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5 Photography Hacks for Family Trips

We love to shoot! As amateur photographers, we love to find a great composition, wait for the perfect light and dial in the focus. Many of us spend countless hours trying to create the perfect image.

Unfortunately, our hobby can become a problem while on vacation. It’s important to remember that we are amateurs and not getting paid. Therefore, we need to find a balance between a keeping the family happy and indulging our passion.

All traveling photographers must remember: The most important part of a family vacation is spending time with family – not taking pictures. However, there’s no reason why you can’t have an epic adventure and still get some great images.

Here are five hacks that I have learned during our vacations. Give them a try and I think your family travel life will be much improved.

  1. Trim your kit. Let’s be honest: You don’t need to bring 3 lenses. You aren’t going to need that 10 stop neutral density filter, either. Go through your camera bag and pair it down to the bare minimum. For me, that includes one camera body, an 18-55mm lens, a GoPro and a polarizing filter. I also bring a chest mount for the GoPro, which works well for action videos.
  2. Get a camera backpack. Now that you’ve trimmed your kit, buy yourself a camera backpack. Get one that has extra room so you can carry water, passports, snacks, etc. in addition to your camera gear. The fastest way to make your spouse mad is to make her or him carry all of the family necessities.
  3. Shoot in auto. I know, photographers call it the “A” word, but it’s a great way to take pictures on the fly. On a recent trip to Europe, my family averaged about 10 miles of walking per day. With my camera in manual mode, I would often get left behind while trying to get my settings just right. When I switched to auto, it was much easier to stay on pace. Also, shoot in RAW format so you can make adjustments in post-processing.
  4. Get a travel tripod. Leave your full-size tripod at home and get a travel tripod. Ideally, the tripod should fold up to about 12″ and fit nicely into your backpack. It’s nice to have a cheap tripod for those rare moments when you have some extra time to shoot. It’s also worth spending a little extra money to get a good one. On my last big trip, I used a $19 tripod from Best Buy. It was small and light but didn’t do a very good job of keeping the camera steady. Once home, I invested just a bit more into a Manfrotto Compact Action tripod and I’m much happier with its performance on the road.
  5. Get up early. Or stay up late, depending on your location. When your family heads to bed, it is a great time to sneak out and get some pictures. I stayed up until 1:30am in Florence trying to get a picture of the Duomo Di Firenze with no people in the frame. Impossible! After realizing that Italians are night people, I decided to wake up at daybreak and try again. I had the entire city to myself. Wandering the city of Florence alone with a camera and tripod was a surreal experience – one I won’t ever forget because I got so many amazing shots that morning.


by Bob Kelsoe, March 2017

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Keywords: family vacation, family travel, travel with kids, how to take great family vacation photos, travel photography tips, family vacation photos, camera for family vacation, best travel camera


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