8 Tips for Landscape Photography on Family Vacations

If school isn’t out where you live, then it is likely starting to wrap up! Summer is finally here and this is a popular time for family vacations. Long, carefree days and so many options for travel in weather that encourages outdoor activities.

One question I am often asked is how I am able to capture landscapes when traveling with my family. So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and tips as summer vacation preparation is upon us!

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1. Have Realistic Expectations! A family vacation is just that, a ‘family vacation’ not a ‘photography vacation’. On a photography trip, we can chase the light to our heart’s content and make that the number one priority. On a FAMILY vacation, our loved ones and our family experience is the top priority. If you have a love for landscape photography like I do, I do not think it is unrealistic to take a little time for yourself to shoot and fulfill the creative need, just like a runner is filled up by a daily run. And if you are traveling somewhere beautiful, you will want to capture some of those scenes. But you won’t get every sunrise, sunset and top photographic location. I come home with images I love, and many in good light, but I do not explore in the way I would on a photography trip. Going into the trip with unrealistic ideas just creates disappointment and that is not what you want for your experience with the people you love.

2. Ask Locals for Tips and/or Research Top Photo Ops - Before you go, research your destination’s top photographic spots! If you are visiting for a short time, you will want to know the hot spots ahead of time. Choose the ones that are reasonable to get to for sunrise or some that would be fun for the family to explore. In addition to Google, ask some locals for tips. This may be local photographers or even hotel or restaurant employees.

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3. Get Up For Sunrise - This is one of my top tips! Sunrise is one of the most beautiful and peaceful times of day. Even when I visit a very populated location, sunrise not only has some of the best light of the day, but it also is a time I can experience the beauty of nature with the fewest other people around, often completely by myself. My family also likes to sleep in so I am able to sneak out for an hour or two in the morning before they are ready for the day. I get my landscape fix and start the day in a positive way without my photography taking away from family time.

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4. Scout locations While Exploring during the Daytime - As you and your family explore, consider if any of the locations would be great spots to come back to for sunrise or sunset (if opportunity allows). Always look for spectacular views, interesting lines, foreground and framing elements.

5. Include Your People in the Frame - Landscapes are not always void of people and quite often including a human element in the frame can enhance the strength and impact of your image. The human element can create a great sense of scale and a stronger story. Including your own loved ones in your images adds more meaning and sense of experience for you as well.

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6. Keep Your Camera With You Often - When it is convenient and makes sense, keep your camera with a versatile lens (24-70, or 24-105 would be my top picks) around your neck during your exploring so you can capture those special moments or gorgeous views as you come upon them. Unless you are shooting long exposures or in low light, a tripod isn’t necessary to capture gorgeous images and memories.

7. Get in the Frame - This tip is not necessarily landscape related, though could be. Adding yourself into the landscape is also a great way to add impact to your images. But take the opportunity to set your camera on a tripod and capture yourself with your family. You’ll never regret doing it, but you very well may regret it if you don’t.

My handsome husband and I in Oahu

My handsome husband and I in Oahu

8. Let it Go & Enjoy! - Sometimes it is just best to put the camera down and enjoy your family and the experience. The creative process can take a lot of energy at times, and sometimes it is just best to let it go and give all that energy to just enjoying your loved ones. It is just an image after all. The people in your life are worth so much more.

My four favorite little people

My four favorite little people

BONUS TIP #9: Plan a trip FOR your photography! Sign up for a workshop or retreat or plan a trip for yourself where you can go and make chasing the light and top locations your number one priority. Gifting yourself this opportunity is truly invaluable. And when you know you will get this dedicated creative time, it is easier to miss out on opportunities when you travel with non-photographers.

Where will you be traveling this summer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments :)

Kristen Ryan is a landscape and fine art photographer residing in the Midwest suburbs of Chicago. All images can be purchased in the Fine Art Store. Kristen leads ladies landscape photography retreats in the TetonsChicago, and the Canadian Rockies, offers private mentoring and teaches an online landscape photography workshop twice a year.

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