5 ways to improve your next vacation pics | Toronto documentary family photographer

January 25, 2017

I hope this doesn’t come across as a humble brag, but I just got back from a great vacation (with 3 kids under 7, it was more like a tropical relocation) in the Dominican Republic. The trip provided a week’s relief from taking snowy or indoor candids with my kids. With the tropics fresh in my mind, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how I improved my family travel photos this time around.


1) Invest in the best camera you don’t mind trashing

Beach vacations are messy. Sand, sunscreen and water are not good for big cameras.  Before we left on the trip, I treated myself to a new waterproof digital camera, the Olympus Tough TG-4. I picked it because while pretty much indestructible, it also shoots in RAW.  I was debating also getting the GoPro Hero 5, but wanted something a bit more versatile.     

I took these with the Olympus:

It’s not a replacement for my DSLR, but having a small waterproof option allowed me to take pictures in the middle of the action without worrying about my gear. I could have bought waterproof housing for my big camera, but I didn’t feel like lugging that with me every time we went down to the beach or pool.


2) Don’t leave your best camera at home

While I didn’t carry it with me every day, I still wanted to bring my beloved DSLR (I shoot with a Nikon d750 in case you were curious, we’re good friends). Vacations are expensive and few and far between (for us anyway!) – so I wanted to pull out the big guns at some points on the trip. I even brought it to the beach once, very carefully – I couldn’t resist.

**side note about this last picture: the lighting in the restaurant was bright blue (RAW files to the rescue!)**


3) Look at the background 

You may be focusing on the cute thing your kid is doing, but what’s going on (or not going on) around or behind them is just as important. In this pic, there were people to the left and right of us, but by keeping them out of frame it gives the impression my son had the beach to himself (an aside, I also took this one with the Olympus).

I found I could really clean up the background of an image by shooting up, shooting down or shooting really tight. Using a shallow depth of field helped me too. Maybe I’m a snob, but I don’t really need the other people I don’t know at the resort cluttering my vacation pictures. 🙂


4) Ditch your family

Sure, family vacations are about together time, but sometimes it’s better to go it alone. It was only 20 minutes here and there, generally not at the right time of day (golden hour = witching hour), but I took some time to wander by myself and focus on my surroundings. It’s amazing what you see when you don’t have to make sure your little people aren’t about to fall into a body of water.


5) Ditch your camera

As the photographer in my family, I rarely end up in pictures. Years from now, I’d like to remember that I was on vacation with them. This time around, I tried to make a point of handing off my camera and get in the frame. Whether it’s your partner, parents, hotel staff or your kids, let someone take your picture!

Photo credit below goes to my four-year-old, I think she did an awesome job:


One last thing, take LOTS of pictures. Not counting the photos on my phone, I took 1349 images during our week away. A bunch of them are complete garbage – but some of them make me really happy (and have me dreaming about our next vacation).

OK. One last last thing and then I’m done. I have a confession to make – This is my favourite picture from the trip, I took it with my phone. Figures.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *