3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photography

{Capturing Childhood} Tips & tricks for everyday parents *Great collection of ideasWe are heading into travel season. Are you and your family going anywhere special?

Planning a family vacation requires a lot of money, effort, and mental energy. The pressure to document your trip can, in itself, become stressful. Don’t fret. We are taking Melissa & Doug’s Capturing Childhood initiative on the road!

Below are 3½ SIMPLE ways to capture gorgeous vacation photos.

Let’s get clickin’.


3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photography

TIP #1
Be mindful of visual clutter.

When you’re taking a photo, keep an eye on the background for distractions. For example, in the image below the girls are adorable, but this photo could have been stronger.  If I would have stepped to the right just a foot, I could have avoided including that parking sign in the image. In the second photo, I was able to shift and get a lovely portrait of my daughter while visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *watch for random poles or signs in the background

This winter the girls and I spent a week with my parents on South Padre Island in Texas.
Every day the beach looked like this (below), it was PACKED with people strolling.

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *avoid the zombies in the background

This is a lovely shot of my daughter playing in the sand. However, the herd of people on the left side of the photo takes away from the main focus (that cutie pie). I could have shifted over a few feet and used the OCEAN as the background!

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *tip #3 is so simple. my kids would love it...

TIP #2
Jump for JOY.

If you want to capture beautiful smiles, ask your kids to JUMP. There is something about jumping that makes kids laugh. You’ll inevitably end up with random shots where your kids are out of frame and focus. However, you’ll also capture some amazing (and REAL) smiles, like the ones below. As E.E. Cummings once said,

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *tip #3 is so simple. my kids would love it...

This simple JUMP tip was inspired by this post on Peanut Blossom. Look at those sweet smiles.

Here are a few tips for taking great jumping shots:

If you are taking photos on auto with your point-and-shoot or DSLR, set the camera to the “sport” setting. Your camera will shoot with a faster shutter speed, helping reduce blur in the photo.

If you’ve got your smart phone on hand, you can get some pretty cool shots if you are outdoors or if there is bright light. If the pictures aren’t turning out the way you want, try playing with Instagram video instead.

If you are shooting on manual on your DSLR try to adjust your exposure triangle to allow you the faster shutter speed possible, without running the integrity of your photo. The ocean shot below was taken at 1/1600 seconds at f3.2 with an ISO of 100. The sun was very bright on the beach. Most likely to get a shutter speed that high you’ll have to pump your ISO. Be careful of increasing your aperture though, you want your f-stop to be at 3.2 or higher to ensure you can keep your child in focus as they move.

How cool is this photo?!?

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *Ask your kids to JUMP

The simple portrait below is one of my favorite photos from our vacation. It might not look like anything special to you, but it melts my heart. THIS is my daughter.

Something about jumping lets you truly capture childhood. It releases a secret natural smile that kids don’t show when you demand they say, “Cheese.”

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *tip #3 is so simple. my kids would love it...

TIP #3
Enthusiastically take requests.

Now it’s your turn to jump. When your child asks you to take a photo of something for them, (to quote Nike) JUST DO IT. Let your children know that what interests them is important to you, too. We are not shooting with film here friends! Buy a memory card that is big enough to allow you to take their shots AND yours.

Below is one of my favorite photos from the Ingalls Homestead in South Dakota. As we rode in a covered wagon, my daughter leaned over and said, “Mom. Mom! Take a picture of my new bonnet.”

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *tip #3 is so simple. my kids would love it...

Were you a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child too?
Find the perfect book for any level reader in this  Little House LOVE post.

On our recent trip to South Padre Island, we spent a lot of time collecting treasures. Let’s just say, when I downloaded my photos there were at least thirty shots of tiny hands holding shells. I admit, it can be a tad bit annoying to be taking photos of rocks, shells, and leaves non-stop. But the truth is, even a few months later the photos of their little hands make me smile. Taking THEIR shots makes photography a family adventure. Which in turns makes your children more willing to participate when you want them to!

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *great collection of easy tips


Below are our favorite Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch beach toys from our Texas adventure (featured above)…

Beach Vacation Essentials *Love this Sunny Patch stuff from Melissa & Doug

Happy Giddy Pail | Cinco Starfish Scoop | Clicker Crab Kids’ Beach Tote Bag


Avoid LOUD patterns.

My daughter brought along this black and white fleece to Texas. The weather was just chilly enough to basically wear it the entire trip. The bold pattern dominates many of the images from the vacation. You’ll be taking a lot of photos on your trip; review your child’s suitcase. Consider taking out anything that is too strong of a pattern.

Heading to visit Mickey? Check out this What to Wear to Disney post.

3½ Ways to ROCK Family Vacation Photos *tip #3 is so simple. my kids would love it...

Do you have any questions about the tips or our vacation destinations? Let’s chat in the comments!


P.S. The simple moments of childhood are fleeting. Embrace the small momentsCapture childhood!

To help you with this, Melissa & Doug is collaborating with creative parents to provide you the ultimate family photography resource. So stay tuned every Thursday through March, when The Playtime Press will give you the inside scoop from three top-rated blogger moms on their favorite photography tips & tricks for capturing childhood.

This post is sponsored by Melissa & Doug.

2014 Blog Ambassador | Let’s Lasso the Moon is proud to be part of the 2013 Blog Ambassador program. We worked hard alongside Melissa & Doug to explore fun ways to keep children inquisitive and to promote classic creative play. Click here to read our full sponsorship disclosure. See all Blog Ambassador posts by Zina on Melissa & Doug’s blog Playtime Press.

These post photos were shot on a Canon Rebel using a 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Canon Rebel using a 50mm f/1.8 lens
*These tips can be used for point-and-shoot cameras & smart phones, too!

Pin it:
{ Family Vacation Photography } *Bookmarking this for later. Great tips.

Image Credit: © ginnerobot, 04.03.09 | CC by 2.0

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. Meg says

    I love these Zina! You have some great, simple tips for capturing childhood. I love that you have pictures of your girls with their natural smiles, not just their “say cheese” smiles.

  2. Jeannie says

    I had my boys jump around and dance when I was taking their Christmas photos, and they turned out to be some of the best photos. Will have to use some of these tips when we go to Wyoming this summer.

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