kids. It's wonderful to see what they choose to record - See your holiday from their point of view!


PRINT PRINT PRINT them! I have sworn an oath to make little printed books of each of our recent travels, but still haven't done it! Please be better than me! Catching up is an impossible task, so just start with the next holiday - get back, randomly choose some images and print them! So that you and your family can touch them and look at them and enjoy them! PRINT!

How do you pacify the family and get good photos, while on a family holiday? Do you have any tips to share?


Louise Kemp said...

Dis so waar wat jy sê - die een wat die foto's neem is geneig om nie op een foto te wees nie. My familie vra altyd waar was ek? Hoekom is ek nie op die foto nie? My antwoord is altyd maar ek neem die foto's. Met die gevolg dat ek geen bewyse het dat ek ook daar was nie! Mmm hierdie een is ook 'n geleentheid om 'n mindset change te maak. Nog een vir my boekie van to do things!

Anonymous said...

Jy en Louise is reg. Ek is nou al vir 40 jaar agter die kamera. En lyk nou erger as al daardie jare gelede. Ek moes maar geposeer het. Watch me in Italy!