Your vacation was awesome. But your photos are…only okay. Or maybe you got home, looked back at your photos and went, “Oh! How did we miss taking a photo of that bird that came and sat on the deck every morning?!” Didn’t you love that bird? You know you named him.
Amazing vacation photos aren’t just about great light and beautiful beaches (but that helps!), it’s about capturing the routines, details and unexpected surprises that happen so that you can always look back and spark that same joy that felt ON that vacation.
Have you ever had a family vacation that was less than you’d hoped? Maybe it rained too much or the kids fought too much or you missed getting on the sunset cocktail cruise, but then, months or years later when you look back at your photos, you find yourself feeling nostalgic? You think, “That was a good time.” You laugh about the rain and the fights. You’re painting over your initial memory with these good feelings. It’s so important to have photos of summer vacations!
Let me give you some tips. I’ll do some here and then - I normally don’t do this - I’ll comment between photos as you scroll down to talk about specific tips relevant to some of the images. So, scroll to the bottom for more tips!
Even if you’ve never been to this place before, you have a routine. You have an unpacking routine, a “let’s go explore” routine, etc. For us, the girls always run around the rental house, choose their rooms and then immediately head to the beach with Papa (we vacation with my folks a lot).
Part of our routine is to assess the shell situation for shell-hunting adventures!
Ugly bags of snacks are normally not our routine, but it simply shows that we were fresh off the airplane because they were eating their airplane snacks!
I love when my girls first investigate the water. They check the temperature and feel the ocean water on their feet reminding themselves of what it’s like to be at the beach.
Back to the house to unpack and get on some bathing suits!
Husband’s routine: Immediately unpack in a very orderly manner while girls explore with Papa. Then, put on his vacation hat, grab a drink and head down!
Nana’s routine: Unpack all the groceries and put them away neatly while girls explore with Papa and husband (mine) unpacks. Change into something beachy, grab a glass of wine and watch everyone swim!
Enjoying that first ocean dip!
Typically, the houses we rent also have a pool, so the girls will dip in the pool before drying off and getting ready for dinner.
Night One: We all watch Jeopardy! hahahaha!
Night one sunset beach walk.
TIP: Your photo will automatically make a shot like this way too bright because it thinks you want to see all the details of your gorgeous child’s face. But you don’t. So, on your screen, darken your image by dragging down with your finger until your subject is silhouetted!
Our rental at night. I just thought it looked so cool.
TIP: Back up further than you think! This was our little spot on the beach every day. It’s so easy to take a “normal” shot of it, but if there’s something you can stand behind that will act as a frame, then try it!
DETAILS: Don’t be afraid to chop people’s heads and limbs off like it’s the French Revolution if it means getting some good detail shots.
ABOVE: I just loved her little turtle tattoo - so perfect for my beach girl.
BELOW: Papa ALWAYS makes sandcastles and he always finishes them off using this technique. A detail shot is great here - this will be a Papa move that the girls will remember forever and they’ll always have this image to remind them.
Can’t beat enjoying the water.
TIP: I LOVE beach photos in black & white. Try using an app like Color Story or Afterlight to turn a few your photos into black & white. Images with a lot of sun are the best!
My oldest always makes these sand balls and starts a collection of them. Who knows, but it cracks me up!
TIP: Put your phone camera in Portrait Mode so that the background is blurred and focus on an object in the foreground while the people in the background are blurred! Both the ABOVE & BELOW photo show this.
Morning seashell walks with Papa before everyone else is up is a standard.
TIP: Most of us shoot all kinds of photos as the sun sets over the ocean, but don’t forget about that lovely morning sun! Try to catch it just to the side of your subject!
TIP: Try different perspectives. Shooting down at the pool from the top of the stairs shows way more of the scene than had I taken it from the ground. Great way to remember our little home for the week!
I just love that they’re both getting ready for the boat trip in their own way - opening snacks and figuring out the map! He’s always our navigation guy!
Papa drives & the girls get to steer!
Boat silliness. Love shots like these because boat sillines will change as they age, so capturing this kind of stuff is like creating a mini time capsule.
TIP: Give someone else the camera! I know you can’t see my face, but getting in the frame with my little one and my husband is so important! My kids need to remember I was there, too! haha!
More black & white. Doesn’t it look so timeless?
TIP: This is the kind of shot that most people remember to take all the time, “Everyone look at me and smile!” But it’s actually the shot that I have to remind myself to take or I’ll miss it! I absolutely think there’s a place for everyone to snuggle up and look at the camera! It creates a wonderful connection to the outside viewer, and in a few years it will be you looking in and younger versions of all of you looking back.
TIP: Everyone knows to capture the goofy stuff, right?! It’s the best!
TIP: Capture other parts of the scene to better tell the story.
I could have just focused in on my girls actually getting along and being all squished up and adorable, but I also included my husband navigating in the background. With his back turned, his focus on the sea in front of him, it makes the world of my two girls even more secret feeling.
Because when you kid actually looks at you and smiles without you begging, you take a photo!!
Goggle shots, you guys. Goggles for the WIN.
TIP: Capture the scenery when no one is around, but make sure it shows evidence of your vacation.
No one is in this photo, but when we were done swimming we’d hang up our towels to dry. Lets us remember what our rental looked like and the towels are like writing “We were here,” in wet cement.
Always a tradition of Paper looking for fish with my oldest!
TIP: Be sneaky. Reading always means that you’ve got a moment to yourself. A moment when no one is bothering you and you can focus and get lost in a great story. Capturing my husband in his vacation hat (he seriously brings it on all our vacations) reading, and doing so from behind - lends itself to that quite time when no one is bothering you.
TIP: I know you’re at the beach or in some exotic land, but don’t forget about the moments that happen in the in-between. The downtime when everyone is resting or gearing up for a new adventure. So much love, connection and even rest and renewal happen during these in-betweens.
You’ve always got to write in the sand.
TIP: Another great way to use portrait mode is for something like this image with the heart-shaped shell. Have your subject hold it out toward you at arm’s length so that your subject is blurred.
WATERPROOF CAMERA - So, I have a special case for my big girl camera so that I can bring it in the water. There are also tons of very affordable options on Amazon for waterproof cameras (though I have no idea how good they are) and even options for iPhone waterproof housing. I have to say, being able to take my camera into the water is one of the BEST ways to capture a great beach vacation!
TIP: Having everyone repeat the same action is fun way to create a mini photo series!
Again, hand someone your camera. I love that I have a few when I’m just loving on my big girl.
TIP: Have your husband wear a Hawaiian shirt and drink whiskey and pretend he’s talking to a big crowd. haha!!
Again, don’t forget the indoor in-between times.
I love to end all my beach photo collections - and albums - with people walking away. It’s like they’re saying goodbye for now.