Whether the weather wants to cooperate or not, there’s no denying that summer is in full swing and for many of you, that means it’s time to travel. You’ve packed your toothbrushes, sunglasses, too many outfits and of course your camera, but the thought of documenting your family vacations stresses you out. Below are some tips to help you stay sane while documenting your family’s adventures this summer.
If you only take away one thing from this post, I hope it’s this point. Focus on your family’s experience. I am the happiest photographing my family’s adventures when I turn my camera on them. I remember our trips more vividly when I look through pictures that show more of who I was with and how we experienced a particular location than where we went. My kids frequently gravitate to things that I would normally overlook in a new place so it helps sometimes to just follow them. Document in a way that shows your family’s reactions, their joy, their anticipation and even their tears. Document so you can look back and see the exact moments that their worlds became a little bit bigger.
Whenever we visit some grand monument or landmark, I rarely stop to take THE picture. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s cliché and often lackluster compared to what we’ve seen before. When we went to Paris, instead of taking the same picture of the Eiffel Tower that I’ve seen countless times, I focused on our own experience there. I looked for a different perspective and as I suggest above, I focused on my family. I can always go online and find a picture of the Eiffel Tower if I forget what it looks like. When we visit museums or zoos, I approach photographing our visits the same way; I concentrate on my family’s experience and how we interact with the environment instead of exhibits or animals by themselves. If you really want some of those big shots (there are definitely times when I do!), take them, but don’t linger too long.
So if you’re not getting the obvious shot, what do you shoot? Details! I love details. I love shooting the details of our normal lives, but I especially love shooting details when we travel. So much of what we forget from the adventures we go on are the little details that shape each experience and that make each location unique. If I don’t feel like documenting our entire trip, I’ll focus on getting a few awesome pictures that tell most of the story and several key details. Sorting through the images on my computer to find the ones I wanted to include in this post reminded me that the details are what often spark richer and more complete memories.
Because you were there too, right? Even as someone who regularly puts herself in front of the camera, this one is hard for me. When we’re traveling, our routines are messed up, the kids are usually tired, we’re in unfamiliar (and often crowded) territory and I don’t always have the energy to think about getting in the frame. I tend to lower my standards when it comes to self-portraits on our vacations, opting for simpler compositions because looking back, I always wish I were in more pictures.
Oftentimes I will set out on a trip with my family with the rather lofty goal of documenting our entire days-long adventure seamlessly. It rarely works out. There are some travel days filled with fits of crying and complaining (from all of us!) that leave me drained and struggling to pick up my camera. So I don’t. Does it mean that some stories from our trips are incomplete? Kind of, but relieving some of the stress I put on myself to document AND participate during the difficult moments tends to help salvage those days. With each trip we take, I’m reminded that it’s okay not to document it all. I still remember the days of my trips that I have no photos from, but if I happen to forget in a few years about a meltdown in Paris or Dublin or Berlin, then I think I’m okay with that.
Next time you head out on an adventure with your family, pay attention to the moments, the places and the details that make you smile. Whether it’s with your phone or dslr, take pictures of the things that you want to remember and ignore the shots that don’t excite you. Give yourself permission to focus more on experiencing the moment and less on capturing the moment.
Want your own family vacation photographed or want to learn how to take better pictures yourself? Email me at Kayla@kaylamaltesephotography.com to find out more about Storytelling Sessions or Mentoring and be sure to follow me on Facebook.